Archives for posts with tag: art galleries

IMG_3328sm
Spot Photo Works, the new Los Angeles based, contemporary photography gallery started by myself and Russell Adams, will be occupying most of the corners and curves of my mind in its first year. I’ll still be doing some freelance editing and mentoring, but for the most part my writing is going the way of the gallery and you can find me holding forth to that end on the Spot Photo Works Facebook page and on Spot’s blog.

Chris Anthony's series "Seas Without A Shore" opens November 15th.  Pictured:  Ladybird No. 2 ©2012 Chris Anthony

Ladybird No. 2 ©2012 Chris Anthony from his upcoming exhibition, “Seas Without A Shore.”

 

Spot’s first year of artists include: Dennis DeHart, Victory Tischler-Blue, Chris Anthony, Gregg Segal, H. Lee, Robert Harding Pittman, J.K. Lavin and Todd Weaver. We’re excited and we hope you visit.

I’m wrapping up jurying for Critical Mass and I’ll be reviewing portfolios at Photo Lucida in Portland in the Spring. Perhaps I’ll see some of you there. I’m also judging a yet to be announced competition for the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado. I may also get inspired to write here on occasion and if time allows perhaps I’ll be able to pull on the threads of my own art making as well.  If so, I’ll keep you posted if anything juicy comes of it.

In the meantime find me at Spotphotoworks.com or at Spot’s Facebook page. Be well. Be in touch. Be inspired.

Todd Weaver's Monument Valley (c)2011

As a child of the West Coast, I always felt I knew north from south and east from west based on where the Pacific Ocean lies in relation to anywhere I stood.   Family vacations from the low gray cloud cover of the Pacific Northwest more often than not involved piling into a large Chevrolet and barreling southward via the passes of the Siskiyou Mountains and Mt. Shasta through the olive groves and rolling hills of California.  I can still feel the sweat pouring from my pre-teen thighs as they stuck to the vinyl upholstery while crammed in the back seat with my brothers in the years before every car came with air conditioning.

Grandpa, Grandma & our Great Uncle in a late 1920s trip to Pike's Peak, Colorado.

My mother’s family hailed from Southern Illinois and over the years they treated us to a number of animated road trip stories and photos that seemed ancient. Our maternal grandparents took western vacations as soon as the progress of automobiles allowed for such daunting trips and thankfully they brought a camera with them.   A lover of Tom Mix, Buck Jones and Gene Autry, the West held my Grandfather’s imagination and it was a beloved legacy he warmly shared.   There was no destination as grand as Pike’s Peak, the Painted Desert, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone or the Redwoods.

My Aunt and Mother, Petrified Forest, Arizona, 1940.

The girls and Grandpa photographed by my Grandmother in the Redwoods, 1940

Aunty and Mom with the old Ford and a friend, a few years later - early 1940s.

The promise of work at the Columbia River Shipyards in the 1940s was a lure both sets of my Grandparents could not deny as the country struggled to fortify its fleet following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  As Grandpa told the story, they drove as far West as their gas rations would take them.  Whether it was a tough decision or not, never entered the narrative when my Grandparents seized the opportunity to move west with their children.

As the years progressed everyone in the family became deeply involved in building lives and exploring this new place with its deep wilderness so close at hand.  There were dams and locks, fisheries and rodeos to explore, not to mention the ocean with clams to dig and driftwood and sand dollars and wild blackberries to gather.  We were not hunters – we were gatherers and growers.  And as the photos attest, we were three generations of posers.

The Clark kids at Santa's Village, Skyforest, California, circa 1965

The immensity of the Cascade Range, the Columbia River Gorge and the Sierras remains a compelling backdrop, to say nothing of the roadside attractions along the way. My grandmother often had a box camera at the ready and Dad learned photography while stationed in Alaska in the early 1950s, thankfully documenting many getaways in color transparency.  The family slide show was a rare but beloved tradition and we roared with laughter at the most unflattering photos of the women in the cat-eye glasses of the early 1960s.  The many shots in which Grandpa’s Pendleton wool clad arm hung to his side but pointed his index finger as if at some spot on the ground was rivaled only by Grandma’s giant purse, which she held proudly at every point of interest where she was photographed.

My father was also a reader of historical plaques.  We sulked our way through every trip, rolling our eyes while waiting for him to read another dull bronze text only to find ourselves forty years later reading every plaque we encounter.  I finally get it.  In takes some history to find anything interesting about history.

Mom at Crater Lake, circa 1967, shot with Dad's Argus 35mm rangefinder.

Over the years, Mom was the only one in the family I ever heard who struggled in her longing for the old days and extended family in Illinois. It’s not that she didn’t love the West, but she was torn.  Her childhood family moved in one direction. Her heart moved here and back again. She shared her own children’s sense of dread each time we moved and we moved often, up and down the coast and back and forth.  When I learned about Manifest Destiny at Chinook Junior High in Bellevue, Washington, it struck a chord with me. Both the adventure and the anxiety of exploring or moving are compelling forces. The grandiose title stuck in my mind.  In spite of the politics of the time in which the term was coined, it stayed with me as a kind of lifetime experience.  I write this a month after Mom’s passing and while I wasn’t thinking of her when I conceived of the photography exhibition “Manifest Destiny,” I realize now my family’s role in forming the idea.

That’s enough now about me.  Here’s something about the show:

Cypress Trees, Marina Del Rey, CA (c)2003, Amanda Friedman

Manifest Destiny opens at the Analog Salon in Culver City California on January 28 and runs through March 17, 2012.

My exhibition statement:

We came on foot, on horseback, by train, by ship and eventually by car and airplane. We came west for a multitude of reasons: for adventure, for economic opportunity, to escape the crowds of the East. Our quest over the last 200 years led to the discovery of a great expansive and rugged geography, of open range and potential farmland, of rich forests, wildlife, bountiful rivers and streams, to otherworldly desert scapes and to the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. While the term Manifest Destiny was used in the 19th century to promote transcontinental expansion and provide justification for the war with Mexico, it brought devastation to America’s native cultures. This exhibition is built more broadly around the concept of Western movement, of the need to discover what there is to find beyond the next hill.

Photographers by their nature are inquisitive beings, seeking or creating worlds in which to tell or repeat a visual story. The eight artists in this exhibition, Randi Berez, Claudio Cambon, Larry S. Clark, Nicholas Alan Cope, Amanda Friedman, Michael Kelley, Lisa Romerein and Todd Weaver, come from a variety of backgrounds. Some came to the West for reasons not that dissimilar from travelers of the past. Some have lived all their lives in the west and share a deep and abiding connection to this place as much for its open landscape as for its propensity for other forms of discovery, in architecture, in technology.

Our West Coast of the present has been exploited and broadly tamed by the generations that followed the original intrepid explorers and native peoples before them. The romance of the West still lingers, however, fascinating us with its wildness, its opportunity, it’s modernism, light, water, open mindedness, creative ingenuity as well as with its withering assets.

No. 82 by Randi Berez, (c) 2008

Randi Berez

“As for the rodeo, a friend bought a small dude ranch in Miles City, Montana and was in the market for some cattle.   I had become interested in photographing bull riders after attending a few Professional Bull Riders events.  Trying to get in to photograph the PBR guys was very difficult. They are professional athletes isolated by the same machine that regulates access to celebrities.  By contrast, Miles City was a slow-paced, action-packed drama.  After arranging for a bogus press pass, I could go anywhere, do anything.  Growing up in Los Angeles, the Bucking horse sale felt like an artifact from a period in time that will soon disappear.  It was spectacular.”  Randi Berez attended UC Berkeley and has photographed for Esquire, Fast Company, Men’s Health, The New York Times Magazine, ESPN, Men’s Journal, Outside, Women’s Health, Life and others.  Her commercial clients include Nike, Adidas, Converse, and Samsung.

Michael Kelley's "Blue Curtain" (c)2006

Michael Kelley

“Shooting at SpaceX was like shooting at a top secret military facility. I was struck by the enormity of the space; the building is a vast expanse with super tall ceilings, huge hanger doors, and slick concrete floors.  Of course the best part of spacex is their hardware. I love all things space… so to stand next to, and photograph their capsules, rocket engines, rocket bodies, fuel tanks, etc. was fantastic!  It was cool to imagine shooting something that would hopefully, soon be flying in the outer edges of our atmosphere.”  Raised in Las Vegas, Michael Kelley attended UCLA and then Art Center. He has received awards from the Communication Arts Annual, American Photography Annual, PDN, and the Association of Advertising Photographers.

Larry S. Clark's Train Dreams, Station (c)2011

Larry S. Clark

With roots in Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle, Larry S. Clark is an antique dealer who learned photography in his youth. His recent practice of documenting vintage architecture and iconographic ephemera on the West Coast has grown into the beginnings of a fine art practice.  “Growing up in the era of Look and Life magazines and seeing certain images as a kid, like the burning monk photograph by Malcolm Browne and Nick Ut’s image of the girl running down the road in Vietnam, had a big influence on my interest in photography.  I clearly remember when those photos were published.  Maybe that led to my interest in the photography of the Farm Securities Act.  Though not as horrific, I still want to know the story behind the photos.”

Claudio Cambon, Owens Valley #10 (c)2006

Claudio Cambon

A recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, Claudio Cambon is currently working on a project on religious festivals in Bangladesh.  Since receiving his undergraduate degree from Yale University Mr. Cambon has photographed all over the world and across the American West where he worked as a hired hand on cattle ranches.  “I have always sought refuge in expanses.  In vastness I feel how much larger the world is than me, and in it I ask whether redemption is possible.  I photograph these spaces to see whether the world can continue to be more beautiful than the sum of our mistakes, and forgive us the havoc we have wreaked.”  His photographs have been exhibited and collected internationally as well as published in The New Yorker and Atlantic monthly.

Lifeguard Station, Santa Monica, CA, (c)2008, Amanda Friedman

Amanda Friedman

“I started this project while in college in upstate New York, but it really came to fruition when I moved to Los Angeles.  Being new to California, I was overwhelmed by the congestion, traffic, noise and general madness that goes along with living in a big city.  As I continued to go out and photograph, I found myself drawn to places that contradicted my daily life.  At first it was nothing more than an escape for me.  Through the years as I’ve continued to grow this project, I’ve come to realize it goes beyond an escape. It’s not just about the city I live in, but also about this idea of loneliness that can be both tragic and inspiring.”  Amanda Friedman studied at Rochester Institute of Technology and has exhibited in a variety of galleries in California and the mid-West.  She won three American Photography Awards as well as a first place award for photo essay from PDN/National Geographic Traveler World in Focus

Nicholas Alan Cope's Azusa, March 2007 (c) 2007

Nicholas Alan Cope

“The images are from a project on the architecture and landscape of Los Angeles. They function as an idealized survey of the city and aim to communicate my vision of the city. My goal is to display a landscape that is both modern and democratic, minimal and egalitarian.  I began the project in college and have just recently started an effort to finish the series and release a book.” Nicholas Alan Cope’s photographs have been published in Interview, Japanese Vogue, Conveyor, Unpublished, The Wild Magazine, DigiFoto, ButDoesItFloat, 500 Photographers, L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, Good, Surface and Filler. Awards include Communication Arts Photo Annual 2011, PDN’s 30 2011, American Photography 26 Selection 2010, Surface Magazine’s Avant Guardian 2009, PX3 Winner 2008.

Mt. Tabor, by Lisa Romerein (c)

Lisa Romerein

“Growing up in the Northwest It might be a DNA mandate that I love trees. I love to study the light, space and weight of a forest and will forever be drawn to the raw beauty.”  Seattle born Lisa Romerein studied photojournalism at Stanford University.  She lives in Santa Monica where she specializes in food, travel, architecture, interior, garden, and portrait photography for a client list that includes Martha Stewart Living, Vanity Fair, Sunset, Town and Country and House Beautiful as well as major hotel and architectural firms.  In addition, her photographs have appeared in numerous food and lifestyle books.

Mindy by Todd Weaver (c) 2010

Todd Weaver

Born and raised in Kansas, Todd Weaver came to Los Angeles to follow his dream of becoming a cinematographer.  “Along the way I found myself drawn to the pursuit of photography, loving its immediacy.”  His style is a mixture of photo journalism that references filmic story-telling.  There is an implied sense of action, with a loosely directed narrative that often evokes a feeling of voyeurism.   He has photographed for Saatchi, Maverick Records and LADG Architecture and was selected twice for the American Photography Annual.

The Analog Salon is a fine art photographic exhibition space housed at Samitaur Constructs, the noted architectural firm, in partnership with Digital Fusion, a premiere digital photographic rental and post-production facility. The Analog Salon highlights the exceptional talent of new, emerging and established photographers with an emphasis on Los Angeles based artists.

The Entry to The Analog Salon

The Entry to The Analog Salon

The Analog Salon at Samitaur Constructs, 3535 Hayden Avenue, Culver City, California http://www.analogsalon.com/

http://gallery-store.digitalfusion.net/The-Analog-Salon/    Note:  work from the Manifest Destiny exhibition will appear in the online store only after the show opens.

Philadelphia, 1963, (c) Ray K. Metzker, courtesy Laurence Miller Gallery, New York

I live just a few blocks from the Miracle Mile in Los Angeles, a stretch of Wilshire Boulevard designed in the 1920s so that the buildings lining its curbs were intended to best be seen through the windshield of an automobile.  This truly modern idea navigated passersby away from previous modes of pedestrian, horseback, wagon or train travel.  Los Angeles was, until then, a series of dirt roads circumnavigating what once were Ranchos of epic scale.  This urban planning led to a vast boulevard of simplified architectural forms, large, sleek, bold and ideally viewed at a steady speed of 30 miles per hour.  The ensuing contributions to Streamline Modern and Art Deco vernacular are numerous and when viewed contrary to plan, as a pedestrian, were the first thing I thought of when Julia Dolan turned me onto the work of Ray K. Metzker, now showing at the Portland Art Museum.

As the Museum’s new Curator of Photography, I should say Dolan turned Oregon onto Metzker, but having met recently at a dinner party at the home of my brother and sister-in-law, I felt motivated to look into his work and finally turn the familiar name into something tangible.  What I found was an extensive body of work by a living photographer, as elegant and finely contoured as the cars he photographed.    

Philadelphia, 1963, (c) Ray K. Metzker, courtesy Laurence Miller Gallery, New York

Julia Dolan’s notes on her current exhibition describe Metzker in the following passages:

Ray K. Metzker: AutoMagic, an exhibition of more than sixty works by Philadelphia-based photographer Ray K. Metzker, complements the exceptional artistry featured in the Portland Art Museum’s summertime exhibition The Allure of the Automobile. In a career that has spanned more than five decades, Metzker has continually photographed cars, charting their notable physical and cultural presence within the space of the modern city. AutoMagic places the vehicle within a broader social context by exploring the many nuances of auto-influenced urban behavior.

Metzker’s photography career began during the early 1960s, just as automobiles, parking garages, crosswalks, and traffic signals were becoming ubiquitous fixtures in many American cities. Metzker, who was already recording the design of urban spaces and public behavior, was poised to reveal the evolving formal and societal relationships among cars, pedestrians, and even architecture. In many of his photographs from this period, automobile form is paramount, and surfaces of smoothly curving metal are contoured by sunshine or artificial light. In other works, pedestrians and drivers commute along thoroughfares with efficiency, their aloof public personas masking their private lives. On occasion, occupants hang arms and heads out of car windows—relaxed postures that suggest a less hurried relationship between driver and destination.

Although Metzker sometimes detoured from urban topics to explore new environments and camera techniques—examples of which can be seen in this exhibition—he always returned to the city and the automobile. Indeed, Metzker’s ability to capture the essence of urban movement remains unfailing. Both automobile and human form are purely expressed and beautiful to behold in his photographs; tonal contrasts and an exceptional sense of composition amplify the intensity of purpose that moves commuters through the space of the city by car or on foot, perpetually suspended between one point and the next. From decade to decade, Metzker treats the automobile as an aesthetic object and catalyst of social change, finding beauty as well as ambivalence in modern machinery.

Philadelphia, 1963, (c) Ray K. Metzker, courtesy Laurence Miller Gallery, New York

Prior to joining the curatorial staff in Portland, Julia Dolan was the Horace W. Goldsmith Curatorial Fellow in Photography at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and previously held positions at the Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts and at Harvard University ’s Fogg Art Museum.  She holds a Ph.D. in Art History from Boston University, an M.A. in Art History from Penn State, and a B.F.A. in Photography from Maryland Institute College of Art.  All signs point to Dolan being an outstanding addition to the cultural life of photography.  She was gracious enough to take time from a busy schedule to address my questions regarding the Ray K. Metzker: AutoMagic exhibition, as well as her plans for exhibitions and collections.

Curator Julia Dolan presenting Metzker's work to the Portland Art Museum's Photo Council.

When you elected to show the Ray K. Metzker work was it a collective goal of the various museum divisions to run related exhibitions in conjunction with one another?

In this case, yes. I knew that I had the gallery space near our special exhibition galleries during most of the run of The Allure of the Automobile.  I didn’t feel the need to show cars, but I wanted to express some kind of issues around automation–Machine Age imagery, for example.  But then I revisited Ray’s work about a year ago and felt that it would be a perfect fit.

Did you have a prior relationship with Metzker when you were in Philadelphia?

I stood in the same room with him once, and I was able to see his many prints in storage there, but no, we didn’t meet officially.  I was too nervous to say hello to him.

Philadelphia, 1966, (c) Ray K. Metzker, courtesy Laurence Miller Gallery, New York

Is there a Metzker image that has a special hold on you – one that makes you stop in your tracks as you walk through the gallery?  

There are so many, it’s hard to isolate just one.  That’s why I brought out 67 prints from New York!  Metzker exquisitely captures the manner in which pedestrians move past and around automobiles as they make their way through the space of the city.  His vision is particularly exceptional with this kind of scene during the early 1960s and in the City Whispers series from the early 1980s.  Have a look at almost any shot from these periods, you’ll see what I mean.

Will you talk about where you’re heading with upcoming exhibitions?  Short term and or long-term goals?

The permanent gallery space for photographs is meant to display photographs from our permanent collection, which numbers about 6500 photographs.  The images selected for this gallery depend on various themes that I develop as I learn more about the collection. It can hold as many as 75 photographs.  The images are rotated every 4-5 months so that regular visitors can see a variety of images, and also to protect the prints from too much light exposure. In 2013 we’re hosting Carrie Mae Weems: A Retrospective, which is organized by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts and will travel to the Cleveland Museum of Art as well as the Guggenheim in New York.  My main goals include keeping the rotation lively in the permanent galleries, getting to know more about the region’s photographers, adding to the collection, and bringing in major exhibitions when possible.  I’d like to originate a major traveling exhibition at PAM, but that is a longer-term goal.

Carrie Mae Weems, "Slow Fade to Black #1, (Eartha Mae Kitt)" 2009-2010, courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY.

Carrie Mae Weems, born in Portland, will return with a retrospective.

Knowing that funds are short these days, adding to any museum’s collection is a bit of a pipe dream at the moment.  Daring to dream, are there specific works or genres of photographs that you would target as high priorities to begin to round out the collection at Portland Art Museum?

I am most concerned about bringing more twentieth-century photographs into the collection.  We are missing a number of important photographers, and could use more images by certain artists.  I always pay attention to contemporary as well, but I’d like to shore up the twentieth century as much as possible.  We need to encourage a collection that can hold its own and make Portland a destination for the study of the history of photography.

Installation view "Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans" at the National Gallery of Art.

Can you give an example of a particular exhibition in which you felt curatorial inspiration?  Specifically, a stand-out job by another curator and how that presentation really worked for you?

Looking In:  Robert Frank’s The Americans was an incredible exhibition.  It’s hard to deny the power of Frank’s book, but to see his thought process through work prints and contact sheets was a revelation.  Sarah Greenough from the National Gallery of Art made that exhibition sing.  And the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s recent Stielgitz/Steichen/Strand demonstrated just how much an institution can do with a solid permanent collection.  On this side of the country, the recent exhibition of Seattle Camera Club photographs at the Henry Art Gallery was fantastic, featuring lots of rarely seen works. 

In the years between being a photographer and being a curator of photography, has the shift altered the ways you appreciate imagery or drawn you to work you may not have experienced in the same way as an artist?

Perhaps not directly.  It was time that I took to grow up, but not to think about art critically.  That period made me a better worker, more dedicated, more rigorous.  I transferred that energy to art history when I finally decided that it was the route I wanted to take.

Philadelphia, 1963, (c) Ray K. Metzker, courtesy Laurence Miller Gallery, New York

The Ray K. Metzker: AutoMagic exhibition runs through July, 2011 at the Portland Art Museum.  In addition, The Allure of the Automobile is on display through September 11th, featuring 16 of the most rare and  beautifully designed automobiles built between 1930 and the mid-1960s.

Photographs by Ray K. Metzker are published here with the permission of the Laurence Miller Galleryof New York, which represents the work of Mr. Metzker.

"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."