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.

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.


Friday, July 30th, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott

Taryn Simon, ‘Steroids (illegal)’, from Contraband

So, contrary to appearances, this blog is not moribund – I’ve just been busy. Really, really busy. I’m back now, but off again on vacation until the end of August. I hope to see you then, but in the meantime, check out this Taryn Simon project, Contraband, published in the NY Times.

The photo of the confiscated goods at JFK in an American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar was always my favorite, tied with the photo of the Hoh Rainforest, which is where I happen to be going.

Enjoy the rest of summer!

Seeing colors

Monday, June 7th, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott

From the phenomenal site Information is Beautiful.  Click for full size.

Reading the gem of a text that Photography Prison dug up from a Lester Morrison interview on 5b4 that I somehow missed…

In my sophomore year I started doing psychedelics in a rather serious way. Some friends got hold of a bunch of Sandoz tabs. Sandoz was the only pharmaceutical outfit ever to produce pure lysergic acid diethylamide-25 and ergotamine in a form that looked like Pop-Rocks. Ergotamine comes from a fungal rust that grows on certain cereal grains. In high doses can cause vascular stasis, thrombosis and gangrene. That’s how my buddy Ben lost his foot and resulted in me having extreme panic attacks that forced me to drop out of school. Well, that and the foul cholera episode. When it isn’t turning you into a leper, the ergotamine slots so perfectly into the complex serotonin metabolism of the primate cortex. Brings about some random stochastic happenstance, some entropic slippage where – although you have the taste of cat piss in your mouth – you also find yourself trying to poke out the eyes of god. The morning after my first trip, I finally understood colors.

… Brings to mind the color wheel you see above and also Albert Kahn.

In other news, I’m currently engaged in a book project with a photographer who learned to shoot in the 60s – It’s in b+w, but it really gives me a tremendous idea of how printing preferences have shifted over the years.  That is to say that, to a certain extent, you can judge when an image was printed by the particular balance of contrast and density that seems to shift through the decades as printing fashions (!) ebb and flow…

Domingo Milella Again

Thursday, February 4th, 2010 - admin

Domingo Milella, ‘Cairo Copta’, 2009

Hippolyte Bayard has an interview with blog-favorite Domingo Milella which is certainly worth checking out.  He speaks about the state of photography in Italy as well as the nature of landscape:

A landscape and its own architecture often represent a vocabulary of human facts, dreams and illusions. I am mostly interested in the clear edge between the manufactured landscape and natural space. Consider the engravings of Saint Peter Basilica in Rome after its completion, for example. You can see a monumental piece of human history built right above the uncared soil, dirt, bushes and forgotten rocks. I am utterly fascinated by this contrast between cultural and natural, when architecture grows out of the earth. There is a sentence from the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben that I would like to quote in this regard:

“Only for an instant, like dolphins, human language puts its head out of the semiotic sea of nature. Yet, the human is properly nothing else but this passage from pure language to discourse; this transition, this instant is history.”

Check out the full post on Hippolyte Bayard

Simon Starling

Monday, February 1st, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott

Simon Starling, from the video ‘Red (in the Search of the Elusive Okapi)’

Ah, back from an involuntary break, as my computer decided it would go on strike.

At any rate, I just visited a show here in Paris at Galerie Kamel Mennour.  I have to admit that every time I go to that gallery I’m set for disappointment as they seem to only show artists with a proven market, which more often than not just means sellable art and not necessarily good art.

This time was an exception.  Though they split half the gallery with Roger Ballen‘s ‘Boarding House‘, work which, though good, I’ve seen so often and in so many different venues that it utterly fails to interest me at this point, they devoted the other half to two works by Simon Starling, on loan as part of the Berlin-Paris exchange from the Neugerriemschneider Gallery.

Simon Starling came to my attention, and most other people’s, when he won the 2005 Turner Prize.  His work tends to be concerned with process and context, a not-entirely-original preoccupation in today’s artworld, and though the two works on show at Kamel Mennour were no exception to this, they did highlight other, more interesting preoccupations of his.

The first body of work, ‘Three Birds, Seven Stories, Interpolation and Bifurcation’, takes up the front room of Kamel Mennour and consists of quite a few (I forgot to count) platinum prints that display the usual tonal glory of platinum prints. The subjects of the images are real and fictional variations on the story of the German architect Eckart Muthesius, who was given a commission to design a fabulous palace for an Indian maharaja, completed in 1934.  The subject is simple enough, but Starling presents the palace and it’s objects as almost technical records of imagination – the images don’t entirely make sense together (in a positive way) and you’re left to draw what meanings there are from them on your own.

The real highlight for me was actually Starling’s film ‘Red (in the Search of the Elusive Okapi)’, shown in an adjacent gallery.  It alternates between red-toned photographs of a trip down the Hudson river in a canoe which ends on the steps of the Museum of Natural History in New York and video shot in a darkroom where the same photographs are being developed, where the safe-lights cast the same red tone one finds in the photographs.  The entire video is accompanied by voice-over reading the text of the journal of Herbert Lang, a naturalists whose trip down the Congo provided two Okapi specimens still seen in diorama at the same Museum of Natural History.  I found the tying together of photography, natural history, colonialism, collecting, traveling, and history perfectly tuned: Not overbearing, but not insensitive to its own implications either.

Go see them both at Kamel Mennour in Paris, up until March 6th.
A blog post on the making of ‘Red; by Dante Birch, of MassMoca, here.
An interview with Starling here.

Studyo Osep

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Tayfun Serttas
Studyo Osep

I was flipping through Artforum’s 2009 best-of issue when I came across an image that immediately stopped me – you can see it above.

A little research reveals that it’s from a show at Non Gallery, in Istanbul, of prints from a certain Studyo Osep.  Studyo Osep is Osep Minasoğlu, one of Istanbul’s oldest studio and set photographers.  The show is the result of work by Tayfun Serttas, a young social scientist and artist, who organized the show as a reflection on representation and history in Turkey over the course of Osep Minasoğlu’s career.

You can find further images of the show here and here (with installation shots), a biography of Osep Minasoğlu here, an image of him on Non Gallery’s facebook event, an interview (in french) here, and the catalog from the exhibition (which was the thing that made the best-of list) can be ordered here. I want.

Melanie Bonajo

Sunday, October 25th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Melanie Bonajo
Melanie Bonajo, ‘Healing Machine’

So, a little while back I was researching a book I had seen at one of the fairs (I can’t remember which) called ‘Furniture Bondage‘ which definitely falls within the “new weird techno-spiritualist” (heh) genre of photography, and came across some of the artist’s other work, which I found myself (appropriately) weirdly drawn to.  If you read the title of the post, you’ll already have guessed the name of the artist (Melanie Bonajo), and though I can’t seem to track down a website for her, there are a couple gallery sites with her work (here, here, and here), an out of order collective site, and an i heart photograph interview.


Saturday, October 24th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Chris Jordan
Chris Jordan, from ‘Midway’

Next up, Chris Jordan‘s Midway: Message from the Gyre, a relatively recent find (via consumptive).

Jordan documents found young Albatross carcasses, festival littered with a stomach’s full of plastic fed to them by their parents who were attracted to the brightly colored trash in the belief that it was food.

Check it out here.