Monday, March 31, 2008

Eight Solos Top Ten List

1) Porters, Chusang, 2007
2) Kathmandu, 2007
3) Weaver's Son, Phole, 2005
4) Leaves on Steps #2, 2005
5) Hindu Shrine, Suketar, 2005
6) Grand Central Station, New York, USA, 2007
7) Pond Lillies, Parkland Country, 2006:
8) Well Aged, Wells Cathedral, UK, 2005
9) Old Truck,Hanna, 2003
10) Templeton Cedar, Columbia Valley, 2006

Fascinating Book: Image Makers Image Takers

Picked up this book from the library on Saturday and have found it a very cool and interesting read. It is available from Amazon new at $27.72. I will be posting some quotes from the book this week.

All Sex Worker 8x10 Film Developed

Well the processor is running downstairs with the final 5 sheets of 8x10 film from the Sex Worker series of photographs. Feel sort of sad knowing that I will not be seeing new negatives from that series anymore. The good news is now I can do a top 20 or 25 images and make multiple submissions to galleries around North America. It is important that these photographs are seen, I do not want these people forgotten, they deserve to be remembered.

Still feel sad thou, like I am saying good bye to old friends.

I wish I had the money to continue these photographs this year, but it looks like the earliest I can start up again will be 2010 or later.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dith Pran an Inspirational Person Dies

March 31, 2008
Dith Pran, ‘Killing Fields’ Photographer, Dies at 65

Dith Pran, a photojournalist for The New York Times whose gruesome ordeal in the killing fields of Cambodia was re-created in a 1984 movie that gave him an eminence he tenaciously used to press for his people’s rights, died in New Brunswick, N.J., on Sunday. He was 65 and lived in Woodbridge, N.J.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, which had spread, said his friend Sydney H. Schanberg.

Mr. Dith saw his country descend into a living hell as he scraped and scrambled to survive the barbarous revolutionary regime of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, when as many as two million Cambodians — a third of the population — were killed, experts estimate. Mr. Dith survived through nimbleness, guile and sheer desperation.

He had been a journalistic partner of Mr. Schanberg, a Times correspondent assigned to Southeast Asia. He translated, took notes and pictures, and helped Mr. Schanberg maneuver in a fast-changing milieu. With the fall of Phnom Penh in 1975, Mr. Schanberg was forced from the country, and Mr. Dith became a prisoner of the Khmer Rouge, the Cambodian Communists.

Mr. Schanberg wrote about Mr. Dith in newspaper articles and in The New York Times Magazine, in a 1980 cover article titled “The Death and Life of Dith Pran.” (A book by the same title appeared in 1985.) The story became the basis of the movie “The Killing Fields.”The film, directed by Roland JoffĂ©, portrayed Mr. Schanberg, played by Sam Waterston, arranging for Mr. Dith’s wife and children to be evacuated from Phnom Penh as danger mounted. Mr. Dith, portrayed by Dr. Haing S. Ngor (who won an Academy Award as best supporting actor), insisted on staying in Cambodia with Mr. Schanberg to keep reporting the news.

A dramatic moment, both in reality and cinematically, came when Mr. Dith saved Mr. Schanberg and other Western journalists from certain execution by talking fast and persuasively to the trigger-happy soldiers who had captured them.

But despite frantic effort, Mr. Schanberg could not keep Mr. Dith from being sent to the countryside to join millions working as virtual slaves.

Mr. Schanberg returned to the United States and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting from Cambodia. He accepted it on behalf of Mr. Dith as well.

For years there was no news of Mr. Dith, except for a false rumor that he had been fed to alligators. His brother had been. After more than four years of beatings, backbreaking labor and a diet of a tablespoon of rice a day, Mr. Dith, on Oct. 3, 1979, escaped over the Thai border. Mr. Schanberg flew to greet him.

Mr. Dith moved to New York and in 1980 became a photographer for The Times, where he was noted for his imaginative pictures of city scenes and news events. In one, he turned the camera on mourners rather than the coffin to snatch an evocative moment at the funeral of Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger, a rabbi murdered in 1990.

Outside The Times, Mr. Dith spoke out about the Cambodian genocide, appearing before students, senior citizens and other groups. “I’m a one-person crusade,” he said.

Dith Pran was born on Sept. 23, 1942, in Siem Reap, Cambodia, a provincial town near the ancient temples at Angkor Wat. His father was a public-works official.

Having learned French at school and taught himself English, Mr. Dith was hired as a translator for the United States Military Assistance Command. When Cambodia severed ties with the United States in 1965, he worked with a British film crew, then as a hotel receptionist.

In the early 1970s, as unrest in neighboring Vietnam spread and Cambodia slipped into civil war, the Khmer Rouge grew more formidable. Tourism ended. Mr. Dith interpreted for foreign journalists. When working for Mr. Schanberg, he taught himself to take pictures.

When the Khmer Rouge won control in 1975, Mr. Dith became part of a monstrous social experiment: the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of people from the cities and the suppression of the educated classes with the goal of recreating Cambodia as an agricultural nation.

To avoid summary execution, Mr. Dith hid that he was educated or that he knew Americans. He passed himself off as a taxi driver. He even threw away his money and dressed as a peasant.

Over the next 4 ½ years, he worked in the fields and at menial jobs. For sustenance, people ate insects and rats and even the exhumed corpses of the recently executed, he said.

In November 1978, Vietnam, by then a unified Communist nation after the end of the Vietnam War, invaded Cambodia and overthrew the Khmer Rouge. Mr. Dith went home to Siem Reap, where he learned that 50 members of his family had been killed; wells were filled with skulls and bones.

The Vietnamese made him village chief. But he fled when he feared that they had learned of his American ties. His 60-mile trek to the Thai border was fraught with danger. Two companions were killed by a land mine.

He had an emotional reunion with his wife, Ser Moeun Dith, and four children in San Francisco. Though he and his wife later divorced, she was by his bedside in his last weeks, bringing him rice noodles.

Mr. Dith was either separated or divorced from his second wife, Kim DePaul, Mr. Schanberg said.

Mr. Dith is survived by his companion, Bette Parslow; his daughter, Hemkarey; his sons, Titony, Titonath and Titonel; a sister, Samproeuth; six grandchildren; and two stepgrandchildren.

Ms. DePaul now runs the Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project, which spreads word about the Cambodian genocide. At his death, Mr. Dith was working to establish another, still-unnamed organization to help Cambodia. In 1997, he published a book of essays by Cambodians who had witnessed the years of terror as children.

Dr. Ngor, the physician turned actor who had himself survived the killing fields, had joined with Mr. Dith in their fight for justice. He was shot to death in 1996 in Los Angeles by a teenage gang member.

“It seems like I lost one hand,” Mr. Dith said of Dr. Ngor’s death.

Mr. Dith nonetheless pushed ahead in his campaign against genocide everywhere.

“One time is too many,” he said in an interview in his last weeks, expressing hope that others would continue his work. “If they can do that for me,” he said, “my spirit will be happy.”


Video of Dith Pran's Last words.

Eight Solos Matting Technique

The matting from the Eight Solos exhibit was top notch. After their "Alberta" show I complained long and hard about the poor quality matting I saw (outside of member 1s work which I thought was exemplary). The overall matting this time around was basically as good as it gets.

Member 1 had a few issues with bad print cutting (Kicking Horse River) and uneven print mat borders (Flooded Pines), member 5 had a few small over cuts but outside of that I could not find fault. I am not sure if my previous critiques of sloppy matting educated the group to its importance, maybe.

Member 6 had very nice cut double over mats, tried to cut those myself before, its HARD! but these mats were cut beautifully. The double mat look is attractive but a bit overdone for my tastes.

The best matting style in my opinion was the work of member 5, it was simple and direct (just like in a real museum collected work). No fancy double mats, no black core mats just a windowed archival over mat laid over a photographic print and framed in black, simple direct and to the point.

I will follow member 5s lead and print my 2 photos for the upcoming VAAA show in the same manner (will probably sign and number the print on verso in pencil and NOT dry mount it, just place it gently and archivally under the over mat). The show should be about the print and only the print, matting and framing should be simple and tasteful."Let the photograph speak for itself" as the VAAA acceptance letter stated.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Review: Eight Solos Part 5

Note: I do these reviews for my own personal education, I am hoping that by verbalizing my often confused thoughts : ) I can zero in on becoming a better photographer myself. All comments are directed towards photographs shown in a public gallery any negative comments are written in the spirit of suggestion and self improvement and are not meant as any kind of personal attack on the Artist.

Member 5:

Felt this artist had a better show than at the last group show "Alberta", the difference this time was that work was more even, more balanced, no bad photographs. The matting was much better than the last show also. In the "Alberta" show the only thing that kept me from naming one of his images #1 was the fact that it was matted poorly, I did not see any of that this show, some slight over cuts but that's about it.

As I stated in the matting blog entry.

The best matting style in my opinion was the work of member 5, it was simple and direct (just like in a real museum collected work). No fancy double mats, no black core mats just a windowed archival over mat laid over a photographic print and framed in black, simple direct and to the point. I will follow member 5s lead and print my 2 photos for the upcoming VAAA show in the same manner.

I wish that the artist would have made all of his prints with the common leaf theme. I felt that the 2 leaf photos were by far the best images shown. The only piece I did not like was "Derelict Window" which I found compositionally confusing and lacking a point of interest.

Best Image:

Leaves on Steps #2, 2005

Gorgeous print with wonderful warm tones. Will rate this print in the top 5 of the show. I would like to own this photograph.

Member 7:

Did not enjoy these photographs, felt a bit lost when viewing them. The one image that had merit was "Snow Shadows", I thought the composition worked well, the choice of subject matter was also on the mark but the lack of detail and sharpness was a negative.

I was also not a fan of the colored mats or framing style. My thought on this is keep it simple let the photographs do the talking not the matting/framing.

Review: Eight Solos Part 4

Note: I do these reviews for my own personal education, I am hoping that by verbalizing my often confused thoughts : ) I can zero in on becoming a better photographer myself. All comments are directed towards photographs shown in a public gallery any negative comments are written in the spirit of suggestion and self improvement and are not meant as any kind of personal attack on the Artist.

Member 4:

I found this artists work at a much higher level than I did at the last show "Alberta". I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and look of the prints. I guess they were lith prints, but they looked so different than member 3s lith work. I have to learn more about this type of printing, the results can be breathtaking. I thought the framing a bit elaborate and a few of the compositions were a tad postcardish but overall a very good showing by this artist.

Best Images:

Well Aged, Wells Cathedral, UK, 2005

Wonderful looking print with a full range of tones, just fun to look at.

Grand Central Station, New York, USA, 2007

A great sense of place and use of motion. I really felt like I was in the station, also enjoyed the various colored tones. I thought this print was one of the top in the show.

Member 6:

I dumped on this member big time last review and was very pleased to see the higher level of the work he showed this time around. At the "Alberta" show there was much more uneven quality in the photographs, this time around I thought it was consistently at a higher level and enjoyed 2 of his prints quite a bit. I did not really like the print "Reading Chair" that much as I found it rather trite and uninteresting but all the other prints shown were enjoyable to view.

His use of contrast was still a tad high for my tastes (I would dial back 10-20 points) but to each his own, if he enjoys a higher contrast print that's his choice! All the photographs were matted and framed nicely, thou the double mat is a bit elaborate for my tastes. I think also the silver framing does not really work (has a cheapish look) better to go with black frames. Not sure but was "Boat in the Woods" also at the "Alberta" show?

Best Images:

Church Ruins, Bankhead, Banff National Park,2005

A contrasty print that works well with that contrast, well composed with an overall nice composition.

Old Truck,Hanna, 2003

This artists best image. I will include it in my top 10 photos from the show. I thought the choice of lens and camera position worked very well. Got a feeling of times past when looking at the photograph. Good detail and overall sharpness also.

Review: Eight Solos Part 3

Note: I do these reviews for my own personal education, I am hoping that by verbalizing my often confused thoughts : ) I can zero in on becoming a better photographer myself. All comments are directed towards photographs shown in a public gallery any negative comments are written in the spirit of suggestion and self improvement and are not meant as any kind of personal attack on the Artist.

Member: 1

I felt this member had the best overall work in this groups last show "Alberta". This time around although the work was still quite good I felt their was a drop in quality. It might be the second album syndrome, a group of musicians spends their lives writing songs for their first album and its a smash hit but later when they try to repeat those hits in album 2 their is an let down, they only had 1 year to do album 2 and could not repeat the quality. I think Member 1 might have suffered the same fate, his work in "Alberta" seemed to be a best of selection of images, this time around he had to rely on other images and their is a wow factor letdown because of that. The images are still pretty good but they are not great like the last show.

For this artist surprisingly there were some issues with matting as noted in the matting blog entry.

Member 1 had a few issues with bad print cutting (Kicking Horse River) and uneven print mat borders (Flooded Pines).

Best Images:

Pond Lillies, Parkland Country, 2006:

Really enjoyed this photograph found it sublime and beautiful, especially enjoyed the triangular shadows along the top edge. In my notes to describe this photograph I wrote the word JOYOUS, think it fits pretty well, this image is about the beauties and joys of the natural world.

I wish the paddies could have been a little sharper with more detail.

Templeton Cedar, Columbia Valley, 2006:

Large beautiful print with wonderful bright highlights. An unusual composition that works very well. A little bit more sharpness in the background areas would have helped, maybe in the future with 8x10 negative this will be possible.

Member: 2

Some very nice small prints from this artist. I found them all compositionally interesting and detailed. The small size was a bit of a detriment, maybe it was the gallery lighting but I found it hard to see deep into the picture, sort of had to have my nose 2 inches from the glass to see anything. I would also liked to have seen more modern work as the date listed was 1985, it made me wonder what this photographer had been shooting in the 23 years since these images were made!

The prints had nice tonality and very good detail in the snow which is hard to get (tried it myself and failed in the attempt). I would ease up a bit on the selenium toning as the pinkish hew dominated the image to much for my liking. Lets see some modern work next time.

Best Image:

Tranquil Sanctuary, 1985

Gorgeous small print filled with wonderful form and detail. I might have burnt down the snow on the top edge a tad.

Review: Eight Solos Part 2

Note: I do these reviews for my own personal education, I am hoping that by verbalizing my often confused thoughts : ) I can zero in on becoming a better photographer myself. All comments are directed towards photographs shown in a public gallery any negative comments are written in the spirit of suggestion and self improvement and are not meant as any kind of personal attack on the Artist.

Member 3:

I have seen this artists photographs on 3 occasions and have loved them each time. On those 3 different occasions there has been a variety of images in varied technique and subject matter, this guy gets it, he really understands what he's doing, looking forward to seeing more of his work at the next Mono Guild show. I would be proud to own some of his work (maybe a print exchange?).

Best Images:
Kathmandu, 2007
Porters, Chusang, 2007
Weaver's Son, Phole, 2005
Hindu Shrine, Suketar, 2005

All these works were breathtaking in their own way. This artist has the potential to create great work during his lifetime.

I did find the lith technique powerful but at times the reds(in the mountain photographs) was a bit to much for my tastes, they seem to take over the image instead of enhancing it.

Member 8 :

I had heard that the group had a portrait person involved in this show and was excited to see his work. I was disappointed thou in regards to the work shown, I admire the attempt to include people photographs in the show but I have to be honest and say that these images do not work for me. Doing type head shot compositions of semi interesting to uninteresting subjects just does not cut it in my books.

Richard Avedon said that when he searched for people to photograph he look for someone that could “HOLD A WALL” meaning that he looked for people that had the visual strength in their bodies and faces to hold the viewers attention on the photograph which was on the wall. I did not see that in this artists people selections, better subjects are necessary. Maybe do a series of portraits on a certain group of people that can hold his attention for years. You need to find some type of person that fascinates you and then become obsessed with transferring that obsession to film.

Study the work of the some of the great portraitists..

Richard Avedon (father, people of the American West, Vietnam)
Nan Goldin (abused harsh life of family, friends and self)
Dianne Arbus (freaks, twins)
August Sander (people of Germany)
Jock Sturges (naturists)

Portrait photography can be such a powerful force, the portraits I saw on display in this show were a disappointment to me.

Best Image:


Image had an unusual composition and treatment, found it effective. This type of abstract portraiture might lead to more good work in the future.

Review: Eight Solos Opening Thoughts

The members of the monochrome guild are united by the common craft of traditional silver based photography. Utilizing common materials, equipment and techniques the members of the group have branched out into various directions to explore their own personal vision. Though they often photograph together, and explore common subject matter, the purpose of this collection of work is to showcase the uniquely personal visual journey that each photographer has taken in the exploration of his own private theme.

The Eight Solos Fused By Silver showing at the McMullen Gallery until April 13 was a joy to visit. I found the work to be mostly of a high caliber and a distinct improvement over a show "Alberta" from the guild which was shown at the McMullen a few years ago.

Technically and emotionally the work was at a higher level, 2 members(members 4 and 6) who I found had performed poorly at the last exhibition contributed memorable photographs this time around.

I felt that member 3s work was especially outstanding, I loved several of his photographs, they were a joy to view and the highlight of the show for me. I thought that Kathmandu and Porters,Chusang were the best images I have seen on a gallery wall in quite a while.

Out of the 8 groups of photographic work shown, I thought 1 was outstanding, 5 were average to good, 2 were of poorer quality but held some promise.

I did feel that the group would benefit from more diversity in their subject matter. More varied photography from around the world is a bonus(saw some of that this show) and it would be compelling to include more humanity, the world is made of people but outside of 1 artist and 3 or 4 other photographs you would not know it by seeing this work. A human being is 100 times more compelling and important subject for a camera than any inanimate object can ever be.

Also something to note is that even thou this show dealt with solo work 6 out of 8 of the photographers work could easily have fit under the groups last theme of "Alberta". More varied subject matter and different styles of b/w silver based photography would only add to the groups strength, currently some of the work tends to blend.

The overall feel of the exhibit was pleasant and enjoyable, I will remember and think back to many of the prints I saw.

A Fun Day

Well I had a fun day, took the LRT down to the South Side and saw a very nice show by the Monochrome Guild. I ended up spending about 2 hours enjoying the prints and came away with an overall favorable impression. I will post the review of the show in 5 parts.

*annoying note: when I first arrived I was asked to leave the gallery as they were about to start a poetry session. The rooms lights were shut off and people lying on mats on the floor participated in a poetry reading. Sometimes I think this gallery could care less about the Art that goes on their walls, it seems of little importance to them. I have visited this gallery 3 times and each time I have had some sort of difficulty viewing the prints.

The Dangers of Conforming

I have been thinking of the types of pressures an artist is under to conform and how that can lead to loss of independence and creativity. I have broken it down into 3 types of artistic conforming.

1) Gallery Pressure:

I have talked of this type of pressure before. It basically is a situation where the gallery because of it's power to give shows to the artist ends up compromising his work. The artist will conform to what the gallery needs and wants instead of doing what he/she as an artist needs and wants. The conforming is done for the purpose to get a show. You might group your work into a certain theme or create work that fits a certain type of censorship or work that is designed for a certain type of viewer, all of these are ways galleries get artists to conform their work. Instead of doing what they want the artist does what the gallery wants, just to get a show.

2) Sales Pressure:

Many times I hear how people get into different types of art because it will sell. I guess from a business point of view this is the way to go but really how many more sunsets do we need? How many more pretty landscapes? If you truly believe in your heart that this is the art you want to create then go for it, if your doing it because you have a better chance to sell it to Joe consumer then your a hack putting out rubbish and not a artist creating new, exciting and original work.

3) Peer Pressure:

Lately peer pressure has been brought to me directly in two ways. I was a threatened with a lawsuit by someone I at one time considered a friend, the other was some friendly advice from a real friend who was worried about me.

Peers can have a very powerful influence on people, especially when your young. I think that as you age and become more independent thou you gain confidence in your choices and are able to stand alone if you think your on the right path. Your peers need to understand that to be a independent artist that creates work in a way that differs from others you need to BE DIFFERENT! You need to follow your heart, right or wrong! down the path it takes you.

If you conform because of peer pressure then you lose something as an individual and a artist.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Insight From Afar

National Post

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Humans have some of the most highly developed eyes in the animal kingdom, able to perceive colour, depth and speed with a split-second glance. But that doesn't mean that we perceive everything around us accurately. Far from it. As a new Toronto exhibit by German photographer Grit Schwerdtfeger shows, habit, familiarity and closeness can make us blind to uniqueness alongside the everyday. Here, Schwerdtfeger tells Leah Sandals why she holds distance, and its perceptive effects, close to her creative heart.

Q You work solely in photography. Why do you like it so much?

A That's a seemingly basic question, but the answer but is not so easy. I guess I like to see all the things and people around me. I'm a looker, a viewer. When I was a kid I painted, but never got serious, because if you're a painter you have to create and arrange a landscape or situation. I prefer to find them.

Q Where did you find these photographs, then?

A I don't like to talk about specific places. But I did all these pictures in Spain and Canada. And you can't see that it's Canada or Spain, necessarily, because I am looking for general places ?places that are open so that you can go into the pictures and imagine it could be anywhere.

Q It does seem that these places are all tourist-type locales, though.

A Yes, I'm looking for places where people spend their leisure time, and also places where people have constructed something in the landscape so it's not a really "natural" nature there. In Wiede, where all the people and cows are together, the cows were all put there as a tourist attraction.

Q Do you have a favourite picture?

A I really like Plattform because I really like what the people are doing in it. And it seems like it could be a picture from the Bible, with the men under the platform being like the Madonna. It's an ordinary situation but there are surrealistic things in it.

Q You are often far away from people in these images. Why?

A I always look from a distance to find my pictures. The last time I took a close-up was probably 10 or 15 years ago. Basically, I need to have distance from my daily life to make pictures. So I never do pictures in my city. If you are far away, somewhere you don't exactly know, you can see things better than at home. At home you're almost too close; if you want to see more you have to step back.

Q Does this mean you travel a lot?

A I don't like to say "travel," because if I take photos I have to stay somewhere a long time. I was in the north of Spain for three months. And I need this long a time to see pictures that are not a snapshot. Then when I go home I need six months or more to finish my work: it takes time to make my first-draft pictures and spend time with those, too. I have to feel that they are not only a "first look" picture, that they will be good after days and weeks.

Q That's such a difference from digital photography, where you can see a picture right away and decide whether to delete it or not.

A Yes, I could never take my art pictures digitally. It could be great for somebody else, but not me. I take my pictures analog and I print my pictures by hand. That's my kind of taking pictures. For family and jobs I make digital pictures. But for my artwork I really need analog.

Q What are you working on now?

A Recently I spent the first time in seven years away from my little boys. It was for one month on a small island in the north of Germany. It's a very popular island for holidays. And it looks really natural, but they have to do a lot so that the island looks natural. For example, the sea takes away all the sand on the beach and they often have to put back the sand to make it like a paradise. It was a great experience; I feel this island was really made for me.

Grit Schwerdtfeger: Distanz 2006 continues to April 27 at Corkin Gallery in Toronto. For information

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

3 Hearts

After looking at Bob Todricks personal series on family life it reminded me of a series of photographs I shot a few years back. The series was titled 3 hearts and dealt with a very personal relationship situation I was involved in. I have never had the courage to show the photographs, it is hard to show the deeply personal times to others (especially for the world to see in a gallery!). Maybe someday I can print a favorite 10 images from that series and try to have it shown. I think thou out of respect for the people involved that for now this series is best kept out of gallery submissions.

Up Close: a Review

Note: I do these reviews for my own personal education, I am hoping that by verbalizing my often confused thoughts : ) I can zero in on becoming a better photographer myself. All comments are directed towards photographs shown in a public gallery any negative comments are written in the spirit of suggestion and self improvement and are not meant as any kind of personal attack on the Artist.

Up Close, Photographers Robert Todrick and Niki Standing at the VAAA until April 5.

Bob Todrick presents a series titled “It’s a wonderful life", the culmination of nine years of what he first considered "family snaps", but suddenly came to the realization that they were much more than that-they were in essence a snapshot of the late 20th and early 21st century culture-not the history of kings and queens, or famines and wars...but a glimpse into the everyday lives of real people at the most personal level.Robert will also be launching his book,"It's a wonderful life", he has published with this collection of photographs and his wife, Chantel's writing and poetry.

I was pleasantly surprised by Bob's work. In the past his photographs have been to artsy fartsy for my taste, I felt that he was trying a bit to hard to create artistic photographs. This time thou I think he is closer to the mark as the work shown seemed more real and more genuine. Because the photographs were more personal there seemed to be a deeper connection, less outright attempts to be an artist creating art and more heartfelt truer emotion.

The 3 best works were:

Ancestors: very nicely printed image that had me thinking in many different directions, a complex work that had a certain universal truth to it.

Swimming Hole : A nice intimate portrait. I thought the print a tad muddy looking thou that could have benefitted if it had been printed with deeper blacks and whiter whites (the version in his book was superior).

Alberta Avenue Kids Waterpark: A fun image to look at with its crossing movement and patterns. Made me glad I was not a parent, hard to keep with those running children!

On the negative side I would have done away with the color work that I thought paled in comparison to the b/w stuff. The matting also had some small over cutting, smudges and even a long dark hair under the glass. I think also the presentation would have benefited if the artist had you used archival board with white core. I did like the brown framing but felt the images were to small and would have looked nicer if printed on 11x14 paper, possibly a nice warm tone fiber paper like Berrger VCCB warmtone glossy.

Several images in the book that was available also featured some good photography. I wish I could have seen printed and framed versions of, old woman holding baby, child on couch with TV (reminded me a bit of Dianne Arbus) and child driving toy car. I think that a selection of these images in 11x14 and the removal of some of the lesser work (especially the color photographs thou the image Arms did have a certain power to it) would have improved the show.

Another thing to consider was to make the show even more personal, more deeply felt. The work of Nan Goldin fits into this category, she holds nothing back and goes all out showing physical, sexual abuse, the death of friends, AIDs suffering, violence and drug addiction. She shows all the deeply personal aspects of her life without censorship. I understand that Mr Todricks life does not contain these disturbing elements but even a deeper personal statement of the happy and sad times would have strengthened the power of his message. Show the tears, the joys, the losses, the boredom, the happy magical moments at a deeper and more intimate personal level. Doing some self portraiture maybe shooting with a 20mm or wider lens to include himself more in the images would also add to the story, after all he is an important part of this personal journey.

Overall I enjoyed his work and am looking forward to seeing the next series,


Niki Standing's series of photographic works is titled "Illumination man-made objects. This work is about the recognition and appreciation of unconventional beauty. Her work has the recurring theme of marginalization /compartmentalization. Niki explores the overlooked, misunderstood, and oft forgotten-adding an underlying study of memory and public versus private history-leading her audience through their own meditation of who they are and where they fit.

The 3 best images were:

The number 9 button: strangely simple but compelling to look at.

Screw on Green Background: very nice composition and selection of colors that blended well, also somehow simple and sweet to take your time gazing at.

Emergency Button: also direct simple and to the point with colors that seduce the eye.

I felt that the images were a bit to random and disjointed to for my tastes, more commonality between the subject matter would have giving a greater depth to the over all series, It felt like the images were individuals, not really functioning as a team to tell their message.

The presentation worked well thou the sticky tape between the glass frame panels looked messy to me (plastic connectors might have worked better). I think deeper colored images like you get from Cibachromes (not sure you can do anything close to that digitally) would have helped with the visual impact. The lack of print sharpness was also negative, maybe having one extremely sharp point in the image surrounded by soft out of focus elements would have added to the emotional power of the photographs.

The best part of the show was the engaging chandelier of images at the center of the room. The torn paper images back lit with a bare light bulb was very pleasing to the eye and mind.

Not really my type of photography but I would like to have several of these works on my living room wall to study further.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Critiques Why We Should Not Be Afraid

I think that many people for whatever reason are unwilling to accept a frank completely honest review of their work. I guess there is a certain fear most people have if they put their work on display, their is a vulnerability in doing that. Possibly because of laying yourself on the line and putting your work up for others to evaluate you also have your defensive systems on high. I feel that many times a person because they are in such a defensive posture will overreact to any criticism. They misinterpret any comment about their work as some kind of vendetta against themselves. A lack of confidence that we all share early on in our careers as artists no doubt contributes to this unreasonable fear of unbiased reviews of our work. I have felt the need to be overly defensive also but I think to improve as an artist you need this unbiased feedback. Take everything with a grain of salt both the good and the bad, remember IT'S JUST AN OPINION!, take the positive and negative comments the same way, think about them evaluate whether they mater to your work and then move on in YOUR OWN UNIQUE DIRECTION.

Do not be afraid of a honest appraisal of your work.

More later as I organize my thoughts and have time to write them out.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Philip Jones Griffiths Died Today

A truly great photographer died today, Philip Jones Griffiths passed away age 72. I wish I could have met this man and shook his hand, I would like to have thanked him for creating the work he did.

Lawsuit Threatened

I have been threatened with a lawsuit because I want to judge and write reviews of photographs on display in a public gallery.

I will not let my freedom of thought or expression be censored. If you put your work up for display in a public gallery you are open to having the work critiqued in a written review, that simply goes with the territory. If you do not want people to form opinions on your work why put it in a gallery?

I will post my review as I had stated earlier, listing the artists as member 1, member 2 etc out of courtesy to the artist who for whatever reason does not want his name online, along with the print name. My review will be fair and balanced and 100% honest. The review will be about the art that is on display in a public art gallery, and is not meant as any kind of personal attack on the artists. I will be forming and writing an opinion based solely on the art the photographers chose to put on the gallery walls for public viewing.

I will not be intimidated and censored by any person that is trying to limit my freedom of expression.

We as artists need to stand up together as a group against this sort of harassment and attempted control of our freedom to express ourselves.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Art Museums - Collecting Photography

The following art museums that have a strong interest in collecting and exhibiting fine art photography. These are the major art institutions that collect photography and they usually have a curator specializing in fine art photography. This page also includes links to other art museums which may occasionally have photography exhibitions.

Mono Guild Article

Thought this article was semi interesting, it is strange thou that the story does not talk about the art in the show but instead about the difficulty in getting photographic materials, the groups purpose and technical control stuff. No discussion of the individual photographs at all. Sort of like going to a Impressionist exhibit and talking about the difficulty of purchasing oil paints and the techniques they used to apply the oils.


Where silver remains the gold standard

Gilbert Bouchard
Friday, February 22, 2008


Showing at: McMullen Gallery, main entrance of the University of Alberta Hospital (8440 112th St.)
Until: April 13
- - -

It's not easy for members of Edmonton's Monochrome Guild to stay true to old-school silver-based photography.

Once-simple tasks like buying film and traditional photographic paper are no longer easy in a world dominated by digital photography, says guild founder Robert Pohl.

"You have to do things like stockpile film because they just aren't making as much as they used to and some manufacturers have stopped altogether," he says. "Soon we'll be down to only a handful of choices. I personally keep a dedicated freezer full of film."

Everyone in the guild has to have their own darkroom or have access to one. And they need a deep passion for the hands-on process of developing film and printing images, given that they are eschewing the world of computer image-manipulation and laser-jet printouts.

"It's all about the magic of creativity that can be accomplished with your own two hands," says Pohl. "You have so much control over your prints and it gives you a real escape from all the technology, the phone calls, all the computer work you have to do every day to make a living."

The on-paper fruits of the guild's efforts are on display at the University of Alberta Hospital's McMullen Gallery in a wide-ranging exhibit of black and white, silver-based photographs called Fused by Silver. Featuring photographs by eight of the guild's members, the focus of this particular show (the second of three proposed guild exhibits) is to highlight the variety of work produced by the group.

More than just a means to promote their beloved silver-based photography, the guild also allows its members to have a venue where they can share photography tips and give each other esthetic feedback about their images, says Pohl.

This feedback is all that more important for this group, given how much trial-and-error learning is involved in working with film and paper prints.

"After a while, you stop seeing these issues as concerns. All you see is the high level of control you're getting over your images."

For retired U of A laboratory technologist Clive Figueiredo, the artistic outlet allows him to merge a love of chemistry with a fascination with visual arts.

"It's very exciting to work like this because it's such a dynamic process, in part because of the huge range of paper you can use and all the different effects they give you. No two images come out the same way."

Figueiredo's portion of the McMullen group show features images of historic buildings in Europe and New York City.

For Michael Chesworth, finding the guild last year was a total godsend, coming at a time when he was looking for a supportive group of fellow photographers eschewing digital image-making.

"I'm frustrated with all the automation in photography," he says. "I don't like being controlled by my technology."

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Gallery Censorship

After rereading my rant on the McMullen gallery ( with reading the biography of Robert Mapplethorpe by Partricia Morrisroe I thought I would add another entry on the whole Gallery style of censorship thing.

I am referring to a gallery that dictates to the artist by the power of it's ability to give out shows what the artist should produce. I think that many young artists fall into a trap. They want and need a show so badly that they compromise their artistic integrity to please the gallery and fit into the galleries rules (a form of control and censorship). Every gallery of course has the right to decide what they will show but when an artist does not show his important work because it does not fit into the gallery criteria for bland/safe art, something is lost by all of us. The artist does not grow in new and exciting directions but instead creates traditional by the book type art. The viewer because he is not challenged to think in new, different and exciting ways loses out. The gallery is also a loser because it is feeding the public art pabulum that is easily digested and not trying to create thought, discussion and an exchange of new and unique ideas.

Some interesting selections from the Mapplethorpe biography from TRUE art gallery owner/curators.

Simon Lowinsky of the Simon Lowinsky Gallery of San Francisco.

"I think Robert liked me, but I knew he despised Jews, and I happened to be Jewish. We both felt uncomfortable with each other. I believed his pictures had to be shown--if we're dealing with artists, we have to be able to exhibit anything that anyone makes--"

Edward de Celle part owner of the Lawson de Celle Gallery San Francisco.
"I was curious to meet him, but he was not what I expected at all. I had imagined a much stronger physical presence. He was slight and shy and terribly polite and humble. We had a table where we could look at the photographs, and I remember opening this box. I had seen pornography before, but his pictures were really more graphic because they're better pictures and they draw you in more. The one that disturbed me the most was the man putting his finger into his urethra. I was revolted but I was also mesmerized. I kept staring at these things, and I purposely didn't react because I didn't want to seem, I suppose, unsophisticated. I kept thinking, There's something wrong with me if I can't just look at these pictures in a objective way. It's like the emperors new clothes you have to prove your unflappable. I was happy to put the lid back on the box, and I was kind of reeling. I thought, How can I show these pictures in my gallery? Because my immediate thought was not about the quality of the pictures, or whether or they were art, but about the teacher from the local girl's school who always brought her class into the gallery. I kept seeing those little girls in their pleated skirts, and I thought, Oh my word!"

This gallery also censored Mapplethorpe’s work but eventually it went onto critical acclaim and international success after being shown at a non profit exhibition space funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. The eventual show title was called CENSORED. The cover of the invitation to the show (at Mapplethorpe's insistence) was Robert Mapplethorpe’s self portrait with a bullwhip up his rectum.

Review of Monochrome Guild Photographs

Will be posting a review of the Monochrome Guild photographs from the McMullen Gallery show "Eight Solos: Fused by Silver" running until April 20.

Sort of a confusing title for a GROUP show and a bit pretentious (fused silver?), maybe I should consider doing 8 solo reviews, hopefully some exciting work will be shown.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Good Photography Blog

Found a very nice little photography blog today.
I agree with this following comment wholeheartedly, check it out.

From George Barr's blog:

Anyway, getting back to the subject and the images meaning something to the photographer you can see where the problem lies - the harder you have to think of a subject to photograph, the less likely it is that it's going to have deep personal meaning for the photographer, the more artificial the idea of what to photograph, the greater the chance that in choosing it, you have inadvertantly slipped back into trying to decide what will be meaningful for others.

What if it doesn't work that way? What if the meaning comes after you have been photographing a subject for a while and it starts to fascinate you and you find yourself going back and back for more, trying harder and harder to get the best out of the subject? What if it's the actual process of exploring any subject that makes it meaningful? This might explain why people who flit from subject to subject, never really exploring any one subject, don't tend to make any meaningful images - perhaps the very definition of meaningful precludes little of this little of that type photographers from creating meaningful work, or at the very least makes it a whole lot less likely.

Virtually every photographer I admire put a lot of effort into exploring his or her subject - whether it's Edward Weston's nudes or the quiet landscapes of Paul Caponigro, the native portraits of Phil Borges or the misty elegant and simple landscapes of Michael Kenna, they all spent a lot of time working on their chosen topics. Of course Ansel took grand landscapes - he hiked thousands of miles and was out in the wilderness for weeks at a time - probably putting more wilderness mileage in than 100 average modern tree hugging landscape photographers.

Eugene Atget

Woke up this morning and read something about Atget that seemed on the mark.

Atget met Man Ray in the early 1920s. Man Ray's studio on the rue Campagne-Premiere was near Atgets's home, and Man Ray introduced him first to the American artist Berenice Abbott and then to all the Surrealists. This group was the first to discover the double language of Atget's photographs, made with the soul intent of documenting reality, and to appreciate the poetic and oddly disquieting atmosphere captured in each image.

The poetic and oddly disquieting atmosphere part was what struck me, it seemed to so accurately describe Atgets work.

Haunting Photograph

Found this image by accident on Ebay. I find it haunting for some reason, been thinking about it a lot the last 3 or 4 days. I have no idea of the back story behind the photograph, is she a prisoner? a prostitute? a mental patient? a unhappy lover?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Alberta-Wide Open Juried Photography Exhibition

Dear Gerry
On behalf the Visual Arts Alberta Association I would like to thank you for submitting your work for consideration in the VAAA Gallery's 2008 Alberta-wide Open Photography Call for Submissions. I am pleased to advise you that you have been selected by the jury for the Juried Photography Exhibition scheduled to run from May 29 to June 14, 2008 in the VAAA Gallery located at Hardcourt House Arts Centre, 3rd Floor, 10215-112 Street Edmonton Alberta.

Visual Arts Alberta received an overwhelmingly positive response to this call to Alberta photographers, with over 260 photographs submitted to the jury for consideration. Due in large part to space constraints, only 60 pieces were able to be shown in the VAAA Gallery for this photography exhibition, and the jury selected the following image(s) from your submission:

1. Cambodian Baby Tool Kok Slum, Phnom Penh
2. Dying Street Woman Bangkok, Thailand

Once all the work juried to be exhibited at the VAAA Gallery is hung for the show, our special guest juror will come into the Gallery and select the overall winner from the work presented. The winning photographer will be announced the night of the Opening Reception, Thursday May 29, 2008.

The quality of the work submitted and the extremely positive response, combined with the fact that Alberta photographers are often overlooked and under appreciated group of artists means that this will probably become an annual event for Visual Arts Alberta.

Sinceraly Allison Argy-Burgess
Executive Director
Visual Arts Alberta Association

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Being Part of a Collection

For many years now it has been a secret dream of mine to be part of a photography collection (private or museum). I guess it's a selfish dream but I always thought it was important to have your work collected, so that after you die you leave something behind. There just seems something meaningful to be gone physically but to still have a piece of your heart, an important piece of who you were up on a wall some where interacting with strangers. It is a selfish dream but no ones perfect : )

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Robert Mapplethorpe Biography

Mapplethorpe by Patrical Morrisroe is a fascinating read. I thought I would post some sections of the book.

1988 Interview with Mapplethorpe

"I had many affairs during this period, but I was never into quickie sex. I've only slept with maybe a thousand men"

Page 191-192

Mapplethorpe had never been interested in merely documenting the S&M subculture, but in bringing his own aesthetic to bear on scenes that many people would normally find sordid or repugnant. A perfect example is Jim and Tom, Sausalito, one of the seven photographs at the heart of the 1990 Mapplethorpe censorship trial in Cincinnati, it shows one man urinating into the mouth of another and was taken during a 1977 trip to San Francisco. Mapplethorpe placed his two figures in an abandoned Marine bunker, where the light from a nearby window floods the dingy space with religious glow. Instead of an angel appearing in the cell, however, there are only Tom and leather-hooded Jim transforming urine into something like wine. "Can't you see the beauty in it?" Robert had pleaded to his neighbors in Floral Park after showing them his Cubist madonnas. Years later, he was still preoccupied with the same question, and in a 1988 interview with Janet Kardon he described another disconcerting image, of a man inserting a finger in his penis, as a "perfect picture. because the hand gestures are beautiful. I know most people couldn't see the hand gestures, but compositionally I think it works. I think the hand gesture is beautiful. What it happens to be doing, it happens to be doing but that's an aside."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Gerry Yaum Goes Russian!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

All Kinds of Project Ideas

Been thinking of all kinds of possible projects:

1) Photo series on a single bar/or brothel in Thailand or Cambodia.
2) Photo series on a street of bars.
3) Photo series of Thai people through out the country.
4) Photo series of the hill tribe peoples of Thailand/Laos/Cambodia.
5) Photo series of Thai refugee camp for Burmese/Karen peoples.
6) Video documentary on prostitution in Thailand.

All kinds of thoughts, will they remain dreams only? Will I chase any of them down?
I need to save more money, make more sacrifices and turn some of these dreams into reality.

Whatever I do I need to spend time with my subjects and make the images more human.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Adding Sound Bites

A thought about improving the website occurred to me today. I could include sound bites (mp3 files) of people I meet and photograph. I have made some recordings in the past and could work toward making more in the future. To learn the story of some ones life while listening to them speak would create an important record. It would also help viewers get a better feel for things whether online or in a private gallery show, it would enhance the entire viewing (listening) experience.

So-pen-nii......6 Faces

I have been thinking a lot lately about Jock's recommendation that I need to humanize the photographs more. A project idea grew out of his suggestions.

Am thinking of finding 6 people (6 friends hopefully!) working as sex workers (so-pen-nii = prostitute in the Thai language) and spending as much time with them as I can.

2 lady sex workers
2 men sex workers
2 ladyboy sex workers

I would need 1 year at least in Thai to accomplish my goal. The problem with long term relationships with people in the scene is they tend to get used up and spit out. In 2003 I knew over 50 people working a certain road of bars in Thailand when I went back in 2007 only 6 people remembered who I was and came to talk to me. In about a 3 and 1/2 year period the entire working population of the street had changed. Where did all the people go? I think to do a long term project with the same people would be very difficult, 1 year or a bit longer with 6 friends working the scene would be possible thou.

I would want to photograph them on the street, in the bars, in their homes, in their family homes, with friends, with family, with customers etc. the whole gamut of who and what they are. To make the people I photograph more human will help tell their stories in a more truthful way. I would honestly be showing who they are, and as Jock says:

"At the very least this would humanize them and move you away from the blank stare with which people defend themselves from photographers whom they do not know."

It would be important to find the right people. People who would be comfortable being photographed, people that had a certain visual strength (someone that could hold a wall as Richard Avedon used to say). I think a younger (18-22) and a older (35+) person from each group of 2 might be the way to go.

Will continue to think about this idea and see how it develops. I would not be able to go to Thai for 1 year until at least 2010 maybe later. I will be taking some short trips before that time, hopefully I can meet some new people and also renew some old friendships.