Sep_25_Upper_Lower

Sun/Moon (Trying to See through a Telescope), 2010
2010 Sep 25 7:02:27 AM – 2010 Sep 25 7:02:38 AM
2010 Sep 25 7:08:01 AM – 2010 Sep 25 7:01:21 AM
Ultrachrome print on Canson Rag Photograpique paper
17 x 69 3/8 inches each

Following my winter hiatus spent working on a variety of projects including a book photo editing project, I attended an exhibition by artist Sharon Harper and was captivated by her work. Harper happened to be among a group of photographers with which I shared a brief, but lively conversation last spring at Fotofest.  I had the most minimal look at her photographs at the open portfolio night, before some distraction pulled me away from her table. I was pleased then, to have the opportunity to see her work at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica.

Selections from Sharon Harper’s series “From Above and Below” elevate the small interior gallery space with a handsome series of large-scale images of the sky, taken primarily through a telescope. More specifically, they were taken with a camera attached to a telescope.

Harper has served on the photography faculty at Harvard for the last eight years and has work included in such prominent collections as MOMA and the Whitney in New York, Portland Art Museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City. She also has a striking new book of her work “From Above and Below,” published by Radius Books in 2012.

Sun/Moon (Trying to See through a Telescope), 2010
2010 Jun 2 3:31:35 AM – 2010 Jun 2 3:32:38 AM
Ultrachrome print on Canson Rag Photograpique paper
17 x 69 3/8 inches

Sharon Harper’s photographs feature an ethereal, minimalist esthetic. They are at once graphically beautiful, clean and spacious and also provoking of curiosity. The sequences of the moon as it rises and falls through the night sky in one image and into the morning in another, feel scientific but also somehow comfortingly familiar. They are the stuff that we spent our childhoods day-dreaming about. Her telescope is clearly more powerful than the one my grandfather put on the porch above the Columbia River as we squinted to try to find the craters, cheese and the man on the moon, yet her sense of discovery is full of the same wonderment.

One Month, Weather Permitting, 2009
Night Sky over Banff, Alberta
September 12 – October 10, 2007
25 September

In “One Month Weather Permitting,” Harper charts the night sky over Banff, Canada.  She writes that the photographs are “capturing long-exposure star trails for two or three consecutive nights on a single sheet of film throughout the period of a month.  Environmental interruptions, such as passing clouds, light pollution, and light leaks, are all recorded in process.”  The resulting images appear at first like drawings by the most delicate of hands.  Exquisite fine lines and scratches fill the frame, reflecting the movement of both the camera and stars alike.

In a sense, Sharon Harper is a classic documentarian.  Her detailed notes of photographic times of shutter release mark many of the frames and her photographs not of the sky, but of the location where the sky photos were taken, give a sense of place and orient the viewer in the way a more typical documentarian might lay out their story.

Sun/Moon (Trying to See Through a Telescope), 2010                                       2010 May 27 10:48:35 AM - 2010 May 27 11:08:34 AM                                   Ultrachrome Print on Canson Rag Photographique paper                                17x58 1/8 inches

Sun/Moon (Trying to See Through a Telescope), 2010 2010 May 27 10:48:35 AM – 2010 May 27 11:08:34 AM

In the most compelling art, the longer one looks, the more one sees. Sharon Harper’s photographs allow us to escape the confines of our terrestrial visual rootedness for glimpses of something beyond our world and yet so much a part of it.

The biggest disappointment about the exhibition was that Harper’s work was not featured in the larger dominant space at Bergamot Station’s DNJ Gallery.  It’s not the first time a gallery has shown its strongest work in the lesser exhibition space, and to my dismay, I’ve noticed it several times at DNJ.  Harper’s photographs are so esthetically strong and so conceptually interesting that it’s truly a shame that they aren’t the first thing one sees upon entering.  It was well worth my time to enter, but I would have enjoyed a larger sampling.

Sharon Harper with her photographs.

Sharon Harper with her photographs.

Sharon Harper’s “From Above and Below” can be seen through April 13, 2013 at DNJ Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Avenue, Suite J1, Santa Monica, California.  Her work is also represented by Galerie Stefan Ropke, in Cologne, Germany and by Rick Wester Fine Art, New York.

“Departure,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

My mother died a few days before Christmas last year.  She had a long period of the kind of limbo dementia causes and in the last couple of years dialogue wasn’t really possible except between my brothers and I as we recalled every bit of family nostalgia.  Since our father had passed away in 1996, thoughts of them both along with other relatives, living and dead, began to swirl around in my head. My youngest brother had dreams filled with dead relatives.  We’re not religious people so we processed the partings with reminiscence and appreciation and wine.

I began the series, “The Living,” as something of a tribute or reliquary to essential things learned from my parents and family.  In searching for family icons, I quickly realized much of what was most meaningful was botanical.   Both sides of our family evolved from farmers. Our grandparents grew huge gardens with strawberries, raspberries, and cherries, and my Father followed suit with impressive gardens of his own, even though he wore a suit and tie to his job every day.   Mom channeled her considerable creative energy into an ever evolving array of complex craft projects and wonderful cooking and I spent much of my childhood staring at the sky, mowing the lawn, listening to the leaves rustle and pruning lemon trees.

Constructing sets or tableaux of some type has long been a part of my art practice and I chose to both construct as well as alter environments. The sets were then combined with found and organic elements, which I then photographed.  The concept evolved from what I considered to be a very personal insular project to one that embraced larger, more universal gifts of living.  In visually exploring my simple surroundings and playing with gravity and stillness and shadow and light, I experienced a profound appreciation of the esthetic magic of nature and its immediate ties to home and memory.  I expect I’ll continue working on this series at least through the end of this year.

“Inheritance,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“Guardian” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“Aloft,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“The Cream,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“February,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“Seascape,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“Sweet on You,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“Lemon Blossom,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“Easy Going,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“Sun Dress,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“Sweet Thing,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“The Right Tool,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“The Importance of Pie,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“Cherries,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“Rolling Pin,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“Straight Off The Vine,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“Flight Lesson,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“A Perfect Peach,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“The Dandy,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“Satin Doll,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“Thanksgiving,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“Denouemont,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“Three,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“Persimmon Leaf,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“Lifespan of Citrus,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“Lit from Within,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

“Natural Magic,” from “The Living” (c)2012, Kathleen Clark

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

“Longing” from the series “Natural Selection” by Zelda Zinn (c)2010

Art dealing in mass and minimalism isn’t always a natural fit with photography. Generally I find sculpture to be more successful at conveying volume. Zelda Zinn’s photographs, to the contrary, have strong sense of sculptural shape along with a kind of appealing delicacy.

“Escape” from the series “Natural Selection” by Zelda Zinn (c)2011

When she laid them out on my review table at FotoFest, I thought first of a fluid sort of Op Art and of Bridget Riley, though I’d never been a huge fan of the movement aside from its latter influence in adorning a pair of Vans or a Punk club wall. Zinn’s images on the other hand were light, lilting things, not the optical wallop and graphic hydraulics of Op. Her series “Natural Selection” initially led me to thinking they weren’t photographs at all, but drawings – incredibly airy drawings. Evoking cloud imagery, Zelda Zinn uses an array of simple diaphanous materials like the “Plain Jane” of fabrics, cheesecloth as her muse. Normally a utilitarian cooking tool used to squeeze the water out of spinach or mozzarella, in Zinn’s hand the cloth becomes an eloquent conveyor of light, and it’s fine grid detail has a minute seductive, mathematical quality (hence the Op references).

Zinn is featured along with artist Frida Kao at Art-Merge at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood through September 29. I was glad to see the work in advance without a crowd and was greeted (a rare thing in a gallery) by the talented and engaging gallerist Jae Yang. Yang has assembled the equivalent of two solo shows with Kao’s “Lines of Desire” anchoring the large front room in a mix of grand scale sculptural work and works on paper. Kao’s installation reflects a fascination with the maps and grids of the city of Los Angeles.   The work is immensely compatible with that of Zelda Zinn who presents two bodies of work in the smaller, but not too small, Closet Galleries.

Untitled from the series “Irresistible Air” by Zelda Zinn (c)2012

Zinn presents two additional series: “Irresistible Air” and “Illuminated Letters.” In “Irresistible Air” the photographer fashions a series of air packets, like those from shipping crates into magical suspended bubbles of silvery light. She writes “There is something irresistible about air pockets. They beg to be touched, played with, and sometimes popped. I toyed with them, twisting and fashioning them into a variety of shapes, looking for something that felt right. The funny thing about these pillows was how they were transformed when seen through the camera.” I was struck by the way the photographs read as hard, dark, dense mass when seen from five or so feet and upon closer inspection at roughly one foot, “Irresistible Air” becomes just that – light and translucent.

Untitled from the series “Irresistible Air” by Zelda Zinn (c)2012

In “Illuminated Letters” we get a chance to see Zinn’s own hand beyond the camera and her constructions. Her pencil drawings on Duralene explore a fascination with camouflage.

1.27.07 from the Illuminated Letters Series by Zelda Zinn (c)2007, pencil on Duralene

“Once I began to look for disruptive pattern, I saw it everywhere, even the insides of envelopes which brought me my bills. At first, I carefully unfolded the paper, trying to preserve and faithfully reproduce what was there. Later, I ripped open the envelopes, enjoying the jagged edges and new shapes created by chance. Finally, I used the shapes of the envelopes and the patterns within as a jumping off point, letting them guide me ‘off the grid.’ The resultant images were unplanned and largely unconscious reactions to what the page presented.”

“Timekeeper” from the series “Natural Selection” by Zelda Zinn (c)2011

Opportunities to see Zelda Zinn’s work abound this month.  Her exhibition will run through September 29th at Art – Merge at the Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Avenue, Suite B256 (Blue Building | 2nd Floor) West Hollywood, CA 90069 Monday – Friday: 11:00am – 5:00pm. Saturday and Sunday by appointment only.

She also has work in the Crossroads Faculty Show, where she has been a faculty member since 1990 and art department Chair since 1995. Sam Francis Gallery, Crossroads School, Santa Monica, through October 12, 2012, 10 am to 4 pm.

At LA Center for Digital Art, Zinn’s work is included in the Electron Salon through October 5, 2012 at 102 West 5th Street, Los Angeles, 90013.

Lastly, at Center for Fine Art Photography in Ft. Collins, Colorado, Zelda Zinn was selected for inclusion in the juried group exhibition, Center Forward, showing through October 20th, 2012 at 400 North College Avenue.

I started writing this blog a little over a year ago and I enjoy the process. Even so, as June rolls in I find myself with a good case of summer fever. I’m not much interested in writing unless I have something to say and my free time lately finds me with loads of seasonal distractions and domestic projects. I polished a few of the old cameras (above) and placed them in the vintage Afga showcase given to me by my benevolent brother. I’ve landscaped a shady patio under the new pepper tree and ventured out for vast quantities of summer fruit to preserve.  In fact, every time I think about writing a new post, images of fresh tomato salads, fireworks on the beach and reading good novels infiltrate my thinking.

Let the jam making begin.

If you are kind enough to read my musings, I just wanted to say that I’ll be taking a little break to recharge.  I’m working on a new body of photographs, my first real images in some time and they are keeping my mind spinning as they evolve. I’ll also be growing things, traveling, eating nectarines, swimming, and spending time with friends and family. Some of those things will even happen at the same time. Sounds pretty good.  I hope you do the same. I’ll find something worth writing about in the not-too-distant future, but at the moment, I haven’t the foggiest idea what that might be. Until then, I wish you all a wonderful lazy June.

Happy Summer and thanks for reading.


Nature Morte no. 4 (Still Life Inside and Out) by Cynthia Greig, (c) 2009, chromogenic development print

While I was growing up my family moved with alarming regularity. My father, a retail clothing buyer and manager was frequently transferred and consequently our family found ourselves moving from Portland to Seattle to Los Angeles and back again at the whim of the rag business. By the time I graduated from High School I attended a total of eight schools in the span most kids go to three and I’d lived in ten different homes. Family photos were abundant and our histories in each house were duly recorded and treasured. Throughout Junior High and High School I began to cherish the school yearbook as a way of retaining memory of each place and the people I cared about within those places. In typical pubescent fashion, it was also a way of wallowing in misery in coping with loss and rootlessness. The byproduct of all this was that I found I often knew the names and two-dimensional faces of everyone in each yearbook even though the majority were barely acquaintances.

As a photo editor living in Los Angeles it is not uncommon to find myself seated in a restaurant adjacent to someone who I knew only by virtue of the fact I had assigned or taken a portrait of them at one point or another. In the case of actors or sports figures with public faces like Hilary Swank or Javier Bardem or Kobe Byrant, recognition is obvious.   With other subjects such as a Nobel Prize winning scientist or a best selling author or cutting edge architect, well, that was different. Their faces might not be so default famous. Did I know them? Were they friends, I’d half forgotten? If so, from which city? From which yearbook? Did I go to college with them? I once ran into an old college mate in the middle of the Yucatan jungle, so I know it’s possible to re-cross paths in unlikely places.

Nature Morte no. 9 (Head with Pomegranates) by Cynthia Greig, (c) 20110, chromogenic development print

Knowing someone’s face without knowing the person makes for an extremely one-sided relationship. I recognize them, but in an uncomfortably familiar way. After all, I’ve stared at every follicle trying to make a clean edit.  I know their faces too well.  I often have to flip through a mental notebook to determine why I felt I knew them without knowing them. I always remember eventually and then everything I knew about them runs through my mind. They’re ordering a nice arugula salad and the sea bass and I’m recalling which street they live on and whether they were witty or kind.  I must be careful and avoid small talk as though we’re old friends when the person may well be a film director or the designer of an electric car. Knowing is not always knowing.  I was touring an open house recently when I ran into the author James Ellroy and we did a not-so-subtle eyeing of each other across the worn-out kitchen until we realized we did in fact know each other. In that case I had taken photographs for James’ memoir “My Dark Places,” some years ago after initially meeting on assignment. That relationship was more deeply forged and small talk was warranted. I didn’t have to feel like a voyeur to say “hello, how are you?”

At Fotofest in Houston I finished a post portfolio review drink and found myself chatting with a table of photographers in the lobby bar.  I was delighted when Cynthia Greig introduced herself, as I am quite fond of her work.  Her photographs of familiar traditional still life arrangements are not unlike those that adorned my mother’s walls in each of our suburban houses, but whitewashed and stripped of most color, altering their dimension and straddling a world somewhere between painting and photography.   I think she was generally floored at my recognition; much less the fact that I once considered showing her photographs until I realized she already had representation in Los Angeles. Greig is based in Detroit and I imagine getting exposure is somewhat tough in the world beyond. Even so, I’d seen the work previously and added her to my list of people I felt were doing something unique in the medium.  Meeting her in Texas seemed to me a random lucky fluke, yet these photo events put us all together in ever expanding concentric circles.

Digital access to photography has also made discoveries that were once challenging now commonplace.  The artists and their work are not less special, but the hard won nature of finding significant art and artists in the past allowed presenters of work to feel accomplished in finding an exceptional discovery. The sense that I’m not alone now as I search the equivalent of that school yearbook makes the act of locating distinguished artwork more of an uphill battle.   Pouring over assignment contact sheets in the past was an act conducted in solitude, without audience or competition.  Today there are thousands of others alongside, somewhere in the digital ether, clicking “like” with their morning coffee.  I do find work that I’m fond of, but I miss the joy of what once felt like an exclusive hunt.

Nature Morte no. 5 (Mixed Fruit), Cynthia Greig, (c) 2009, chromogenic development print

The intimacy of viewing the art with artist at hand and stepping out of the two-dimensional into a live experience seems to be the best way of dissipating the overwhelming nature of mass access.  And so the chance introduction to Cynthia Greig created the opportunity to meet again on the occasion of her exhibition at Santa Monica’s dnj Gallery.  Showing through June 2, 2012, Nature Morte is well worth a visit.

Cynthia Greig’s statement regarding the work follows:

“I’m fascinated by the persuasive power of the photograph, and its unique role in negotiating what we believe to be real or true.

Nature Morte revisits the tradition of still life to explore photography’s relationship to the vanitas themes of death, decay, and transience while meditating on the nature of reality and illusion. Exploiting the camera’s monocular point of view, I create two-dimensional photographic documents of three-dimensional drawings, rendering physical objects to first appear as crude and simple outlines. The photographs deny expectations to encourage the observation of subtle detail as a means to examine the deceptive nature of appearance and the presumed transparency of the photographic image. Muted colors emanate from beneath the whitewashed flesh of fruit; drawn charcoal outlines and shadows fix moments in fictional time; defining lines warp, wrinkle and decay with the organic matter they represent. The accompanying videos further explore time’s capacity to unfold and reveal the illusory nature of appearance.

I make images that embrace both the limitations and possibilities of photography. They prompt essential questions about the nature of reality as well as the medium itself: what do we expect a photograph to look like? To what degree are our beliefs and realities based on appearances and misconceptions? Nature Morte investigates the malleability of representation and identity and the potential for reconfiguring the physical and imagined boundaries we impose upon the world.”

dnj Gallery is located in Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Avenue, Suite J1, Santa Monica, CA.  Gallery Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Fotofest portfolio reviews come to an end with a blow-out barbecue dance at Houston's Lawndale Art Center with Tex/Mex and Zydeco music by The Stringbenders.

Fotofest Biennial 2012 is what all bienniales are supposed to be, a vast banquet of international exhibitions, lectures, book signings and in this case, reviews of photography portfolios.  I had the good fortune to attend the Houston, Texas-based event as a Portfolio Reviewer in the International Meeting Place (which, like most Portfolio Reviews, is held in a large hotel conference room).   Along with forty-eight fellow curators, editors, gallerists, collectors, publishers, festival and museum directors from fourteen countries, I reviewed in the last of four sessions of the month-long festival.  Each reviewer is appointed fourteen different photographers to meet each of the four days in our session, but on multiple occasions we’re all called upon to take a look at work by photographers who didn’t draw our names in their official lists.  I’ve reviewed in the past for Center Santa Fe, Palm Springs Photo Festival, and the Lucie Foundation’s Month of Photography L.A., but each for only a day or two at a time.  By the end of the trip, I sat with 62 different photographers from all over the world and looked as closely at their work as the twenty-minute sessions allowed.  The goal being to find ways in which to offer support, both directly and indirectly.

The Open Portfolio night had a busy turnout from Houston's dedicated art and photography audience, in spite of a downtown that goes quiet at day's end.

Photographers present their work at many levels.  Some are college art and photography teachers.  Many have extensive exhibition histories. Plenty are only a few years into the process.  Some are in their early twenties and some are in their seventies.  All the work I saw was directed toward fine art with very few crossovers into editorial.   Photographers pay handsomely to participate and it is costly for reviewers as well, so a lot of effort is spent toward making the most of the opportunity.  I do my best to find ways to pull the rabbit out of the hat with each review, attempting to access the work, the artist and every scrap of useful information at my disposal that might assist them in their journey. Occasionally, I come up dry, but I try to give each the focus they deserve.  By the end of each day, and especially at the end of four days, everyone is considerably talked out.  And yet, the talking continues.  Everyone hits verbal and creative walls, but fortified by caffeine and cookies, the process rolls along until everyone is seriously spent and then only barbecue and beer can offer relief.

I took a few snapshots along the way:

Tamara Staples, Leah Sobsey, Cynthia Greig, Andrew Uchin and Sharon Harper, fortified. Sobsey teaches at the University of North Carolina and Harper is an Associate Professor at Harvard. Greig is based in Detroit and along with Uchin, are represented in Los Angeles at DNJ Gallery. New York's Tamara Staples is known for her book entitled "The Fairest Fowl."

Beth Lilly of Atlanta, describes her fascinating narrative-building project, "the Oracle@wifi," to Alexa Becker, Acquisitions Editor at Kehrer Verlag based in Heidleberg, Germany.

The duo of Francoise and Daniel Cartier present their elegant bodies of work which managed to be both historic and exceedingly contemporary.

Blake Gordon with his "Nightwalks" panorama landscapes taken while walking across Austin, Texas. Blake was once good enough to drive his truck and a vintage travel trailer (resembling a canned ham) all the way to Los Angeles. Here he picked up the work from his friend Brent Humphreys' exhibition "Le Tour" at my former gallery and drove it all the way back to Texas.

Jim Leisy of Oregon presents his still-life body of work entitled "Amateur Physics," executed in a combination of digital and Van Dyke Brown printing.

Photographer Ilan Weiss and Stephan De Broyer, Publisher of View Magazine of Brussels.

The vast sky walk in Houston's One Allen Center links one exhibition space to another.

Damion Berger's grand installation of "Black Powder" is included in "Discoveries of the Meeting Place," a large group exhibition of the work of prior participants of the reviews.

"Le Fiac II, Jardin des Tuilleries," 2009, by Damion Berger (74.8 x 55.9, Gelatin Silver).

Erika Diettes installation of "Rio Abajo" explores the tragedy of Colombia's disappeared.

From Erika Diettes' "Rio Abajo."

Houston's historic preservation methods make for strange juxtapositions.

Aside from the oil industry's downtown skyscrapers and a nearby shooting range, a televised scene from an old Conway Twitty performance was a rare sign of southern stereotype.

Ricardo Veira, Director of Pennsylvania's Lehigh University Art Galleries, Ute Noll Director of On Photography & Illustration, Uno Art Space, Stuttgart, and New York/Tokyo photographer Yoko Naito board the tour bus following a stop at Priya Kambli and Julie Blackmon's exhibitions at Houston Center for Photography or HCP .

Houston based photographer Emily Peacock's show at Lawndale Art Center.

Emily Peacock's "You, Me & Diane," is based on the seminal book "Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph." Peacock casts herself in recreating likenesses of the now famous Arbus photographs, including the 1967 "Identical twins, Roselle, N.J."

Emily Peacock as the comic relief version of Arbus' 1966 photograph, "A young man with curlers at home on West 29th Street, N.Y.C."

After art there's BBQ or as they say in the South - meat and three.

Ferit Kuyas of Switzerland via Turkey (right) and a smoking buddy. Kuyas' landscape work is represented in Los Angeles at Stephen Cohen Gallery.

Maggie Blanchard, Director of Twin Palms Publishers, Santa Fe, with Tamara Staples.

Photographer Wendy Sacks (center) getting jiggy. To her left is Diane Evans, Gallery Manager at Vancouver, BC's Presentation House Gallery and Fernando Brito (blue shirt), whose journalistic portraits of drug cartel murder victims delivered a powerful punch.

Allessandra Capodacqua (left), VP of Fondazione Studio Marangoni, Firenze, Italy

Daniel Cartier and Uta Noll with Monika Merva(center). The New York based Merva showed her "City of Children" in the "Discoveries of the Meeting Place" exhibition.

Sometimes a photo festival looks like a barn dance. Krzysztoft Candrowicz, center in plaid, Founding Director, Lodz Art Center, International Festival of Photography, Poland.

Photographer and filmmaker Sarah Martin (left) presented innovative work and a sense of humor in her series on Christian online dating. Leah Sobsey recently finished a residency at the Grand Canyon documenting the Park's extensive botanical collection. Both teach in the Photography Department at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

Nancy Barr, Associate Curator at Detroit Institute of the Arts, documents her BBQ brisket platter while architectural landscape photographer Philip Jones of Boston sits just beyond.

Ricardo Viera leads Fotofest volunteers and staff member Sarah Craig in one last line dance.

For more information on the festival which continues with exhibitions through April 29, see http://2012biennial.fotofest.org/.

The Valley, (c) Kelli Connell

Kelli Connell’s series “Double Life” seemed special enough when I first saw it online, but I had the sense that comes with website viewing that I’d already seen the pictures.  So why bother attending the physical exhibition?   Giving it the benefit of the doubt, I dropped by Kopeikin Gallery on a weekday.

I wondered whether the photographs might gain something by hanging on the wall?  I should say that this question wasn’t really aimed at Kelli Connell’s work specifically, but really at all photographic work of late. I’d been feeling a creeping sense of image burnout on and off for the last few years.  Professional photo editors see hundreds if not thousands of photographs each week.   In fine art, it’s not much different. The bounty of work available to be seen online along with the sheer numbers of active photographers can sometimes have a numbing effect on the viewer. Keeping abreast of beloved work prior to living life on a desktop was manageable enough with part of my brain devoted to Duane Michaels and Judy Dater, and part of it to Robert Mapplethorpe, Irving Penn and Mary Ellen Mark.  There were many others of course, but the point being, it wasn’t all that crowded a field.

Websites for editorial and advertising photographers offer an instant reference for those in a position to assign or buy photography.  It’s a good thing.  For fine art photography, the net seems to me to walk the fine line of being friend and foe.  While it expands opportunities for awareness and outreach, it also risks a sense of  “been there, done that”.  It’s always been a good idea to put a strong image on an invitation, make a couple of images available to the press and hold tight to the rest of the work to give people something fresh to see at exhibition. Seeing work on the wall is seduction after all.  It’s difficult to feel the pull of the words “buy me” when it comes to art that you only experience in the condensed format of a computer screen.  When we have the opportunity to see every image in a series prior to the show, it diminishes one’s desire to change out of our sweatpants and drive across town for an opening.  We lose that wonderful sense of discovery.

Ponder, (c) Kelli Connell

In spite of all that, it was with great pleasure that I found myself in a room full of Connell’s images.    The dozen or so prints were all pictures I had seen before, yet somehow they moved me in a way I hadn’t experienced in prior small version looks.  Seeing a beautifully crafted photograph, equally well framed is a nicer experience than seeing it with menu bars and a multitude of files on my desktop.  I must remember this.

Immediately I was reminded of another simple fact.  Seeing art in an empty room without the opening crowd can be a wonderful thing.  I was alone here except for Mr. Kopeikin and he was occupied on the phone. I could actually consider the images in peace.

Trying to put two and two together is a pleasure and sometimes a challenge in art and while I like to eventually read the artist’s statement, I always feel like I’ve cheated and looked at the answers before reading the questions if I read it first.  In this case I was glad that I hadn’t read Connell’s statement or any interviews before seeing the work.

Lucky Lou's, (c) Kelli Connell

There have been volumes of compelling work made based on sexual identity: photographs, films, videos and mixed media work in the last twenty odd years including many works by my former school mates and friends from Cal Arts, UC Irvine and UCLA, such as John Di StefanoTammy Rae Carland, Catherine Opie, Millie Wilson, Keith Mayerson, and even by myself.   I pretty much walked away from the topic years ago feeling it had run its course for me at the time.

Young photographers like Kelli Connell find their own routes of exploration, however, and her subjects are depicted with a gentle subtlety.  Each nuanced frame makes a look at a relationship in an everyday life.  The normalcy of the images is their beauty.  Simple arrangements of two women in very utilitarian locations – a couple, but they are an identical duo.  Are they lovers?  Are they identical twins? They appear to be quietly engaged in the details of their lives, two sides of one coin. Bits of gendered behaviors show, but quietly.  I think I tired of the heavy-handedness of the genre in the past, but Connell’s compositions are elegantly balanced and her subjects low-key.  They’re a relief from so much posing in the world.  These are posed, but they just don’t feel like it.  They’re not dogmatic. Her technical skill is flawless and while I’m not generally one to give away the ending before you’ve had a chance to see the film, much has already been written about her casting a friend to play both roles in the relationship.  Connell masters the images together in an ultimate Photoshop embrace.

Convertible Kiss, (c) Kelli Connell

I tried to fathom how it was possible to weave the two versions of her model so seamlessly given the connectedness of the couple.  It only made sense once I read that Kelli Connell herself serves as a stand in or placeholder for one side of the two characters.  This way an embrace feels like an embrace.  More important than Photoshop technique is the way in which Connell filling this role affects the images.  She is in the images and she’s not.  She’s there in the ether.  Her presence appears to make up for her absence in that she occupies the heart and soul of the work, including the minor details: a thumb hooked into a blue jean pocket, a hand cups an ear and the nape of a neck.  “What is really recorded on the film is our interaction together.”

This is solidly beautiful work.  It’s both portraiture and performance. Poetic and banal in the way that real life can be.

Carnival, (c) Kelli Connell

Many years ago I was lucky enough to hear a lecture by the late film historian Vito Russo in which he spoke of wanting to see the day in which gay films didn’t have to constantly deal with coming out, or with characters being killed off for that matter.  He longed for the day when the fact of a character’s queerness wasn’t even mentioned.  They merely existed within the context of a story.  Just like straight characters existed.  They did other things, lived their lives, had relationships, had jobs, were heroes or just regular people.

Kelli Connell’s images do just that.  They live their filmic lives.

Brickhaus Cafe, (c) Kelli Connell

Connell has fielded the question of whether the series has run its course since she began it in 2002.  Artists periodically ask themselves what’s next when consumed by a long body of work.   It is a question only time and the photographer herself will discover.  While I would be fascinated to see what an entirely new body of work might be, it is equally compelling to consider the idea of continuing along this path, allowing her subjects to continue to play out their relationship as we continue to follow along. Rarely in photography do we have the opportunity to see characters develop, change, age and transition in their fictional lives over a long period of time.  When it happens, it’s a rare and special thing.

Kelli Connell’s “Double Life” shows at Kopeikin Gallery, 2766 Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles through April 14, 2012 with J Bennett Fitts “8 Dead Palm Trees.”

She also has work in “Contemporary Queer Photography” at Photo Center NW in Seattle, April 6th through May 12th with a lecture April 13th at 6:30 pm.