Bertrand Fleuret

Thursday, July 30th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Landmasses and Railroads
Bertrand Fleuret, from ‘Landmasses and Railways’

One of the pleasures of going to Arles for the photofestival is not so much the exhibitions, which pretty consistently disappoint, but rather to hang out with a bunch of other photographers and talk about their work.  This year, among many other highlights, I had long conversations with Olivier Cablat, Thomas Manneke, Adam Etmanski, Ken Schles (with whom a conversation that began with a question about how New York was going these days ended half an hour later with an extended riff on the decline and fall of civilizations) and especially Bertrand Fleuret.

Bertrand Fleuret is a french photographer who lives in Berlin.  He creates beautiful black and white 35mm work, often quite abstract, dark, and enigmatic.  His latest book, Landmasses and Railways, has been published by J & L press – A long conversation with him one night led to an evocative description of the Tokyo scene of Solaris (which you can see in poor quality here), to which he replied “That’s exactly the same feeling I was trying to achieve in my book.”  I think he’s succeeded.

Also of note, given this blog’s focus on new pathways for photography, is the availability of every single one of his books in pdf form on Fleuret’s website.  He says that these don’t bother the respective publishers of the books as the audience who’s investing in a well printed photobook is not the same as the one that will download the same thing in lower resolution.  I think he’s right here, but it does raise interesting questions in light of the AFC-Concientious discussion recently – The pyramid seems to be set up thusly: If you have a ton of money and are interested in photography, you’ll buy a one off print to put up on your wall; if you have a bit of money and are interested in photo, you’ll buy the well printed book; so, if you have no money, you’ll download the pdf?

I’m not sure this is so clear, so the question is then “What is the audience that is downloading the pdf?”

Along the same lines, Fleuret also has a ‘zine project called Remora – a black and white photocopy ‘zine done once every couple of months and pasted up on the street.  It’s never in the same location, and the point of it is for the work to reach a random audience, one which may never understand or care about it’s provenance.  A sort of end-run around the inherently limited art photography audience.


Monday, July 27th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Tom Sachs
Tom Sachs, ConEd NASAblad, 2008

Just a little note – Tom Sachs is showing some work at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum.  Sachs is well known for reconstructing, from scratch, well known symbols and objects, frequently adding new features that were not part of the originals.  Previous projects have included the McDonald’s arches, Hello Kitty, and the entire Apollo space program.

The work showing at the Aldrich, however, is a little closer to home: Cameras.  This includes reproductions of the Haselblads brought to the moon, as well as Leicas, Nikon SLRs, and other well known camera symbols.  Check it out if you can.


Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

After that last post, I just couldn’t help posting an Ezra Stoller photo on this one

So I got back from Arles about a week ago, but getting back into the swing of things has proven a bit difficult.  We had a great time down there, but you’ll have to read more about the festival elsewhere.  In the meantime, however, my folder is overflowing with things to post, so I’m just going to have to clear away some of the more miscellaneous ones now:

Julius Shulman

Monday, July 20th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Julius Shulman, Twin Palms House, 1957

Clearly entirely related to the last post is the work of Julius Shulman, the news of whose death has been quietly ricocheting around the internet the last couple f days.  If you like architecture and/or Modernism and/or photography, you’ll like his work, as well as that of his East Coast contemporary Ezra Stoller (who died in 2004).  I find echoes of both of them popping up all over contemporary photography, though they are rarely acknowledged outside of architectural circles, it seems…

It’s certainly worth image searching both Stoller and Schulman, if you’ve never come across their work before.  You can find Julius Shulman slide shows here and here.


Tuesday, July 7th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Julian Faulhaber
Julian Faulhaber, ‘Gas Station’

A thought, though a fairly unformed one:

Contemporary photography seems to really have taken architecture as a subject in a way that seems to me unprecedented (despite the exclusion of commercial architectural photography, as Mrs. Deane noted).  Clearly, people have been taking pictures of buildings for ages and ages, sometimes particularly with the aim of showing off a space.  But photography-as-art has never really been as concerned with the poetics of space until recently.

I suppose Joel Sternfeld’s book ‘On This Site,’ bears a mention, as does the work of Thomas Demand. And photography as a medium has always been at least a little about what just happened or what is about to happen in an image – That is to say that it depicts space but not time, in a way that those interested in architecture find inviting like an empty building.

Which itself is a trope of photography – spaces emptied or just finished, frequently with the traces of what just happened or what will soon happen (see here for an example)  Ruins in photography is another blog post (it’s coming up, I promise), so I won’t go too far down that road for now.

It’s funny though that it seems to go the other way – there seems to be a perenial debate about how modern architecture is made for depiction – in 3d simulators or with a camera – a trend apparently encouraged by the fact that most people are more likely to engage with architecture by hearing about it or seeing a gallery on the web rather than treking to the far flung locales where most of the talked projects seem to get built (see 100 flickr collections for architecture buffs and tell me how many of these buildings you’ve visited, or even how many it would be possible for one person to visit).

Also: Cataloging seems to come into play in architecture photography- creating a record in photographs.  See it here, or better yet, check out Atget or the Bechers.  Now that I mention those two, it strikes me that architectural photography seems oddly tied up art since modernism.  I wonder why…?

Another note – Plenty of architects seem to migrate to photography, often finding success studying the very things that brought them to architecture in the first place.  Sze Tsung Leong and Elian Sommers, for example.  If you think of others, let me know in the comments.

**Oh, and I’m off to Arles later this week, so no more posting ’till next Monday.  Drop me a line if you’re gonna be there, or just ask for me at the booth**

That Awful Mess

Saturday, July 4th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

All these big men kept tramping around the house. It jangled the nerves. Don Ciccio sat down, brokenhearted, in the vestibule, waiting for the magistrate. Then he went back in there again: he looked, as if in farewell, at the poor creature over whom the photographers were arguing in whispers, taking care not to stain themselves or their traps, their bulbs, screens, wires, tripods, their big box cameras. They had already discovered two light plugs behind two armchairs, and had already blown a fuse two or three times, one of the three fuses of the apartment. They decided to use magnesium. They fiddled around like two sinister angels, full of a desire not to attract attention, above that terrifying weariness: a cold, poor derelict, now, of the world’s evil. They buzzed around like flies, maneuvering those wires, snapping the shutters, agreeing in a whisper on steps, trying to keep from setting the whole kit and kaboodle on fire – these were the first hum of eternity over her opaque senses, that body of a woman which no longer posessed modesty or memory. They operated on the “victim” with no regard for her suffering, and unable to spare her ignominy. The beauty, the clothing, the spent flesh of Liliana were there: the sweet body, still clothed from their gaze. In the obscenity of that involuntary pose – whose motives, beyond doubt, were the skirt lifted back for the outrage, the parted legs, and above them, and the swell and furrow of voluptuousness to inflame the weak (and those sunken eyes, horribly open on to the void, fixed on an inane object, the sideboard) – death seemed to Don Ciccio an extreme decompounding of possibles, formerly harmonised in one person. Likethe dissolving of a unity which cannot hold out any longer, the sudden collapse of relationships, of all ties with organizing reality.

Carlo Emilio Gadda, in ‘That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana’

Le Bal

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Nicholas Calcott for Le Bal
Nicholas Calcott for Le Bal

So, it’s been quiet around here for the last week – going through the final stages of a website for a project I’ve been working on for the last few months:

Our dream is to transform an old Parisian dance hall, just minutes from Place de Clichy, into a venue for the documentary image (photography, video and film).

A place to present, compare and examine the many possible ways of addressing reality.

A place to question the issues involved in documentary creation; issues that span aesthetics and politics.

A place to debate the conditions in which documentary images are produced, published and seen.

A place to think about what a “document” really is:  part investigation, part experience, part recording and part creation.

A place to explore new visual forms that can convey reality in all its complexity.

Go check it out at