Belgian Autochromes

Saturday, November 29th, 2008 - Nicholas Calcott

Alfonse Van Besten, ‘Japanesque’

I stumbled across this gallery a little while ago showing the work of 3 Belgian photographers who worked with autochromes. Autochromes (short for ‘Autochrome Lumi√®re‘) were the precursors to color film, and for years the only way to take pictures in color. These galleries, showing the work of Charles Corbet, Paul Sano, and Alfonse Van Beston, are a funny mix of everyday scenes of turn of the century Belgium, landscapes, scientific photographs, and constructed allegories of the Julia Margaret Cameron type (with an inflection of Orientalism), all in a sort of pointalist color. Some of these photos have weird contemporary echoes – we’re so used to seeing photography of this time in black and white that rendering it in color makes a whole swath of contemporary photography look dated. Some highlights: Skulls, classical allegory, cherry blossoms.


Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 - Nicholas Calcott

Alec Soth, from his new project ‘The Last Days of W’

Alec Soth (whose latest project, ‘The Last Days of W,’ is, I think, his strongest by far; coverage here and here) is continuing with his mission to revive the Magnum blog and make it a more regularly updated space, and one of his latest posts deals with advice for young photographers:

Instead of giving just my two cents, I thought it would be cool if I could also offer some advice from my fellow photographers at Magnum. I emailed my colleagues and received 35 different responses.

The advice ranges from “Wear good shoes,” to “Read more,” to “Look at art more,” to “Look at art and read less.” It is, typical of this genre of advice, completely contradictory, ultimately leading the reader to conclude that there really isn’t any good, solid advice for young photographers.

Others agreed about the lack of good advice, and additionally objected to the lack of any specific advice. From We Can’t Paint, a post which provoked a heated discussion (as far as these things go):

I hope by now most of us realize that; A) the global financial situation is going to get much worse before it gets any better and; B) this basically means worse times for emerging artists who already had it pretty bad to begin with. Galleries are closing, shows are being cancelled, and collectors are holding back (not really a change for emerging photographers). All in all, the times suck! But that is my point: Where is the acknowledgment that, as [Malcolm] Gladwell points out in his article, “talent [or career success] is actually a complicated combination of ability, opportunity and utterly arbitrary advantage.” How do these factors come into play when giving advice to photographers? Why are they not weighted against our current situation? I would be more interested in hearing what these photographers think an emerging artist should do in our current global climate (without advising us to enter competitions; sorry, an $80 entry fee is not appealing).

Clearly, though, the advice of the Magnum photographers is meant for those starting out or just dabbling in photography, not those who I would define as ’emerging’ photographers: Myself, Noel of We Can’t Paint, Liz, Ian, Dalton (whose latest work I’m really liking), Harlan, everyone else who responded in the comments, and those who read and write photography blogs on a regular basis are all way too invested (and probably too jaded) to simply believe that ‘just go out and take pictures’ amounts to any kind of real advice. But the crux of the matter is that what elevates someone from ’emerging’ photographer to successful artist is essentially mysterious, as Malcolm Gladwel points out in the article.

Still though, hearing that “It’s essentially out of your hands” is not the most encouraging thing. I guess the best advice would be some form of “Keep going,” with a nod to the difficulty involved and the sheer chance that that won’t be enough.

Steven Meisel

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008 - Nicholas Calcott

Another great find by EL. From the 1983 film ‘Portfolio.’ Fashion is so gay.

Paris Photo

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008 - Nicholas Calcott

Onaka Koji, from ‘Slow Boat

At this point it was a week ago, but I promised a Paris Photo round up, so here it is:

I spent most of Paris Photo helping out at the booth, which was a good a view point as any. The usual crowd was hanging around – Olivier Cablat, S√©bastien Girard, Thekla Ehling, Oliver Sieber, and Katja Stuke all made appearances and there was quite a few signings there as well. Jeff Ladd, of 5b4 publicly debuted his ‘books on books‘ reprint of Sophie Ristelhueber‘s ‘Fait‘ (which I picked up a copy of and which is excellent) which she was on hand to sign, and Onaka Koji, Guy Tillim, and a bunch of others stopped by to sign many and sundry books. Besides helping with that, the secretive project I’ve been working on (and which I’ll publicize as soon as I’m able) had it’s debut for Paris Photo VIPs, so through it all I was kept pretty busy.

Which is not to say that I didn’t have time to walk around and get my own view of the fair. All in all, the general consensus of this year was that it was a pretty solid show – there was alot of great work up, both contemporary and historical, and well worth the time it took to see it all (I spread my visit out over two days – these fairs are fucking exhausting). Still, though, the consensus also seemed to be that there wasn’t alot of new and great work to see. For my part, I saw alot of repeats – great projects, but nothing I hadn’t seen elsewhere at other venues or at Paris Photo last year: For example, Versluis and Uyttenbroek’s ‘Exactitudes,’ tons and tons of Araki work, Polidori’s Versaille stuff, S√∏ndergaard and Howalt’s ‘Tree zone,’ and Asako Narahashi’s ‘Half Awake and Half Asleep in the Water,’ all played big parts in the fair, in some cases taking up entire gallery booths.

Attendance wise the fair seemed to be a big success – lines to buy tickets seemed to stretch the entire length of the Carousel du Louvre – but I wonder how things were selling? Certainly the fact that there was so much proven stuff up on the walls as opposed to new and emerging projects shows the fact that the galleries are buckling down for what they expect to be a rough market over the next few months/years.


Friday, November 14th, 2008 - Nicholas Calcott


Seriously, who doesn’t like vintage porn?

Anyways, I came across a pretty decent tumblr blog that posts vintage porn as well as other retro photographs that the author has found on the internet. Some of them are AMAZING. It’s called RETrOZONe.

Helmut Newton: Blah

Thursday, November 13th, 2008 - Nicholas Calcott

Helmut Newton

In solidarity I’m reposting the above photograph shot by Helmut Newton and used by Paddy Johnson at AFC to illustrate an upcoming show at Art Basel (his description of this is worth a read, too). In response to this he received a cease-and-desist letter from the lawyers representing June Newton, Helmut Newton’s wife and controller of his estate. This is clearly ridiculous and Paddy Johnson replied in a totally appropriate fashion. Fuck off, ghost of Helmut Newton.

Follow Ups

Thursday, November 6th, 2008 - Nicholas Calcott

Walker Evans. Shorpy’s, btw, is a great resource for depression photos

William Eggleston’s Whitney retrospective opens tomorrow. Hence, the publicity blitz. In addition to the W article I nitpicked with earlier, Time‘s Richard Lacayo conducted a much meatier interview with him (split over several posts; here, here, and here) as well as a review. From the review:

Eggleston also doesn’t like the term snapshot aesthetic, but from early on, just like Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander, he’s been making pictures that are brilliantly open to the flotsam of the visible world, the little accidents of vision and oddball details that snapshots automatically gather up. He is fascinated by American junk-space, the banal stretches of tract housing and strip malls. But there’s nothing camp or ironic about Eggleston’s work. The power of his pictures rests on their casual but absolute sincerity, their conviction that small is beautiful. There’s something very American about this, a valorization of the commonplace, carried to a level of intensity that can curl your toes. Looking at his picture of a soda bottle simply perched on the hood of a car, you can’t help thinking of what Henry James once wrote about Nathaniel Hawthorne: “The minuteness of the things that attract his attention, and that he deems worthy of being commemorated, is frequently extreme.”

Also, I’m going to promise from now on not to crow over the continuing dismal news from the auction houses. I know, I know, it’s a bad sign, but I view art as rather inevitable, so I don’t see any real harm in the deflating of this speculative bubble… Still, though, I can’t help linking one last thing: AFC has a round up of recent news and speculation.

Also, I’m gonna be on vacay for a few days. Updates next week, as well as the beginning of Paris Photo.