"Many pictures turn out to be limp translations of the known world instead of vital objects which create an intrinsic world of their own. There is a vast difference between taking a picture and making a photograph." - Robert Heinecken
"Photography books often have titles like The Photographer’s Eye or The Vision of So and So or Seeing Photographs — as if photographers didn’t have minds, only eyes." — Duane Michaels
"Although we know that the buildings, sidewalks, and sky continue beyond the edges of this urban landscape, the world of the photograph is contained within the frame. It’s not a fragment of a larger world." — Stephen Shore
"Interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art. Even more. It is the revenge of the intellect upon the world. To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world — in order to set up a shadow world of 'meanings.' It is to turn the world into this world. ('This world'! As if there were any other.)" — Susan Sontag
I've received two handsome books of current black and white photography, just before the holidays.
The first was MONO Volume One, edited by Luca Desienna (of Gomma magazine) and released in 2012 as the first part of a proposed trilogy (A Kickstarter project for Volume Two also shows a video that includes paging through the first volume).
The second, smaller book was BLACK FOREST, edited by Russell Joslin (of SHOTS magazine) and just now available. BLACK FOREST is not entirely in black and white, though the color fraction is desaturated and small.
MONO is organized as short portfolios by an individual photographer -- BLACK FOREST is organized into four “visible poems” of Joslin’s devising, with contributions by many photographers. Thus the smaller book includes the works of more artists. At least one (Roger Ballen) can be found in both books.
For each portfolio or visual poem, there is a brief and self-consciously cryptic poem-sized intro text. I am generally mistrustful of such props. They can be safely ignored here.
Both books exhibit a considerable love of blackness. This might be a by-product of modern book-printing practice, but both contain not only photos with tones that sink down below the page but the images are often presented against black, and many pages that bear no photos are also inked over.
The blackness suits both volumes’ interest in nostalgic, dreamlike states: dreams, like photographs, can seem vividly real, yet in nearly all these photos, as in dreaming, the realistic depiction is thwarted by defiances of physics, surrealist-like dissonant combinations of scale, of objects, animals, masks, realigned gravity, uncharted woods, skulls, paint-spattered walls, naked flesh and drapery. There’s a baroque quality to the extremity of detail.
Nearly all the work is made in the studio, or in controlled locations, really with only a single exception, Trent Parke’s portfolio in MONO. The notion of the camera as a window onto the world, or of the world as a supplier of image elements, is absent here.
The internet is first and foremost for shopping. So which of these books is most worthy of your cash? While I like MONO’s affordance of a deeper look at one artist’s imagery at a time, BLACK FOREST (which is also actually available!) suits me better. That said, I’ll still pony-up the speculative 29 quid for a copy of the upcoming MONO Volume Two.
" I mean, photography is all right if you don’t mind looking at the world from the point of view of a paralyzed cyclops—for a split second. But that's not what it’s like to live in the world, or to convey the experience of living in the world." - David Hockney
Many years ago David Hockney came to look at working with us at Digital Productions, to satisfy a curiosity of his about perspective. It seemed to me that he was after the notion that every object -- perhaps even every varying surface of an object -- might have its own frame of perspective, it's own lens and vanishing point.
At the time the whole idea of applying computer graphics to explore this idea was prohibitively expensive and now, when it's easier, he's moved on in different ways (his large prints from iPad paintings were going for ~$98K a pop at Art Basel last week). But that idea has always stuck with me because I could see a truth in it: that "realism" was an "ism" and that there may be others -- even using tools designed to make realism automatic -- that are just as true.
(see color version below...)