Thursday, February 25th, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott

From the book ‘Entropie‘ from kopoba.de

I recently received a cryptic e-mail pointing me towards the website Kopoba.de.  On the site itself, there’s absolutely no context except for an address in Berlin and some links to ‘friends,’ of which only 2 ring a bell to me (Lina Scheynius and Yanniv Waissa).  Upon entering the site, though, you’re confronted with images of 17 books, arranged in a grid.  Each book is (it appears) handmade and browsable and contains tipped in photographs.

I must admit, I’m not a fan of every book in the grid (some I find a bit too sentimental for my taste), but some are really nice, and I must admit that I was exceedingly charmed by the presentation as a whole… Worth a browse.

The Visual Telling of Stories

Sunday, February 21st, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott

From Fortune magazine, November 1947, art direction Will Burtin

So, I stumbled across this website because it popped up in a Google search for Ezra Stoller images.  It seems to be a storehouse of images related to it’s title, ‘The Visual Telling of Stories’, assembled by Chris Mullen, a former professor at the University of Brighton.  When entering via the URL, you get a limited advertising archive, but if you enter here, you get a massive archive of all kinds of visual stories, including some spreads of classic art direction from Fortune magazine (like this visual study of American advertising culture or this one on astrophysics) that I’ve recently developed an interest in through studying up on Walker Evans, whose work, conveniently, he has a decent archive of, available here

Seriously, this is well worth spending a couple hours rummaging through.

Check out ‘The Visual Telling of Stories’ here, with the bulk accessible through the back end here.

Victorian Photocollage

Thursday, February 18th, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott

Marie-Blanche-Hennelle Fournier, ‘Butterfly’

If you’re in New York before May 9th, be sure to check out the Met‘s show, ‘Playing With Pictures.’  It focuses on Victorian photocollage, practiced by upper class women including Lady Georgiana Berkeley (who I’ve blogged about before) and others.  There’s a NYTimes review here (with a slide show), more info on the Met site (with the same images), and a bit on the site from the Art Institute of Chicago, where the show originated, as well as a video interview with the curator at Truthful Enthusiasm

Working For Free

Saturday, February 13th, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott

Photo via

I regularly check the craigslist job postings here in Paris to try and pick up the occasional web project and was recently struck by the following ad, which I would say characterizes most of the job postings I find on craigslist:

We are looking for assistants to help an artist with a variety of different tasks in [artist’s] atelier. This weekend we will need 3 to 4 enthusiastic and energetic people to help paint a large sky and walls of an imaginary village.
No experience necessary, simply the will to be creative over a weekend and perhaps longer if you happen to be looking for experience within an artistic environment.
Please apply immediately if you are able to help us.

And under the heading “Compensation”, it simply says “Experience”.

Now, forgive me for getting my knickers in a twist, but this strikes me as suspiciously close to Tom Sawyer painting a fence, and annoyingly typical for art and photo jobs in general.  If you don’t believe me, witness the flap over James Nachtwey‘s unpaid internships – here, here, and here.

I won’t get to into this particular instance as this was aeons ago in internet time, but, in Nachtwey’s defense, this behavior is industry standard.  Which is completely fucked up.  Yes, I realize you don’t have a budget to pay someone to paint your fence/spot tone your photoshop file/photocopy War and Peace/get coffee for everyone in the office, but assuming that your potential intern has nothing but time and can pay for him/herself for the duration of the work period is essentially asking them to subsidize your business.  And yes, I know it’s an educational experience, but how widespread unpaid internships are goes way beyond any pay-off in educational terms.

An internship is an opportunity to learn something significant about an industry, not an unlimited and free source of work to do all the things you don’t want to pay someone to do.  This is ethically indefensible, and to top it off is ruining the industry.  By ensuring that the only people who can build up experience are those who can afford to pay for it, you’re essentially closing the door to anyone who can’t afford to pay for it. So the only people who can become photographers/artists/creative types of any stripe are those whose parents can set them up with a budget to live off of while they work their way through an expensive college and then unpaid position after unpaid position.

I realize that this is not the typical case here in France: here, instead of doing an internship at university, all internships are paid (for a third of minimum wage which, you can imagine, is not enough to live on), though you do them after you graduate, repeatedly, until someone offers you a position, typical when you’re 27-30 years old.  Oh, and because of the payment, employers tend to altogether ignore the educational aspect of the process and you spend the time doing database entry or filing. So, yeah, Socialist France is the paragon of an enlightened economy in this case.

And though working an unpaid position is not something the typical freelance photographer will do, being asked to work for free, provide photos for free, shoot an entire project on your own money and time and then show it around until someone picks it up for a pittance, or being required to pay to be featured on the pages of an-unnamed-here-but-very-real-blog are all examples of the typical economics of this industry when people will not accept that yes, it’s a lot of work, and no, it’s not acceptable to foist the costs of that work on people farther down the employment ladder.


Thursday, February 4th, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott

I just had a conversation with an aunt who used to own a consumer photography store – her business died with the rise of digital cameras, but she mentioned that some of her employees had entirely changed their focus from photography to film…

Perhaps the rise of the 5d and 7d cameras that also do hi-res film marks a turning point in the industry…  The lines have been blurred between photography and film, allowing people like me to work in a medium that previously required tons of additional equipment and experience…  And the drain of advertising from print to the internet has meant that still photography just doesn’t pay as much as it previously did.  Film and video, though, continues to be a moneymaker, even on the internet.  Photographers now have the tools to emigrate entirely to the moving image.  Perhaps what we’re witnessing is the end of a golden age of photography; perhaps it marks the beginning of a renaissance for film and video.  Buying a lens, recently, for my Canon, the clerk asked if I was a videographer.  When I replied, “no,” he went on to explain that most of his high-end lenses were being sold to video guys because of the technical abilities of the 5d and because they have (what seems to photographers to be) unlimited budgets…

Or perhaps the tablet PCs which now look inevitably to be coming (whether or not the iPad succeeds) mean a light at the end of the tunnel…. when pictures on the internet will finally become worth something…

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.