We’ve Moved

Saturday, February 26th, 2011 - Nicholas Calcott

On Shadow has reactivated!

Please visit our new site at http://www.onshadow.com.

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The End

Thursday, October 14th, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott

I am very sorry to announce the end of the experiment that has been 12th Press and it’s accompanying blog, On Shadow.

I’ve had a good time doing this blog and the various projects that 12th Press has been involved in, but there are lots of people who are doing the same thing that I’ve been trying to do, but better and with more success than I’ve been able to.  I’ve never felt that I’ve had the time or resources to devote to 12th Press that it deserves, and in this age of self-publishing and internet ventures, I feel that my energy could be better spent adding to the conversation a new voice rather than joining into the chorus.

That being said, I’d like to point you to 3 great photographers whose work really deserves wider notice, and with whom I had been working to provide that.  Please, check out the work of Rian Dundon, Benedikt Richenbach, and Nicoló Degiorgis.

As for me, I will be taking a break from blogging for a couple of weeks before returning to reorganize this blog to serve as an archive, and probably beginning another with a slightly different focus (the creation of which I will announce here).

Thanks again to everyone who have so graciously allowed their work to be featured here, and to all of you internauts who have read, commented, clicked, and bought here on 12th Press.

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Duchenne de Boulogne

Thursday, October 7th, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott

This is not new work, clearly, so I’m always a bit shocked (pun!) when I bring this stuff up and no one knows about it. But this happens consistently enough for me to be posting about it here:

Anyways, Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne de Boulogne was a French doctor and photographer of the 19th century. He comes up here, of course, due to his photographic work, though it was a direct result of his actually quite important scientific research.

Duchenne was a solitary ‘mariner-like’ figure in the Paris of his time, concerned exclusively with medical research and the treatment of people of all social classes (somewhat to the detriment of his career). He developed many pioneering techniques in neurology and medecine in general, but one of his most lasting contributions was his work on muscular contraction and facial expressions. This became widely known to the international scientific community through Darwin’s The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, and was originally published with a suite of scientific images (some of the first uses of photography for this purpose) of Duchenne or his assistants applying localized electrical charges to the face of an old man (who, luckily, had zero sensation in his face) in order to induce different expressions.

Duchenne was heavily influenced by physiognomy: He believed that these facial expressions were a window to the soul. In a weird way (one he probably wouldn’t have recognized) he was right: The images he produced have this weird grotesquely unselfconscious power to them. And though their goal was scientific illustration, some of them stray quite far from anything we would recognize as such.

Google images is a good place to start if you’d like to see more of his work… Though the National Media Museum has a pretty good set of them too.


Fischli and Weiss

Friday, October 1st, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott

Speaking of Arles, the artist duo of Peter Fischli and David Weiss had an exhibition at this past edition that was, in my mind, the highlight of the event. I’ve got nothing to add on this today except to point you towards ‘The Way Things Go,’ the 1987 short film that records a series of casually assembled objects functioning as a Rube Goldberg machine.

Check it out the rest on 01 Magazine’s blog.

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A Couple Days Late

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott

Bookmakers at Chateau d’Eau

Sorry I haven’t posted – I was down in Toulouse working on getting together the latest iteration of Le Garage.  Which, incidentally, has a new website.  Check it out at legarage.cc.

In the meantime, though, An-My Lê’s new show “Events Ashore” has opened at Murray Guy.  It’s work on the US Navy, that I first had a sense she was working on due to an appearance in her Art:21 documentary.  It seems a slight departure from her previous work (I find it less lyrical… or more, I’m not sure), but certainly worth a look if you’re in NY.

Also, Carly Steinbrunn of Le Garage showed me this absolutely delightful video about the festival at Arles. This isn’t exactly timely (Paris Photo is closer than Arles), but you gotta watch it if you speak French…

And finally, tiny little water creature photographs.

Next post: much less random, I promise.

  • Fischli and Weiss – 12th Press
  • […] of Arles, the artist duo of Peter Fischli and David Weiss had an exhibition at this past edition that was, […]



Monday, September 20th, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott

Dutch Doc is a (surprise, surprise) Dutch website and blog specializing in documentary photography.  They run essays and blog posts and their twitter feeds all on the main page, but barring a major upgrade in google translate, the site is pretty much uninteligible unless you speak Dutch.

That being said, however, one aspect of the site which is in English is the Docupedia, a project begun to catalogue many of the different photography institutions and prizes all over the world.

Obviously, there are areas (Europe) where they are much stronger than others (Africa and South America don’t have a single entry for example, which is obviously not the case), but it’s the beginning of a valiant effort to provide a one-stop reference to the various photographic scenes.

The lack of coverage of some areas, though, highlights an interesting point – I highly doubt that the people behind Dutch Doc are intentionally or unintentionally excluding photographic organizations in non-western countries.  Much more likely is that they simply don’t know about any. Which is a bit of the problem – as most of the readers of this blog are probably avid internet photography viewers, we probably know plenty of Western photo organizations – they are, after all, the most likely to be plugged in and the most likely to have a website or to appear on a blog. So, the failure of this map (so far, it must be said – it’s an ongoing list) is its very lack of African, Asian, and Latin American institutions.  These institutions are the most likely to benefit from a map such as this, and they are also the most likely to show us something we haven’t yet seen in a way that we have equally not seen (see this graphic for a sense of this), which one might say goes some way to explain the very appeal of photography.

[Randomly, check out ‘A Japanese Book‘ via Eyecurious Books…]

On that topic, Greater Middle Eastern Photo recently posted a timely essay as a response to Perpignan:

Congratulations to Frédéric Sautereau who has won the International Daily Press Award at Visa Pour L’Image for his work on Gaza which appeared in La Croix.

Sautereau is no stranger to the area and has bodies of work including Jerusalem (and other divided cities), the wall separating Israel and the West Bank, Gaza and Hamas. It is a deserving win, though I look forward to the time when photographers from the region lead the way in producing award winning work about their homelands.

Why they don’t go on to greater glory is the crux of the matter, and the author goes on to provide some explanations.  Read more here.

Ouverture du Bal

Friday, September 17th, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott

I am very pleased to announce that a project that I had a small part in helping along is finally opening this weekend.

That’s right – Le Bal opens it’s doors tomorrow, Saturday, September 18th, with an exhibition entitled ‘Anonymes.’

Co-curated by Diane Dufour and David Campany, it’s a look at ‘Unnamed America in Photography and Film.’ I’ve seen it, and honestly, it’s a really good exhibition. I highly urge anyone in Paris to check out this new photography space…

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Link Dump

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott

Miyoko Ihara (via Contact blog).  This one really pulled at the heart-strings.

So, as mentioned, with the return of fall comes a dump of some of the interesting links that I’d like to share without necessarily adding another word. And so, without further ado, in no particular order:

Blake Andrews’ has decided to teach photography
Rip Hopkins portraits of English living in France (via Hipolyte Bayard). This one kind of depresses me, for some weird reason.
Jacolette: a blog of Irish snapshots and vernacular photography.
Ben Quinton‘s ‘The British Abroad,’ about an English style school in the Rift Valley (via Prison Photography).
This photo that appeared on Contact.
The Morning News interviews Julian Faulhaber, who we’ve discussed before
Hein-Kuhn Oh‘s ‘High School Girls‘ (via The Sonic Blog).  This one gains added resonance in the context of this. And other things too.
The Burns Archive has a blog.
Toby Burrow’s landscapes. Want.
Phyllis Galembos masquerade work is absolutely astonishing for so many different reasons.
Tinyvices is on the iPhone and iPad. Interesting…
Oliver Farrnbacher‘s quiet work is satisfying, though not quite as ADD as I lean towards these days (via The Sonic Blog).
Motohiro Takeda, as featured on LOZ.
Vincent Fournier from Mrs. Deane’s Mars Week.
Bernard Voita (via Contact).
Ola Rindal, who I heard of from I-can’t-remember-where-sorry.


Wednesday, September 8th, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott


So it’s September, and here in Paris the 6 month winter has apparently already begun. We’re virtually guaranteed the grey, pissing skies present today until April, unless Summer somehow effects a Lazarus like return from the dead.

It’s not all bad, though: September also marks the rentré, when all of France returns to work. That means lots and lots of stuff going on, as all of the work and events that would have happened in August are crammed into the first couple of weeks of the month of September.

Included in that are two special events I want to draw your attention to. First, Le Garage, the exhibition project I was involved in in Arles this year, will be showing again in Toulouse at the venerable Chateau d’Eau gallery, opening September 24th. If you’re around, be sure to check it out. The Le Garage site is due for an update with details of the show – when that happens, I’ll be sure to mention it here.

And here in Paris (or its environs), Laurence Vecten, of LOZ fame, has gotten together with Laurent Champoussin to present PIY / Publish It Yourself, ‘an exhibition of self-published photobooks.’

The show is next week-end, saturday 11th and sunday 12th, at Maison d’art Bernard Anthonioz, in Nogent sur Marne (16, rue Charles VII, Nogent sur Marne ; 12.00 am until 6.00 pm).

In our selection of books, you may find names you have already seen on LOZ.
Our idea is to show different range of books : monographs, posters, zines, boxes, different types of printing, and of course impulsive choices.

I’ll be checking it out on Sunday if anyone cares to join me…

NEXT UP: All of the links I’ve been saving for you and never had a chance to share.  I’m wading through the folder today, so I should have a nice round up in the next couple of days.


Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott

© Melanie Bonajo

It’s the rentré here in France – everyone’s getting back from vacations and jump straight into work.  So, back to the blog.

I wasn’t completely idle over the summer, though. I manage to write a short essay for Le Bal (WHICH OPENS SEPTEMBER 18th, BY THE WAY) on the New Weird.  I urge you to read it:

Obviously, this kind of work has long had a history in the art world – Art world critics, curators, and collectors have long had a much easier time with a work as an independent expression of an idea than has the photography world. The photo world has always had an implicit belief in the photograph as an authentic document that, though not necessarily a conveyer of truth, is the medium for authentic communication between creator and viewer. New Weird photography frequently claims to be nothing more than an assembly of symbols and juxtapositions and that it can be nothing more than some king of photographic Rorschach ink blot to the viewer’s predispositions and prejudices.

More here. This essay, in its current form, is unfinished – I’m interested in expanding upon it, so any comments or input is appreciated.

Others were also not idle – which I’ll get to as I catch up on my linkage.  To start, though, here’s a call for entries from 3/3.  12th Press will be submitting;  You should too.

Little big press  exhibition aims to survey the tendencies that, during the last few years, changed thoroughly the world of photobook publishings.

A more and more increasing vitality is directing photobook evolution towards an independent, self published and scale reduced position, giving life to independent photobooks or fanzines, while small publishing houses are becoming more and more active and prolific all around the world.

Apply at treterzi.org.

UPDATE: I posted the entire essay below.

We, as photographers, are still working through the effects of the digital revolution.  I suspect that this will be the case for yet a few years to come as we come to grips with how new technologies like digital cameras and digital distribution have changed how we view, approach, and create photography.  But, some of these effects have already become evident – one clear example is how you, a distant reader, have found this blog and this essay and connected to a community of photography enthusiasts interested in working through some of the problematics of the documentary image: Our project here at Le Bal.

This interconnectedness has led to interesting conglomerations of photographers and photography styles, connected only by the tenuous links of a common approach and the streams of data travelling over the internet.  A common approach to a medium is by no means nothing new – It has happened at many different moments throughout art history and finding and identifying the causes of these brief moments of synchronicity are one of the prime occupations of art historians.  But I would argue that the internet is increasing the frequency and scale of this, by its very property of making work and information widely distributed all over the world to your desktop computer.

A good contemporary example is the category of photographic work dubbed ‘New Weird‘ or, in previous writing by me, techno-spiritualist photography.  Characterized, in the most general sense, by an approach that emphasizes the visually surreal or weird in the banalities of contemporary life and a strong concern with the construction of the photographic image, New Weird photography exploded on the internet several years ago with the introduction of the blog i heart photography.  Since then it has made its way into the the most exalted of contemporary art institutions and its influence can be found, either directly or indirectly, in huge swathes of the fine-art photographic landscape.

i heart photography (which is still active) was created because Laurel Ptak, its founder, « was just seeing the same work in the same style of photography over and over again, in galleries, on the pages of magazines, everywhere in the established art world, and I just knew there was more going on than that.»  [via] Determined to find an outlet for the type of work that she enjoyed, and taking advantage of the possibilities afforded by an internet environment (which was really just starting to see huge numbers of photographers posting their own work on their personal sites), Ptak began posting on photographers that shared common concerns with her; a do-it-yourself ethos coupled with a post-modern interrogation of the nature of photography through approaches such as collagearchiving, and neo-surrealist work.

If one has to identify only one element that runs through all of this work, it was that none of it fits into the thread of photography that starts with the photojournalists of the 30s, through Cartier-BressonFrank, and WinograndArbusGoldin, etc.; so-called ‘Straight Photography.’  It has none of the faith in the socially transformative power of photography, or even in the narrative abilities of photography.  Instead, it seeks to put a question mark against the entire idea that the visual document can tell anything beyond that with which the viewer originally approaches it with.

Obviously, this kind of work has long had a history in the art world – Art world critics, curators, and collectors have long had a much easier time with a work as an independent expression of an idea than has the photography world. The photo world has always had an implicit belief in the photograph as an authentic document that, though not necessarily a conveyer of truth, is the medium for authentic communication between creator and viewer. New Weird photography frequently claims to be nothing more than an assembly of symbols and juxtapositions and that it can be nothing more than some king of photographic Rorschach ink blot to the viewer’s predispositions and prejudices.

It must be noted at this point how heavily much of New Weird photography is influenced by Surrealist photography. But Surrealism never doubted the photographic document, using it instead to suggest other meanings through association as opposed to suggesting that there may be no meaning or, at the very least, meaning is relative. For example, much of the darkness drawing its roots from the symbols of Freudian psychotherapy present in a lot of surrealist photography has been neutered in its contemporary incarnations.  We don’t really get the sense of danger and perverseness in, say, Melanie Bonajo’s ‘Furniture Bondage‘ as we do in Hans Bellmer’s ‘La Poupée‘.

New Weird photography is a direct product of the internet – a collective unconscious, sanitized and behind a screen, and frequently an easy commodity, arriving on our screens and then clicked through to the next image.  In alot of ways, it mirrors the image factory of the internet itself.  Sites like ffffound and the so-called ’surf clubs,’ results of many collective users trolling the internet for interesting images to share, are frequently eerily similar to the sites of artists who have instead created their work.  That isn’t, of course, to say that the work isn’t without merit, or even to take out the intentionality of the artist. This is instead an acknowledgement of how of-a-certain-time-and-place New Weird photography is.

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