Archives for posts with tag: fine art photography

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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.

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“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

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.


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.

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.

While walking to a screening at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills, I passed a storefront featuring a toy castle similar to this one. My comment at the time was “Look, it’s our vacation!”  While we skipped any historic reenactments on our trip to southern France, on the recommendation of my good friend-the-New-York-Times-Film-critic, we stretched our 2000-mile road trip to include the village of Carcassonne, which largely dates to the 12th Century.

Carcassonne is one of those places in which one could have created the word “awesome.”  It would not have referred to a plate of freedom fries or a new brand of sneakers.  It would not accompany the word “dude”.  The word really means something in a place like this.  This was my third trip to France and I love nothing more that traipsing through ancient villages and I’ve clambered through more than a few at this point.  Still, when the road finally turned to the formidable walls surrounding the medieval village and château, I gasped and “awesome” was the first word that came to  mind.

The 12th century ramparts and towers of Carcassonne.

Medium gray walls protecting the Chateau.

An epic and storied city, Carcassonne would be a field day for a photographer gifted in shooting elegant images of grand places.  I’m thinking Gustave Le Gray  or Michael Kirchoff or Debra DiPaolo or Jonas Yip.  Oh, for a deep gray day in the dead of winter – too cold for the hoards of tourists, but with a somber sky and subtle middle tones. September was as far from the peak travel season as our schedules would allow, so armed with my trusty Canon G9, I photographed to kindle memory recall, not for art’s sake.

The Ramparts of Carcassonne by Gustave Le Gray, 1851 (taken before the restoration of 1853, which added the less-than authentic pointed slate rooftops not-typical of the region).

Michael Kirchoff's Uspenski Cathedral and Clouds, Helsinki, 2008

Debra DiPaolo's view of Paramount Studios, Hollywood (mid 1990s).

From Paris Dialogue, Jonas Yip, 2008

We had a few ideas of sights to see in Carcassonne, knowing full well that in most good adventures the best parts are usually what happens along the way.  My traveling companion is an excellent planner so between the unstructured and the structured, there is more often than not, a compelling path.

While walking through the modern city outside the medieval walls, I spotted a young woman trying hard to be French-looking.  Or perhaps, she was French, just trying too hard in general.  Whatever it was, she was a wonderful extreme stereotype, enraptured by every word her boyfriend uttered over lunch and a mid-day carafe of wine.

Viva la France!

The exterior facade of the Chapelle de Dominicaines

Her table was near the entrance to the Chapelle de Dominicaines, a former church from 1860, which serves as an exhibition space and interpretive center for the City.  Sadly, I don’t speak French and the handful of phrases in my repertoire allowed only limited comprehension of, well, basically, everything. Nonetheless, I was impressed by the exhibition called “Perspectives,” presented within the Chapelle.  The installation was an educational tour of the development of the Bastide de Saint Louis, which is the more modern, lower city of Carcassonne built primarily in the 18th and 19th Century.

The smaller than actual size version of the city with the backdrop of leaded glass.

I’ve always been a sucker for installation design.  My father managed women’s clothing stores when I was a kid and two of the stores were particularly appealing visually.  As my brothers climbed around the mannequin displays, I marveled at the tufted upholstery and wallpaper and the jewel-box design of the showcase windows.  Even now, I find myself in restaurants, museums and shops looking with proprietary interest at grommets, steel bolts, Plexiglas, airline cable and fabrics. I’m fascinated by the ways signage and images are mounted and how lighting is designed, sight lines are directed.  It was a happy accident then, to stumble upon the “Perspective” exhibition and find myself in a miniature photographic street.  I suddenly became a giant doll – a Gulliver walking down the Lilliputian block, able to peer into upper story photographic windows without looking up.  The photos mounted on foam core or some sort of board, along with an extensive time-line, told the lesson of the city and it’s origins.

La Bastide de Saint-Louis in miniature.

Drawings, text and photographs set within the beautiful old church informed the viewer of the rich architectural history of the city. Photographs became the buildings rather than just being images of buildings hung on a wall.   As a pure craft thing, it was an innovative use of photography.  It wasn’t commercial and it wasn’t art.  It was purely educational visual record keeping manifested in an engaging way. It’s a rare thing to be able to participate in photographs physically and then step outside to the street beyond and have some sense of how a place came to be (sort of a live-action Google maps).

A quiet street in the Bastide St. Louis, Carcassonne, France.

Adrift on the Canal du Midi.

Amusing distractions aside, our mission this particular day, was to find the Canal du Midi and hire a boat to drift down the calm waters through the 200 year-old Plane trees (in North America we know them as a type of Sycamore). The 150 mile long canal was constructed in the 17th Century to connect the Mediterranean with the Atlantic – an engineering feat in any era.  We hoped to experience a few miles of river before the stately trees are gone. Suffering from a wilt disease, 42,000 Plane trees are slated to be cut down and replaced with another species over the next twenty years.  The Plane trees are superb, not only in the way in which they support the riverbanks, but also in their symmetry.  It’s not easy to locate a more beautiful site than a road or canal lined with Planes, so the necessity of removing them is heartbreaking. This classic location must have hosted numerous painters, photographers and filmmakers in its lifetime and we were appreciative of the chance to see even a small stretch in the few hours spent on the canal before darkness and a thunderstorm set in.

Silhouette on the bank of the Canal du Midi.

Only mildly soaked by the sudden downpour on the walk back to the medieval castle and our hotel within, I was relieved to be carrying only the small point and shoot and not a larger more vulnerable camera.  Yet I always think, it would be so great to come back with a good camera with more interpretive abilities and more time to shoot.  That won’t happen though, because I know I would rather just go and discover some other place where I can be reminded that life is too short to see it all, much less do it justice with great photographs.  I leave that to others, whose mission is less restless.  Someone else will take the time to find the photographs or drawings that these special places hold in potential. I, on the other hand, needed to retreat to glimpse the sun break through the surreal view of the 12th Century castle wall that would so many years later inspire a manufacturer to make a toy semblance out of plastic.

View from the Hotel de la Cite, Carcassonne.