Archives for posts with tag: photo books
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Freefall, c. 2017

In the spring of 2016 I was invited along on a civic business trip to Washington D.C. Finding myself deeply dismayed by the profoundly unsettling dialogue engulfing the presidential election, I decided to make the trip with the intention of beginning artwork for a possible book project.

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Out of Balance, The Rayburn House Office Building, Washington D.C., c.2016

My curiosity as an American was coupled with a growing unease as a country built in the most beautiful language and lofty visions was immersed in denigrating the best president of my lifetime. While President Obama led the country out of seemingly insurmountable calamities with a dignity, intellectual vigor, commitment to diplomacy and respect for all the country’s people, the extremists raged. Leading a swath of America backward onto itself to wallow in its lowest traditions of prejudice, ignorance and obstruction, the Republican leadership barely masked a glaring desire for self-enrichment.

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The President’s House, The White House China, c. 2016

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Reflections with Washington, The White House, Washington D.C., c.2016

I had never been to Washington and given the effort the Obamas invested into increasing access to the government by its people, I couldn’t imagine a better time to visit. Through my invitation I had additional invaluable access: conferences and receptions at the House of Representatives and Senate office buildings; a private Congressional tour led by my Congressman’s staff; a tour of the White House as well as dinners in storied old buildings with people who hold high sway, elected and not, in my city. It was a privilege and I was hooked.

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The Contradictions of Jefferson, The White House China, c. 2016

Revolutionary Wall Paper, c. 2016

My interest was to explore the vision, architecture, language and idolatry of significant American figures in our early years – the lofty goals of our founders versus the harsh contradictions of slavery, slaughter of indigenous people and profiteering land grabs. I thought a lot about the elegance of thought and language and debate, which furthered the country’s laws and protections for lands and citizenry. I thought a lot about the caustic knee-jerk, childish rhetoric and gang-bang mentality sweeping through contemporary America. I did not expect by year’s end to be dealing with fascism and a thuggish plutocracy, aided and abetted by foreign intervention and a complicit, regressive government.  What has ensued in this new regime is a disgrace on all counts.

What’s Become of the Grand Old Party, The White House China, President Wilson Dinner Plate, c. 2016

Bracing Ulysses, United States Capitol Rotunda, Washington, D.C., c.2016

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The Kompromat, c. 2016

Concurrent with exploring and making images for The Republic, my family began to delve more deeply into our own history, uncovering a lineage going back to the Mayflower, Jamestown and beyond. It looks as though I may descend from John Rolfe, who set sail in 1609 for America on the Sea Venture, a ship and it’s wreckage near Bermuda that informed Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Having located desirable strains of tobacco while rebuilding a sailable ship, Rolfe is credited with bringing the first commercial tobacco cultivation to Virginia. He is also known primarily for marrying the daughter of the Chief of the Powhatan Indians. Her name was Matoaka, but we know her as Pocahontas.

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The Sea Venture, c. 2017

Searching for Pocahontas, c.2016

As intriguing as all that is, it came with the whiplash realization that my forefathers were directly complicit in the birth of the plantation culture in the South.  I shouldn’t have been surprised, but when research led to several of my direct ancestors who owned slaves, I felt a shudder of responsibility I’d hoped to never feel. A lifetime of liberal politics and egalitarian beliefs did not prepare me to hit that wall.

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A Revolt Suppressed, George Washington Dinner Plate, The White House China, c.2016

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Federal Self Reflection, c. 2016

In exploring my full ancestral lineage, the trail has led not just to the aforementioned historical figures but also to officers in the Revolutionary War, to soldiers in both the Union Army and the Confederacy, to the struggling and the well-heeled, pioneers, farmers, and women who died of influenza and in child-birth. My family’s evolving story coupled with a fascination kindled from the trip to Washington quickly developed into an obsession with image making, learning and thinking about The Republic.

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Abundance and Sacrifice, Number 2, c. 2016

Hallowed Ground: The Lincoln Memorial, c.2016

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Jim Crow Segregation, Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, California, c. 2016

How does one reconcile a heritage built both by Native Americans and the Colonists? Does one feel pride in the immense struggle it took to create such a complex and elegant governmental system while being mortified at the methodology employed for its success. Patriotism is a complex thing.

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Sacrilege: Bill Cody’s Jacket, c. 2017

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The Supreme Court, Washington, D.C. c.2016

Before the election of 2016, I thought I might be at this project for years given the abundance of information I struggled to digest. At the time, I thought the election would go differently and I could focus my work on the founding first few hundred years.  I thought I’d be able to stop short of the now, as a full United States history would be an unrealistic undertaking.  But ignoring the now and all that went before it would be to turn a blind eye on all the good we’ve done and just as significantly, all the bad.

from the series The Republic

Liberty, c. 2017

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The Greatest Generation: Franklin D. Roosevelt, c. 2017

I realized early on that I needed to employ a variety of working methods to better serve the vast array of subject matter, even if those methods might typically be at odds with one another. Unlike a more common single narrative, The Republic is a massive story requiring a broad range of interpretations.  Some work is environmental, some simple landscapes, environments and still life photographs.  Other images are conceptual constructions.  I began to make props so that I could photograph the objects and ideas that I wanted to see and convey. Those ideas punctuate a timeline threaded by more typical images that serve at least partly as establishing shots.

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Nixon’s War, c. 2017

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Impasse at the House, Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C., c. 2016

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Abu Graib, President G.W. Bush Dinner Plate, The White House China, c.2016

The Republic is an ongoing project, as much activism and self-education as art and personal historical exploration.  As such, some images stand alone more profoundly than others and there are many gaps that I intend to fill over time.  As an editor, the content is overwhelming. As a maker, I find the discovery of both information and ways of translating that information creatively, to be immensely challenging and ever intriguing.

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The White House Portico, c.2016

My country straddles a morality stuck between what many of us thought was a progressive future and the strong and persistent gravitational pull of an extremist past, intent on continuing to rear its ugly head. In creating works for The Republic I wrestle with all of it – a baptism by fire. We can’t get over it. We must go through it.

 

 

All rights reserved, c. Kathleen Clark, 2016-2017

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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

Kernstown, Virginia. Confederate horseman Todd Kern rides over the site of the second Kernstown battlefield, where in 1864 future presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley fought for the Union. Gregg Segal (c) 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red Maria Blumberg, Gregg Segal (c) 2007

Dan Ray, Gregg Segal (c) 2007

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

George Cayenne Pepper, Gregg Segal (c) 2007

Segal writes of his initial pirate encounter:

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

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

Mister Roberts, Gregg Segal (c) 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Segal and friend in front of the camera.