Archives for category: Commercial Photography

Six or seven years ago I sat at my first portfolio review table opposite a budding hobby photographer with a shoe box full of snap shots of lovely scenes that caught her fancy. I gave her as much consideration and thought in helping advance her work as I did in my office the day before meeting with a well-known editorial photographer or I do today sitting across the table from an artist with a highly sophisticated presentation. At whatever level a photographer is working, benefits can be had from opening up and allowing another pair of eyes to share in an artist’s work process. I learned this in art school and I believe in it today.

Books by a few of the photographers with whom I was pleased to meet at a variety of review events: Norihisa Hosaka, Cynthia Greig, Jesse Burke and Photographer Hal.

After participating as a photography reviewer in a number of festival and reviewing events, I am pleased to participate in Eyeist.com, a sophisticated new reviewing opportunity for photographers working at all levels all over the world. The experience for photographers in participating in live reviews such as Center Santa Fe, Fotofest, Photo Lucida or Paris Photo is a unique and special one for many reasons, not least of which is the sense of camaraderie one feels on both sides of the table. The fact that I often refer to the experience as being akin to summer camp for adults, in no way diminishes its value. It can be extremely motivating to spend a few days in deep immersion with other people facing the same challenges as one’s self. A glass of wine over dinner and engaged conversion with a growing pool of new friends and colleagues is irreplaceable. That said, its not always possible, physically or financially to trek to that really great live review. This is why Eyeist.com is such a special thing.

I often wince at the number of new portfolio reviews that seem to sprout like weeds. In fact I just declined an offer to organize yet another one.  I fear for the photographer who like everyone else in the world, must face financial reality that one can’t really afford attending every event, even though there seems to be mounting pressure to do just that.  The sense of missing that one chance to meet with someone who might open just the right door is extremely compelling.  These things do happen – sometimes.  Several handfuls of the work I have loved most at reviewing events are beginning to get their day in the world and that’s a really great thing.

Even so, I feel proud to participate in Eyeist, because it offers a very good option to being there.  Especially for those who need to target their time or target their money, Eyeist is terrific and if I work up my nerve, I might even send my personal work over to a colleague for their take on things.

Currently 48 reviewers are on board with a wide range of expertise from major magazine photo editors to accomplished advertising art buyers to agents, curators as well as a handful of photographers in a variety of genres.  There are people who may be able to offer direct exhibition or publication opportunities and there are people like me, who come from places of deep experience, that may be able to help photographers progress enough to open doors to new opportunities.

After a year of challenging work and dedication by Eyeist founders Allegra Wilde, Micah and Jesse Diamond and their techno-wiz developer Doug Dawirs, they have created a unique and accessible system for assisting photographers that works exceptionally well.  I’m not going to spell out the details as their website does that, but I will say that we reviewers all participated in a number of training sessions and beta tests to get the system to function with great ease.  A benefit to the reviewing process that I hadn’t anticipated was that I was able to give a far more in-depth review than I am able in live review situations due to the potential to have a little bit of advance time with the photographer’s work.  I could look, think, make notes, formulate suggestions in a quiet, non-distracting space and provide a valuable service for my test subjects.  In addition the subject’s ability to choose a specific reviewer or trust Eyeist to do so, allows an ability to target to a photographer’s unique needs.

I don’t believe that Eyeist can or should replace the live, in-the-same-room experience provided by the more reputable reviewing events, but I think it can be a terrific addition to one’s toolbox.  I continue to meet with local photographers privately and that’s a completely ideal work process and setting, but Eyeist offers an opportunity to reach out, for all of us.

https://www.eyeist.com
Press Release:  https://www.eyeist.com/pdf/Eyeist_Press_Release_120925.pdf
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Kernstown, Virginia. Confederate horseman Todd Kern rides over the site of the second Kernstown battlefield, where in 1864 future presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley fought for the Union. Gregg Segal (c) 2010

State of the UnionGregg Segal’s personal photo essay that appeared in Time magazine’s recent Civil War Anniversary issue, is nothing short of wonderful.  In the extensive series of environmental portraits Segal studies the “juxtaposition of two contrastive eras: an idealized Civil War embodied by period reenactors vs. the commercialism of contemporary life.”  It was recently selected as a winning editorial photographic series in 2011 Communication Arts Photography Annual and I feel it deserves much wider recognition.

Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Robert Lee Hodge sits on picket duty near the Old Telegraph Road. In the winter of 1862-63, over 40,000 Confederates were encamped here. To pass the boredom in camp, great snowball fights would erupt, including one that was so violent that snowball fights were banned. Gregg Segal (c) 2010

Stafford County, Virginia. Lars Prillaman, dressed as a Federal Zouave, brushes his teeth on part of the 1862-63 winter encampment of the Army of the Potomac. Gregg Segal (c) 2010

Segal recently reminded me that we met originally in the black and white darkroom at USC’s Roski School of Fine Arts in 1995.  I was teaching a beginning class, which was enjoying the revelatory experience of processing film.  He was pursuing his Masters in Education with an Independent Study in photography, allowing him darkroom access.  I followed his work afterward and increasingly appreciated his strength in bridging environmental and conceptually based portraiture.  Gregg Segal’s highly intelligent approach to image making was undoubtedly honed with a good deal of critical thinking as well as attention paid to social content in his undergraduate work at Cal Arts.  I always thought of him as something of a cultural anthropologist.

Captain America Getting His Mail, Gregg Segal (c) 2005-6

Over the years I was able to offer Segal a handful of strong editorial portrait assignments.  His call offering a first look at a new photo series back in 2005 wasn’t his first pitch to me, but it was the first I was able to have published.  I’ve often referred to the act of selling an editor on a photographic idea, especially a photo essay, as feeling a lot like trying to sell a used car.  You point out the benefits, kick the tires, try to downplay any drawbacks.  Segal’s Super Heroes at Home was anything but a tough sell.  The vivid portraits managed to be both funny and oddly poignant.  His powerful graphic style took the costumed action characters lining Hollywood Boulevard in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater way beyond the easy perception of kitsch.  Most of us locals view the people in costume with suspicion.  Their sweaty, dingy presence cast as the Incredible Hulk or Spiderman are primarily seen as obstacles as they pester tourists for money to share in a photograph and cause us to walk a little more quickly as we pass.  By following the “actors” home and photographing them in costume, on their own turf, Segal took the series beyond the obvious.  In that domestic context, the need to dress as comic characters became more pronounced, more obsessive, than on the street where it made show-biz sense.  It was a no-brainer for a perfect portrait portfolio for Los Angeles magazine.

Superman Cleaning House, Gregg Segal (c) 2005-6

Wonder Woman Takes Out The Trash, Gregg Segal (c) 2005-6

Following the publication of Superheroes at Home we were able to mount a terrific show of the work at the Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood.  The Arclight first opened with Robert Brugeman directing the exhibition program and actively pursuing high quality artwork relevant to the city and to cinema.  Since Mr. Brugeman moved on, exhibition standards slipped for the most part, but for a time it was an exciting alternative space.  Gregg Segal’s intensely saturated color images were accompanied by a wry, ironic backstage photo essay on B-movie production by the wonderful photographer David Strick.  The combination of the two bodies of work was perfect for the location and I was told over a million people saw the exhibition.  If only there had been a book to accompany it.

Red Maria Blumberg, Gregg Segal (c) 2007

Dan Ray, Gregg Segal (c) 2007

The idea for Gregg’s second costumed series, Pirates at Work came, like many good things, by chance.  The city of Los Angeles has been lucky to have a great photo editor in Lisa Thackaberry (currently at Angelino), but at the time, she was Segal’s agent.    In the 90s her work as Photo Editor at Los Angeles Times magazine produced what I consider to be its finest issues.  I was editing at LA Weekly at the time and I looked forward to whatever she pulled out of her hat each week.  She eventually left the Times for Los Angeles magazine and after a couple of years, decided to try her hand at running her own photo agency.  While I took her position at the magazine, she opened Negative Artists, moved to New York and began representing some very talented photographers including Trujillo + Paumier, Jennifer Rocholl, Alyson Aliano, Naomi Harris and Gregg Segal.  Even as Negative Artists began to be successful, selling didn’t come naturally and Thackaberry longed for her creative home in the West.  Her move to the L.A. suburb of Sherman Oaks, led to her re-discovery of Los Angeles’ bounty of strange wonders.  When she phoned with giddy excitement to inform me of a fantastic pirate supply store called Enchanted Deva’s Last Wish and Treasures, she was like a kid in a candy store.  I generally preferred to generate my own ideas of photographers to fit assignments.  After all, that’s the creative fun.  In this case, Thackaberry was right and I knew it.  Gregg Segal was the perfect guy for the job.  On the heels of the Superheroes at Home, it couldn’t have been a better fit and Pirates at Work was born.

George Cayenne Pepper, Gregg Segal (c) 2007

Segal writes of his initial pirate encounter:

“I went to a pirate get together at Enchanted Devas where I met members of the Port Royal Privateers and Brethren of the Coast.  Inspired by Hollywood and historical texts and the tales of Robert Louis Stephenson, these LA Pirates are devoted to their identities:  they make scrupulous reproductions of 17th century waistcoats and make deals on EBay for just the right pantaloons.  Some freebooters manage to make money off their pirate personas, performing reenactments at tall ship festivals and the like.  But for most, pirating is a way of expressing themselves in a manner they otherwise couldn’t in the modern world.

As with the super heroes I’d photographed, I chose a context which allowed for a contrast of the spectacular and routine.  I asked the part-time buccaneers to wear their pirate regalia and go about their workaday lives.”

Mister Roberts, Gregg Segal (c) 2007

After two very strong portrait galleries featuring people compelled to dress in costume, I recall telling Segal that if he could make one more powerful series utilizing that construct, he might well have a terrific book.  The Civil War photo series provides the conceptual and visual icing on the cake and Gregg Segal is now busy preparing and submitting book proposals.

“The portraits in State of the Union were taken on the actual sites of specific battles in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Tennessee,” writes Segal.  The earnest reenactors stay in character, completely engaged with their period props of makeshift tents and rucksacks, seemingly lost way off course in housing developments and parking lots that once were battle scenes.  Time magazine had the good sense to give the gallery a lot of editorial space and the series runs over many pages.  No small feat in a publication that has sadly grown wafer thin.

Spring Hill, Tennessee. Confederate reenactors line up behind the fence of a housing subdivision. Gregg Segal (c) 2010

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Robert Lee Hodge, Jerry Hornbaker and Tim Cole advance through the Gettysburg Cemetery. The Comfort Suites was recently built on the battlefield just a few feet from the graves. Gregg Segal (c) 2010

Cedar Creek, Virginia. Lars Prillaman walks on the site of the battle of Cedar Creek. The Carmeuse Lime & Stone intends to expand its mine to the battlefield. by Gregg Segal (c) 2010

More images from State of the Union can be found at Gregg Segal and on Time’s website.   Also, a video with Segal’s observations and interviews with his subjects as they discuss their dismay over the rapid development of historic locations in “State of the Union” is available here.

These days Segal continues to be a very busy editorial and commercial photographer, who on occasion crosses those lines and ventures into realms of fine art.  That work is wry, quirky, and sometimes sad, in spite of the obvious humor and juicy, juicy color.  I am no publisher, but please, someone give this man a book deal.  He is represented by Marilyn Cadenbach at http://www.cadenbach.com/.

Mr. Segal and friend in front of the camera.

Ed and Tina's Farmhouse, Los Angeles, Kathleen Clark, (c) 2011

Many things in Los Angeles are reminiscent of the classic Western movie façade.  A willing suspension of disbelief allows us to imagine all sorts of fictions.  No stranger to a rapid pace lifestyle, intense work pressures and mind-numbing gridlock, longtime residents know the importance of finding their spot: a place to take shelter, to make a little green, to calm down.  It’s important.  We live in something of an illusion if we can find it.  On one side, our particular oasis borders a strip of tired old apartment buildings and newer, shoddily constructed condominiums.  The area was once low farmland fed by the runoff from the Hollywood Hills.  It had moisture the rest of the city didn’t have.  Plants were meant to grow here.

A Screen Door Sounds Like Summer, Kathleen Clark, (c) 2011

The neighborhood’s south and west sides have lovely 1920s homes with ample yards, protected by zoning that is dedicated to the single family home.  Sadly, to the north and east, the buffer of homes that stand between opportunistic development and us, is getting smaller.  As it turned out, our side of the street is zoned for both single family and multiple units. A multiple tenant building in the 1920s meant a quaint Spanish duplex, whereas now it can easily refer to a 20-unit complex of dubious design with twice that number of cars owned by its inhabitants.  When we fell in love with this house, the fluttering leaves out each and every window seduced us away from concerns about the clutter to the north.  The zoning wasn’t something we focused on, although for years we’ve directed visitors to drive here through the prettier route.  Unfortunately, growth is now encroaching and it’s not the growth of gardens, but of more cement, rebar, and lots and lots of stucco.

Up until now we sat in our house and faced away from it all.  We were able to maintain something of an illusion of spaciousness, of a natural world – the mirage of a better reality, right in the middle of the city.

The land where our house now rests is located just below the bottom left corner of this 1923 photograph of Los Angeles. Farmland covered the middle of the photograph with oil rigs dotting the fields at the Gilmore Ranch a couple of miles north and the closest developed neighborhoods nestling the Hollywood Hills at the top of the frame.

It’s amazing how a sense of calm can be immediately altered with a single phone call.  It’s not as though someone died or was harmed, thankfully, but for a household whose members have each moved enough for a lifetime, our sense of feeling settled down was tremendously altered.

The voice on the telephone said he was with a development company.  He spoke of other projects his company constructed, but wasn’t specific.  The website for the company showed grandiose condominiums – shiny steel and glass.  He offered to buy our house and would pay in cash.  First came the carrot and then, the stick.  His plan was to demolish and build a condominium of unspecified size, upon our lot.  When we recovered from the shock at the thought, we asked if keeping the house and moving it to a new location was an option.  He had no objection, yet there is so little available vacant land in the city, that the proposition of moving it would be unrealistic.

One Hundred Years, Kathleen Clark (c) 2011

How ironic to think of the house moving once again.  Ed and Tina, our 90-year-old neighbors across the street tell us of hearing an incredible rumbling one day 32 years ago.  Walking out onto their lawn they saw our little old house rolling down the street on the bed of a truck.  Their home is the first on the street, built in the early 20s when only a few farmhouses sat near Ballona Creek (now a paved viaduct).  They compliment us on the new green we used to paint the house and tell us how fond they are of looking out to the sycamore trees as they go out to fetch their newspaper each day.  I can’t imagine inflicting their last days with the unsightly view of an enormous condominium complex, not to mention the cutting down of the trees and demolition that would accompany it.

Pepper Tree, Kathleen Clark, (c) 2011

Since that phone call, we’ve gained some information but remain confused.  Not having the heart to sell our wonderful home to developers, it took no time at all to decide it wasn’t an option.  We could not willingly subject our surrounding neighborhood to the monstrosity that would surely be built and we couldn’t live with ourselves if we destroyed the spirit of this sweet house.  It’s also not possible to replace this kind of ambiance, within our means, in the city.

Apparently, the owners of the rental house next door got the call as well, and the fact that they haven’t returned our calls has us spooked.  We don’t know if any of the other five houses left on the block received calls and consequently, we don’t know if people in them have made decisions.  The chance to sell out in a diminished housing market may be tempting to some, while the potential to weaken the value of our investment is something we can’t afford to ignore, even if the light is pretty and the trees are tall.  We may find ourselves forced to offer the house for a regular sale to a person who wants the house in spite of the potential for a 3-story condo next door.  Even writing that makes me feel like a traitor.

Australian Tea Tree, Kathleen Clark (2011)

Not wanting to leave, we research options for trees that grow quickly, that won’t spread too widely and have non-invasive root systems.  We think of planting in strategic locations and staying put.  Then we remember all the cars and all the sounds and all the smells that would accompany a multi-unit building next door.  The sounds of construction and later of arguments and loud music where there have never been any.  The smell of cigarettes and bacon that would surely find their way into our windows make me want to bolt.  I don’t know the answer yet.  It may be that another home would be as inspirational as this one.  Staying or leaving – it’s a gamble either way.  Ultimately it’s difficult to imagine finding another place with such a long glistening throw of light as this one offers.

Above the Table, Kathleen Clark, (c) 2011

I was photographing the house, its grounds and light long before the developer’s call and continuing to do so feels empowering.  The work was shifting along the way, becoming more abstract.  I’m not sure what role that telephone call played in making the black and white images – possibly a need to isolate an essential element of this place.  The botanical shadows were included in many of the color photos, but the emphasis on shadows rather than on the light itself was a subtle change.  I don’t consider them darker or more sinister but perhaps they are in certain images.  Maybe it’s just seeing the whole picture this time.  I’ve always had a tendency, when others are admiring a sunset, to look the other way.  It’s my contrary nature I suppose, but I just really love the way everything looks when it’s bathed in the light falling at the end of the day.

Hummingbird's Rest, Kathleen Clark, (c) 2011

If, in the end, we decide to move on, I want a full recording of what happened here in September and December and April and July.  The light and all its changes of angle allow for different photographs every day.  Most of them I do not take.  Generally, I think the camera gets in the way of a lot of experience and I think taking it in is important in life.  For every image I grasp with my camera, a hundred more are embedded in my mind, generally the place where the best photographs live.

Summer Fruit, Kathleen Clark, (c) 2011

Uplift, Kathleen Clark, (c) 2011

Spring in the World, Kathleen Clark, (c) 2011

January Silhouette, Kathleen Clark, (c) 2011

"American Girl Doll" from "Glass Ceiling" by Jill Greenberg

In conjunction with the Annenberg Space for Photography’s exhibition, Beauty Culture, Jill Greenberg was recently asked to speak about her work.  Greenberg is one of the few photographers whose professional career straddles the worlds of editorial, advertising and fine art with a remarkable amount of balance.  After working with her on a range of editorial assignments including portraits of actors, air-borne fashion and some of the baddest pictures of cheerleaders ever, I’ve had a unique vantage point to observe her career. Not only is Greenberg one of the most focused, hard-working photographers out there, but she is also a witty collaborator, with a dry sense of humor and an unrelenting drive to make the strongest work possible.  She could always be relied upon to bring her best to any job and generally make me laugh in the process.  In spite of the fierce commitment it takes to compete in magazine and ad work, Greenberg’s dedication to building and expanding her body of creative personal work is equally driven.  Utilizing the many skills attained on commercial shoots Greenberg has created a signature lighting style uniquely her own.  So much so, that simple Internet searches of her name can turn up an array of young photographers struggling to emulate the Greenberg lighting.

Greenberg's UCLA v. USC for Los Angeles magazine

Greenberg photographed Glenn Beck in a tizzy for GQ.

Mr. Stewart goes to Washington via Jill Greenberg's TV Guide cover.


The assignment fulfilled by Greenberg.

The former candidate as horror show.

Yet few photographers have sparked the vitriol that Greenberg incurred when she acted upon her political beliefs while photographing then-GOP Presidential candidate John McCain for The Atlantic.  Her sinister, bottom-lit portraits were ultimately edited into vampiric, blood-dripping illustrations, alluding to McCain’s ties to a war-hungry regime, questionable ethics and less-than-honorable tactics to win the election at any cost.  I recall the excitement expressed by Greenberg’s assistant as we waited for actor Richard Jenkins to arrive for a shoot the day after the McCain session. He couldn’t believe they were allowed to get these shots after finishing the portraits intended for the magazine.  After all, any kid with a flashlight knows what happens when you put the light facing up below your chin.

In my experience, every celebrity photographer is hovered over.  Publicists do their damnedest to control shoots to prevent any real editorial opinion from forming in a portrait of their client.  To a large extent, it has gone too far and often backfires into a portrait that could have been stronger had the photographer had his or her way with things.  I also know that certain assurances or trusts are generally made or assumed and no self-respecting publicist would have allowed their client a single minute with the kind of lighting used on the McCain shoot.  They fell asleep on the job, apparently.

When the altered images were published weeks later and I found myself treading along in the swell of America’s economic sinkhole, I welcomed the low blow when Greenberg posted her images on the net.  Of course they plunged into comic–book depths, but on the other hand, my economic-crisis-induced layoff from editorial made me less than sympathetic to the plight of either McCain or any magazine for that matter.   While I would not have allowed a subject to be duped in this way had I supervised that shoot, I no longer had to maintain a journalistic objectivity.  I welcomed the rabble-rousing.  Sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

One of the additional shot opportunities was from the simple act of a misfired strobe.

What I didn’t expect was the amount of hateful speech posted in online forums by some photographers (and I’m not referring to the Fox mouthpieces).  I’d spent my career looking after the interests of photographers and I was always surprised by the ease in which they quietly rolled over to sign away rights in order to get the big picture.  I honestly had been too busy working to notice how low people would stoop and how loudly.  The resentment and loathing expressed toward Jill Greenberg for getting the unthinkable shot was palpable.  It was more than just the perceived abuse of her photographic opportunity that was in the air.  Responses reeked of jealousy.  The girl is ruining it for the rest of us.  How dare she.  Photography is a competitive business and there are too many trying to make their living from a small pool of work and very few in the upper tiers of editorial and advertising photography were women.  While Greenberg crossed a line on her Atlantic  editorial assignment, the reaction among photographers seemed personal – like the way some white men reacted to losing a college placement to an African-American through affirmative action policies.  Jill just pissed them off.  She had work they didn’t have, did it better than many, and now had the nerve to cross a line and make it more difficult for them.  She was a lightning rod.

When speaking with Greenberg recently regarding this article, she mentioned a few significant notes regarding her contract with Atlantic:   “I was shooting for free-no fee, just expenses.  I own my images.  I had a two-week domestic embargo, and no international embargo.  I always post images and even outtakes on my site once the magazine has hit stands.  Embargos don’t apply to photographers’ websites and there was nothing in the contract to indicate I could not post them.  Further, the contract said, and this was a totally new one to me:  ‘you will use your best efforts to publicize this shoot.’  The fact that they did a major redesign which launched the month after the McCain issue, is somewhat suspicious.  Before my shoot, brand awareness was close to nil for them.  The scandal that they inflated (but not simply stating that I was a freelancer, who owns my images, acting independently and within my legal rights) drew 1,000,000 hits to their site that week.”

"Torture" (2005) from End Times

Greenberg encountered similar volatile reactions to her earlier body of fine art work.  The simple act of taking a lollipop from a child incurred fits of tears and the sobbing children of End Times became a metaphor to express so many feelings of a failing world.  While the lollipop explanation was enough for me to diminish any abusive concerns, it was barely a speed bump for the cranky masses just looking for excuses to write reams of loathing letters to the artist.   All this anger seems to follow Greenberg around like a shadow.

When I learned of Jill’s scheduled talk at the Annenberg Center on June 2, 2011, I was disappointed that I would be unable to attend.  Knowing Jill, I thought it might turn out to be more complex than the Annenberg or anyone in the audience would anticipate and I asked her if I might use her notes for an article here. She complied.  In the following passages Jill Greenberg discusses critical theory, feminism, and her many accomplished bodies of photographic work.  It’s thought provoking stuff, refreshingly honest, bold and surely controversial.

Jill Greenberg speaking at The Annenberg Space for Photography, Century City, California.

Jill Greenberg’s Annenberg talk:

I am pleased to be invited to speak on the occasion of the Beauty Culture exhibition.  Thank you to everyone at the Annenberg, for inviting me here tonight.  I do have to ask:  who is my audience that snatched up all these tickets in 3 minutes flat?  If it’s photo nerds, just so you know, this talk will barely discuss technique.  And no, feminism is NOT a Photoshop filter nor is the panopticon the latest digital back.

"The Female Object," 1989, still from multimedia slide show

So as it happens, the subject ostensibly at hand was also the subject of my senior thesis at RISD in 1989.  It was called “The Female Object” and it consisted of a multitrack recording and a multiple projector slide show as well as an installation of mural C-prints.  I will show some of it but unfortunately it’s not in great condition.  I provided the voice of a fictitious female narrator.  I adjusted the pitch so that I would sound like Melanie Griffiths in Working Girl.  I went on about how if I fixed my body then I would have control of my life; that I wanted to devote myself to controlling my appetite and shrinking my body.  There were staged photographs of my art school friends in various states of anguish about their bodies.  In some cases I projected images onto them.  This worked well visually as well as conceptually to show society’s acceptable images projected onto their bodies.  My father is an eye doctor so I raided his file of diseased eye slides and projected them, lined up with the areolas of my model’s breasts.  It appeared that the male gaze was toxic and eating away at the female flesh.  The eerie pounding music I mixed into the soundtrack was mid 80s art-electronica –Chris and Cosey, formerly of Throbbing Gristle, which added to the surreal and horrific relentlessness of the work.

Slide shows had been a favorite medium of mine since high school when I did one called Photophobia using Cabaret Voltaire as the soundtrack.  In the female object, a male narrator announced, “in contemporary patriarchal culture, a panoptical male connoisseur resides within the consciousness of most women, woman lives her body as seen by another, an anonymous patriarchal other.  She stands perpetually before his gaze and under his judgment.”

A panopticon prison.

My studies led me to the amazing book Feminism and Foucault written and edited by Sandra Lee Bartky, and her essay in which she discussed the panoptical and self-policing nature of women’s internalized male gaze. The panopticon prison was a circular shaped structure where the inmates had windows on two sides, the central guard tower could see into the prison cells at any time, and therefore the prisoners had to assume that they were always being watched and modified their own behavior, policing themselves..

These discussions have been going on at least since the 1970s, initially in the work of Germaine Greer and Gloria Steinem and in the ‘80s with Susan Brownmiller.  In the early ‘90s, Naomi Wolf wrote The Beauty Myth.  The basic premise of The Beauty Myth continued Bartky’s argument, positing that unconscious forced adherence to standards of physical beauty has grown stronger for women as they gained power in other arenas.  In the book, Wolf argued that “beauty” as a normative value is entirely socially constructed, and that the patriarchy determines the content of that construction with the goal of reproducing its own hegemony.

For Crest, Greenberg created faux perfection

The work I did for my thesis informs everything I do.  As someone with a parallel career in commercial photography and art, I am often assigned to shoot women, and I don’t even need to be told to retouch them.  I just do it.  I suppose I am a self-policing photographer?  I shoot models and actresses and retouch them to make them look even thinner, younger looking, and more impossibly beautiful.  Everyone in this room knows, or should know, that photographs, even “documentary photography” doesn’t represent the truth, any more than my glossiest and most retouched image.  Images have jobs to do:  sell us a product, make us feel bad about ourselves so we can go buy something to make us feel better, or tell a slanted story about who a person is.

Carlos Ghosn for Conde Nast's story, photographed by Jill Greenberg

For this shot I was flown to Tokyo by Conde Nast, for a three-minute photo shoot with Carlos Ghosn.  We needed to do three different set-ups, and at least one of them needed to make him look like a murderer.  The article was called Speed Kills.  He is the CEO of Renault Nissan and apparently such a tyrant that many of his employees have killed themselves.

The nature of photography is that the subjective taker of the photo composes, lights, and subsequently edits from hundreds if not thousands of images to convey the exact story he or she wants to tell.  There is an implied veracity in photography, but this is wrong.  Especially these days: a single image can be made up of multiple shots of one person “frankensteined” together to create an extra perfect and completely unnatural representation.  Further, the angle, the point of view, from which the photo is taken, is of the utmost importance. Photograph someone from below and they are powerful and heroic. From above and they are weak and passive.  I don’t have images shot from above since I very rarely do this.  I like making people look heroic.  Everyone and every thing photographed becomes objectified, passive, and visually ownable.

Lindsay Lohan, Rashida Jones and Janelle Monae after their Jill Greenberg retouch.

What are we to make of this?  What can we do?  We need to educate everyone, most importantly little girls, that nothing in the glossy women’s magazines represents reality and that it’s futile to compare ourselves to them.  Would an average guy reading Sports Illustrated feel bad about themselves when learning of a top athlete’s successes?  I don’t think so.  I truly love photographing beautiful people, despite the inherent contradictions between some of my beliefs and some of my creative output.  I am very aware that the representation of “perfection” comes with lots of baggage, but it’s exciting and personally rewarding to make beautiful images and I am happy to it for a living.  By the time I was in high school I knew I wanted to be a photographer and artist.  Originally I thought I would be an illustration major. I have been drawing and photographing since I was very young.  In fact one of my first photos that I took at summer camp while in 4th grade was an underlit flashlight shot of my friend Linda. I guess I never got the under lighting thing out of my system.

"Glare" from the Monkey Portraits by Jill Greenberg.

As for the animals… In 5th grade we got a puppy named Plato, and he was my muse.  I used to stage elaborate tableaus where he looked drunk with those little airplane liquor bottles.  For portraits I used Vaseline on the lens to achieve a vignette effect.  I also used to draw horses obsessively.  I sculpted them out of clay, did cast wax horses, photographed my model horses, and even rode horses at riding camp for a summer.  The animal work has continued.

"Anxious" from Greenberg's "Monkey Portraits."

"Untitled #11" from Jill Greenberg's series "Ursine."

"Untitled #8" from "Ursine"

I’ve been working on a series of horses for a book for Rizzoli for the past year.  I had originally associated horses with the male physique, with their muscle, sinew and phallic necks. But then I discovered the dual gender iconography of the horse and the found some comparable issues facing horses and women.  And while I have tried to treat the animal portraiture as a poppy escape from some of the more theoretical personal work, it seems my worlds have collided.

Elegant lighting enhances the sinew and muscularity in Greenberg's "Casey 01."

"Hielke 0356" by Jill Greenberg.

Restraint is explored in Jill Greenberg's untitled work in progress.

While visiting stables and riding with my daughter, I was struck by the oppressive and cruel nature of the portion of the bridle called the bit.  It is pieces of metal inserted into the horse’s mouth.  The horse is made to submit to the bit.  A horse must be BROKEN.  And I felt that the bit was like bondage, and hurtful.  Look at them.  In researching the horse bits I unearthed something quite serendipitous: the scold’s bridle.  Over in Ireland in the 1500s, men used to punish their mouthy women-folk by putting a metal cage, sometimes with a serrated tongue depressor, which would cut up the tongue if speech were attempted.  In many cases a bell, or animal ears and leash were also part of this scold’s bridle.  She could be led around town with maximal shaming.  So this scold’s bridle albeit an item from medieval times is something that goes one step further, SILENCING women.  Speech was said to be one of the main things that set humans apart from all other animals.  By taking away her power of speech, the bridle made a woman more bestial in practice as well as in theory.  Back then, not that it’s really changed, a scold was defined as: “A troublesome and angry woman who by brawling and wrangling amongst her neighbors breaks the public peace, increases discord and becomes a public nuisance to the neighborhood.”  Wait that’s me?

The silent treatment.

In terms of restrictive clothing, corsets, hobble skirts paved the way, but now the modern era we have spanx and high heels.  Honestly, I find purses which require an arm and hand to hold, that can’t be slung over your shoulder freeing up both hands, to be quite restrictive.  We only have two hands.  We need them both!  By the way, I found these on vogue.com’s best-dressed list.  She can’t run, and she only has the use of one hand!  So impractical.  Fashion as oppressor.  Women will never rule the world with these constraints.

Jill Greenberg's "Glass Ceiling 2-298"

Before I began the horse book project, I had been working on a body of work that was intentionally imbued with feminist ideas: my Glass Ceiling series.  It began in 2008, during a fashion shoot with the US Olympic Synchronized Swim Team for Radar magazine.  The magazine wanted me to shoot the women under water, so it was handy that I am a certified scuba diver.  I had shot an album cover for Moby in a swimming pool and we both would just hold our breath over and over.  That was quite tiring.  These I shot while sitting at the bottom of a swimming pool, in full scuba gear:  tanks weights, regulator, two on-camera flashes on arms…I tend to make my life really difficult what with the toddlers, animals and scuba shooting, don’t you think?  Anyway, the images for the magazine were upbeat and graceful, but the images, which really excited me, were the ones I took between the official practiced and controlled formations, when one of the athletes came up for air.  When this occurred the surface of the water sliced through the neck of the woman, seeming to decapitate her, and the water above appeared like a reflective glass ceiling.

"Glass Ceiling 1-1017" complete with accessories.

It took me two years to coordinate, to find local synchronized swimmers for a second shoot.  By then the technology had advanced so I shot with the Hassleblad H2 with the Phase P65 back.  The images have a breathtaking amount of detail.  They are actually quite straight.  The major adjustments occur when I process out the Raw files.  I massively tweak the curves and white points.  In some cases I process the file out multiple times, in 16 bit of course, with varying settings and composite the images together to get an enhanced tonal and color range.  That is for you photo nerds!  I do have a bit of fun painting on the image in Photoshop, which I have used since version 1.0, for over 20 years.  Actually, I feel that my mastery of the techniques, even one might say-domination of the science, hardware and software, is a traditionally male trait and it therefore adds a layer of meaning, since I am nothing if not an incredibly technically adept photographer.  By the way, that self-flattering comment was also quite male.

"Glass Ceiling 2-462" by Jill Greenberg

So, at the root of it, these professional athletes, synchronized swimmers and dancers try to perform and pose but the water knocks them into awkward positions.  They wear high heels and bikinis for work when performing yet it is absurd.  They adjust their swimsuits and shoes, gasp for air, and are pushed around by the force of their surroundings.  Some of my favorite parts of the image are where the figure meets the surface of the water.  Recently I tried cropping out the figures altogether. Now it’s just an image of dissolved women.

"Glass Ceiling" with the woman cropped out.

The late surrealist painter Leonara Carrington, determined to be nobody's muse.

About six months ago, I was reading Deborah Bright’s essays on her own horse photography and I discovered Leonora Carrington, the last living surrealist artist.  She died just last week in Mexico at 94.  It was sad to me that though I have been in love with surrealism since I was in high school, I had not heard of her.  Carrington herself was fighting against being simply categorized as a muse for her fellow surrealists–her boyfriend was Max Ernst.  She wanted to be taken seriously as an artist in her own right.  She said, “I didn’t have time to be anyone’s muse, I was too busy rebelling against my parents, and learning to become an artist”  Apparently, Miró once handed her a few coins and told her to run out and buy him a pack of cigarettes.  She said, “I gave it back and said if he wanted cigarettes, he could bloody well get them himself.”  She too, became more and more interested in the roles of femininity, patriarchal oppression and used animals, specifically horses, in her work to represent herself.

The conservative British art critic, Brian Sewell, interviewed for the UK’s Guardian newspaper said of women artists:  “The likes of Bridget Riley and Louise Bourgeois are of the second and third rank.  There has never been a first-rank woman artist. Only men are capable of aesthetic greatness.  Women make up 50 percent or more of classes at art school.  Yet they fade away in their late 20s or 30s.  Maybe it’s something to do with bearing children.”  Jonathan Jones in the same publication: “it’s not that great women artists do not exist.  It is that men are very good at finding new reasons to underrate them.”  Jones continued, “We didn’t rule the world for millennia without being pretty ingenious when it comes to preserving our territory.”  I discovered that in my two bodies of work the horses, were controlled by the bit and bridle, and women were controlled by the weight of the water.  The opaque and seemingly unbreakable glass ceiling and high-heeled shoes which immobilize them-the signifiers that surround and infect our minds and bodies, were not two disparate series;  they overlapped, joined at the bridle.  I feel that high-heels are like the horse bit and bridle.

Bit and Glass Shoe by Jill Greenberg

I recently had some heels cast in glass.   This is my first sculpture work since college.  Here’s some work I did back then, I made all these disgusting little clay men, painted them and set up vignettes and photographed them.  They were unfired clay so they didn’t survive, except this one.  This is a man I made who had no arms or legs. And he rocks and is trying to give himself a blowjob.  One side of his face is sad and one is angry.  His stump legs and penis broke off.  But I still think it’s hilarious.

"Shock" from Jill Greenberg's "End Times" 2005

"Misinformation" from End Times, 2005

Okay, I am going to show some images of crying little girls, while I talk gender politics for a bit.  Has anyone seen Platon’s new book Power Platon? It has ninety-nine portraits of men but just four of women.  These are the international heads of state and other decision makers.  It’s not HIS fault.  The book seems great.  These are, in fact, all the people who have most of power in the world.  So lets not delude ourselves into thinking that the gender inequality problem has been solved.  Why are women’s issues a special interest group?  We are a majority of the world’s population.  The default setting for our discussions about powerful women is to cut them down, to criticize them much more harshly than we would a man.  They are nags, bitches, scolds.  I call it the Martha Stewart complex.  When she was nabbed for insider trading of a measly $50,000, she went to jail.  The Wall Street banker boys, all of them cronies on the golf links with their regulating counterparts, avoided so much as a wrist slap for derailing the world economy with their selfish and irresponsible behavior – criminal.  Meanwhile Martha still refuses to call her self a feminist.

Hitting the "Glass Ceiling"in heels.

Installation of "Glass Ceiling" at Clampart in New York's Chelsea neighborhood.

The journalist Ann Kornblut, wrote a book about the 2008 presidential run of Hillary Clinton called Notes From The Cracked Ceiling.  Kornblut doesn’t believe America is anywhere near ready to elect a woman president, possibly in 2016.  The thought that sexism is over just because so many women work is absurd.  A woman who is afraid to call herself a feminist is so misguided.  Any woman who doesn’t realize that they are standing on the backs of those who came before them, who fought for the right to vote -it took 70 years of hard work for women to get that right to vote.  And some women don’t want to identify with them?  We need to speak up for ourselves.  The fact is this: we live in a patriarchal culture.  My answer?  Expose the phallus!  I want to turn things on their head.  Since not only did I love to draw horses as a child, I loved to draw penises too.  This (image) is Pork Sword, scanned from a used gay men’s porno mag called HONCHO, that I bought on 14th Street in NYC.  This was from 1991.  Like I said, I have been doing Photoshop a REALLY long time.  Right after school, when I still thought I could pursue both fine art and commercial photography at the same time, I was doing body scans and digital drawings.  I exhibited this image in 1993 at a Brooklyn group show.

In 1993 I applied to the New York’s Whitney museum’s independent study program.  I almost got in.  I had recommendations from Peter Macgill and Andres Serrano, but I sort of suck at talking about art.  I forget people’s names.  I am fine writing about it….so I didn’t make the final cut, but that same week I got a job shooting for Sassy magazine, and shortly thereafter for Time magazine.  So, I felt my direction was chosen for me.

Back to “exposing the phallus!”  In 1999, I used a well-endowed boy toy I was dating, and I did Pork Sword 2000.  It was exhibited it in an awesome group show, at the prestigious American Fine Art Gallery.   I just think it’s hilarious, to poke and prod at the object of repression.  People, especially men, seem too insecure and afraid to look at another man’s penis.  We objectify women, visually chop up their bodies like it’s nothing and are afraid to turn the tables?

Thomas Jane of HBO's "Hung" by Jill Greenberg.

I did some animated digital art in 1997 for Razorfish’s the Nvelope art content.  It’s in SF MOMA…you can tell Hans Bellmer is an influence.  I was showing what I thought men would do if they could genetically engineer the women of their dreams.  No pesky heads, just lots and lots of orifices.  The phallus has been a recurring theme. I recently shot the star of HBO’s Hung, and as much as I try to avoid those “homage” photos since I prefer to make new iconic images.  I came up with the perfect solution on the fly.  Pun intended.  The magazine had sent me a khaki suit, which I had no idea how to use, this was to be for the RISK issue.  Then it dawned on me:  Mapplethorpe’s Man in Polyester Suit. Needless to say, I have not yet found a publication with the balls to run this picture.

Greenberg's portrait of Arnold Schwarzenegger for GQ.

I just shot Arnold for a second time.  He really likes being photographed by a woman.  He requested me…and when I shot MSNBC pundit Chris Matthews for The New York Times magazine in 1998 he was obsessed with my appearance as well.  Of course, I was thinner and younger…  We know what a problem with women he has.  During Hillary’s run for presidency Matthews referred to her “scolding manner in terms of public speaking” and called her “witchy.”  The rules are different for men and women.

Let me be clear.  I am not complaining about my lot in life.  I am quite happy to be a woman.  After all, not only can I make photographs– art when I am lucky, but I can also make people (kids photos).  But in this particular case, discussing our culture it would be handy to be a feminist man, since I would not want to come off as a complaining woman.  I am merely stating facts.  Not enough people are calling attention to these glaringly asymmetrical economies of power.  This stuff really matters.  Our government is picking on women’s issues.  Planned parenthood – the US is spiraling backwards.  It’s like a time machine to the Middle Ages.  Soon we will be wearing scold’s bridles.  I should wrap this up without making any more waves, or not.

So…this Beauty Culture show.  From the brochure: Beauty Culture provides a seminal examination of photography’s role…”seminal” indeed.  The etymology of that word is semen. This show is primarily men’s images, men’s gaze, and men’s perspective, despite the stated goals.  There are 74 men but only 18 women photographers represented in this show.  Wow.  Apparently there are four times more appropriate male photographers than female.  Perhaps it is only male photographers are uniquely qualified comment on issues of women’s beauty?  The Lauren Greenfield video is really great. But when it’s not playing, this is primarily a show of men’s objectification of women.  We are purportedly discussing the twenty-first century multimedia objectification of women, the culturally sanctioned self-loathing and the attendant self-mutilation aka cosmetic surgery through a distorted lens, that is 4/5ths men!!!!  This is a space named for a woman, run by women at every level.  Yet as is made plain by the curious curation choices, sexism is truly insidious and operates on a subconscious level.

I recently shot a cover of Wired magazine of the engineer, Limor Fried.  She was the FIRST female engineer to be put on their cover in the 19 years Wired magazine has been in print. About this fact her associate said, “We are what we celebrate”.  And I feel strongly we need to celebrate more women.

Jill Greenberg’s Glass Ceiling and Horses are on exhibition through August 19, 2011 at Clampart in New York.

The beautiful feminized equine from Jill Greenberg's series "Horses."