Yay Wired

Thursday, March 27th, 2008 - Nicholas Calcott

Nick Waplington for Wired

Okay, so their commenting community largely blows, and I haven’t had a chance to pick up a Wired to see how the pictures look in non-virtual format, but they have been consistently displaying really really good photography. Taryn Simon, Brian Finke, and now they commissioned Nick Waplington to photograph places where eureka moments occurred. The easy choice on this would have been to pick someone with a super elegant contemplative style, another Joel Sternfeld ripoff of ‘On This Site.’ Instead, they picked Nick Waplington! Nick Waplington! [Pointed out via What’s The Jackanory]

Burning Man

Monday, March 24th, 2008 - Nicholas Calcott

Cristina Garcia Rodero

So, I’ve pretty much not had a weekend (even though it’s a 3 day weekend here! WTF!) because I’ve been busy clone stamping dust off 350 of a certain photographer’s files because a certain photographer didn’t take the 10 minutes required to clean said dust off of the sensor. Needless to say, I’d never really looked at this photographers work before, and when I had, I was pleasantly surprised. I won’t hold the dust against her.

This photographer, Cristina Garcia Rodero, has done a bunch of different projects, but one that drew my attention was her Burning Man portfolio. Not necessarily because it’s great (it’s okay), but because its the best treatment of the subject that I’ve seen so far.

For those of you who don’t know, Burning Man is an eight day annual festival that takes place in the desert in Nevada. It is an orgy of… um… everything, as far as I can tell. There are no spectators – everyone who is there must participate, and the entire event culminates in the burning of a giant effigy, the so-called “Burning Man.”

The entire thing is a little ridiculous, as the Burning Man flickr tag evidences, and most photographic depictions do little more than show what occurred, conveying a weird sense of wonder that these things actually go on… The general photographic sentiment seems to be “Holy crap, you guys, look what I saw! Isn’t this awesome?! I can’t believe we can get away with this stuff!” even from the most serious photographers (Richard Renaldi did an e-book, available here, for example).

Burning Man is a kind of self parody, of course (the Burning Man sculpture was burned down early this year by a protester who claimed the festival was getting too corporate), but it is also incredibly popular. I guess, in some ways, this 8 days of utopian anarchy in the desert provides an important outlet for a lot of people, and acts as a weird kind of social safety valve. So many Burning Man testimonials consist of variations on the “I found myself out there, man” theme that you gotta wonder what people weren’t finding in here…

Rodero’s project conveys a bit of this, I think. First off, she photographs it in black and white, a format usually given over to “serious” documentary projects. This choice also has the secondary effect of muting the day glo colors that seem to define the settlement that grows up around the festival in opposition to more drab daily life – Rodero’s pictures look less like visualizations designed to induce an acid trip and more like an anthropological study (for better or for worse), in the same tradition as Gary Winogrand, or Bill Brandt, or Henri Cartier-Bresson, or Maya Deren.

Rodero’s pictures also have a much looser focus on the Burners (as they like to be called) that look good, which means there are a lot fewer photographs of people in extravagant costumes and young women with gorgeous bodies. Instead, she focusses on the rites and rituals of the place. In one picture, for example, she photographs a vast group of people simply lying inert, with no explicable purpose. What other explanation can there be, except ritual? In another shot, she catches two people wandering in burkas, a costume seemingly out of place in this festival of hippie expression. The weird thing is – the burkas fit in.

It’s also weirdly notable that Rodero never includes a photo of the Burning Man actually burning. A decision that seems to negate the idea of the festival, but actually subverts the whole purpose of visualizing it. The burning of the effigy references, of course, all sorts of pagan festivals in so many different cultures – and it’s usually an annual thing designed to mark the passing or beginning of a certain season. But Rodero doesn’t have the climax (so to speak) which places the entire event, visually narrated, in a place outside of the annual commemoration. Without the Burning Man, the project is a documentation of rituals instead of a documentation of a ritual.

At any rate, the Burning Man project fits on a continuum with Rodero’s other projects, among them are projects on the rites and rituals of modern Spain and another on the religious culture of Haiti. This places it firmly in the context of a culturally condoned break with normalcy, akin to other religious rights. I think the reason that Rodero’s project is so much better than other Burning Man projects (god knows there are enough of them) is that she approaches the subject knowing that it is really strange, and it is also not that strange.


Monday, March 24th, 2008 - Nicholas Calcott

Gareth McConnell for the NY Times Magazine

Gareth McConnell has a lovely, lovely portfolio of art hangers in this past weekend’s NY Times Magazine. I always think of art hanging as a job that every straight boy in art school will end up doing at some point in his life. I did.


Saturday, March 22nd, 2008 - Nicholas Calcott

Photoshelter has hired the worlds first professional photography blogger. At first, I was a little dubious, but Rachel Hulin won me over with this glorious Craigslist find. [via Shoot! The Blog]

I am going to pick one person that will be able to assist me on a 2
day photography shoot for a featured fashion spread to run in Southern
California in May 2008. The dates are April 3-4 2008. You will be
learning how I light my fashion images and all the behind the scenes
that goes into making my pictures. The person I pick will pay $800.00
to Tony Florez Photography for the opportunity to work side by side
with me.
You must be very responsible and take good direction. I want
someone serious that wants to advance their skills to a much higher
level. This is a great chance for someone to learn right next to one
of the best photographers around.
Please email to me why you think you should be picked for this
assignment. My email address is tflorez@earthlink.net.

website: http://www.tonyflorez.com
only emails will be accepted
Student cost is $800.00 to be my personal assistant for 2 days.
It is going to be an amazing experience !!!

location: Orange County
Compensation: Student will pay Tony Florez Photography $800.00 to be
the assistant for 2 full days of shooting
Principals only. Recruiters, please don’t contact this job poster.
Please, no phone calls about this job!
Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or
commercial interests.

PostingID: 612216950

His website is available here.


Saturday, March 22nd, 2008 - Nicholas Calcott

‘India, Bihar, High Court in Patna, Dec. 2003,’ by Jan Banning

Foto8 just published a multimedia photoessay (What is it about these things? They’re usually completely unnecessary… One of the best things about photographs is that they’re silent) titled ‘Bureaucrats‘ by Alban Biaussut. It’s pretty well done, but I still prefer Jan Banning’s photo essay on the same subject. I don’t know what it is about that work – I just can’t get it out of my head. And, given that my old blog has been disabled, I’ll use this opportunity to repost the link. Find it here.

RIP Philip Jones Griffiths

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008 - Nicholas Calcott

Philip Jones Griffiths, from ‘Vietnam, Inc.

Well, he finally kicked off, it appears.


Arnold Newman And Alfred Krupp

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008 - Nicholas Calcott

Alfred Krupp by Arnold Newman

Pause To Begin features a post about the famous portrait sitting when Arnold Newman photographed German industrialist Alfred Krupp. I don’t really have much to add to it, except to say that this particular picture is frequently cited as an example of editorializing with photographry and that, the way that I heard the story, Newman’s assistant left the peel-offs from the polaroid in the office trashcan and Krupp pulled them out just after Newman left and was completely enraged. Which is why, as an assistant, I suspect, I’m always told to have my own trash bag and to leave nothing for the client to find.

Aesthetics And Photojournalism Part 2

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008 - Nicholas Calcott

Max Becherer for the NY Times

A quick follow up from around the web of my earlier post on aesthetics and photojournalism:

Colin Pantall writes a post about the danger of exploitation in photographs and how these questions are at least 400 years old.

On The Media, the excellent NPR program, had an episode featuring the novelist Jim Lewis and the difficulty he had in describing violence with a photograph. Transcript available here.

And finally, the NY Times has a quick column about photographer Max Becherer’s memories of covering the past 5 years of the Iraq War. The image above comes from that column.

On Vacation…

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008 - Nicholas Calcott

Lou Doillon, photographed by Takis Bibelas for Playboy France

Okay, not really… But everyone else is coming up with excuses for why they’re not blogging. Me, I just don’t feel like it right now – been starin’ at a screen too much recently.

Also, seeing the new Playboy cover at the journaux reminded me why I moved to France. Yeah, yeah, I know – Lou Doillon, photographed by Takis Bibelas. But screw that: Look at the articles.

The Sky Is Falling

Friday, March 14th, 2008 - Nicholas Calcott

Jonas Bendiksen

I was pointed toward the work of Norwegian photographer Jonas Bendiksen by a little piece in a NY Times blog post. The work is lovely, and its highly aesthetisized view of the subject looks like stills from an anime movie. Available here.

Update: I guess I should have known about him: He’s a Magnum photog.