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Martin Parr and his 12,000 Books

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Collecting with the FT: Martin Parr

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March 14, 2014 1:23 pm

By Liz Jobey

“Just look a little bit . . . happier.” It’s hard not to be amused by the hopeful upturn at the end of the sentence. Eva Vermandel is trying to take a portrait of Martin Parr, at home in Bristol, surrounded by his book collection. It’s not easy: partly because he looks so sceptical; partly because he keeps opening books up on the floor to show us, and so she has to keep asking him to stand up. After David Bailey, Parr is probably the best-known living photographer in Britain. His reputation derives from his candid pictures of others but he is also a dedicated exponent of the selfie – he may even have invented the term. His collection of self-portraits, taken in photo booths and studios all around the world, began long before the mobile phone camera was invented.

“You probably have to be an obsessive person to collect,” he concedes, “if you are going to do it seriously and thoroughly, which I attempt to do.”

We are here to talk about his books but Parr collects pretty much everything, from Chinese Mao-era tea caddies to miniature televisions, commemorative plates to cigarette cases decorated with Soviet space-dogs: “Yes, Laika, Strelka and Belka, they’re the three most famous . . .” That’s before you get to his print collection, some of which is in evidence on the walls as he leads us downstairs to the basement.

“China and Latin America down here,” he says, “well, some of China . . .” We go into a small room stacked with boxes and lined with shelves of books. “There’s Japan, but just propaganda, here . . . and Latin America overspill.” It’s too tight for three, so we go next door, where a cabinet holds some of his novelty watch collection. He points to a watch-face decorated with portraits of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and his father Hafez. “Very rare, the Assad material.”

“Where did you get it?”

“eBay.”

Parr is in his early sixties and, alongside his reputation as a photographer, his most enduring legacy is likely to be the 12,000 photography books he has collected over the past 35 years. What began as a hobby has developed into a mission to change the way the history of photography is defined and understood.

Parr began collecting photobooks as a student at Manchester Polytechnic. As a collector, he has discovered, documented and promoted previously unknown areas of photographic bookmaking. Japan is a good example: until the 1980s, the Japanese photobook was a specialist area, reserved for a few maverick enthusiasts, historians and collectors. Parr is quick to acknowledge them but, once he discovered what was there, it was his own proseletysing that brought the Japanese books to the fore. “The main thing I’ve learnt,” he says, “is how lazy and narrow-minded our histories of photography have been, and how, with some investment and some application, there is so much to discover.”

His collection is not comprehensive. “I get sent a lot of books – I get sent a lot of bad books,” he says. “If I don’t want a book, I’ll give it away. But I also get sent some fantastic things.”

He has bought books ever since he was a student at Manchester Polytechnic in the early 1970s but he dates the beginning of his serious collecting to the late 1980s, “when I bought the original Robert Frank Les Américains, and The English at Home by Bill Brandt – some of the classics. As I started to earn more money, I got more hooked and, having cash from my relatively successful magazine and commercial career . . . You know, this is an expensive business.” A look on AbeBooks.com gives an idea of current prices: Les Américains (1958) at between $3,000 and $5,000 – a signed copy is $10,000. A first edition of The English at Home (1936) is around £300 to £400.

When I ask if he has estimated the value of the collection, he says, “I haven’t. But I know it would be substantial.” His critics are quick to point out that, in being one of its generators, he has also been one of the chief beneficiaries of the growing interest in photography books and the steep rise in prices. Isn’t he now competing in a bull market he has helped to create?

“Yes,” he says, “but, remember, I’m looking for things before anyone else is looking for them. That’s what’s happened in China. When people see what we’ve dug up from China, they are absolutely bog-eyed.”

In 2004, he published the first of two, soon to be three, volumes of The Photobook: A History, an edited selection of his collection, illustrated with layouts from each volume, written by his friend and collaborator, the photo-historian Gerry Badger. Initially pored over by photography fans, dealers and collectors, the volumes quickly became the handbook for auction houses, which often had little else to quote by way of provenance for a photographer’s work. Since then, the selective listing by Parr and Badger has encouraged an insider market among collectors, publishers and photographers, since inclusion in the history brings kudos to both publisher and photographer’s reputation and almost guarantees an eventual hike in the resale value.

In his study, a large print by his friend Chris Killip hangs over his desk. This is where he keeps his most recent acquisitions. He has “correspondents” in various countries who help find books, and a range of dealers who offer him things he might want. He believes that China is the last country with a true hidden history of photographic publishing. “The other candidate in Europe is Italy. I’ve just come back from a trip and I’ve got many books from the Italian fascist period.

“Now, let me show you . . .” He hands me a stapled pamphlet, badly printed in black and white. “Emmett Till – this is the first civil rights book ever . . . look, price $1, the first, and a factual photo story.” It covers the trial of two white racists from Mississippi who murdered 14-year-old Emmett Till, a black boy from Chicago, for flirting with a white girl. “Took me a long time to find that,” he says. “I had to spend £7,000 on it. And I’ve never seen one since.”

What does he want to happen to the collection? Where does he want it to end up? “Eventually I want it to go into a public collection, to be looked after and be used as a research tool. That’s the whole point really. There is no particularly good photographic book collection in the public domain in the UK.”

So if a private individual were to offer you a great deal of money? “I would decline,” he says immediately. “It’s not about the money.”

Of the possible venues – the V&A, the British Library, the Tate – he nods at the last one. “Well yes, it’s my preferred venue,” he says. “I’m in discussion with them, but nothing has been determined.”

Simon Baker, the Tate’s curator of photography, says: “Clearly, Tate is supportive. The photobook is absolutely at the heart of the history of photography. In our exhibitions, we place books in the gallery alongside prints. We’ve already put our marker down.” And anyway, he adds: “Whichever institution gets it, they will have the greatest photobook collection in the world.”

“The Photobook: A History Volume III” by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger is published by Phaidon on March 17. The authors will be speaking at Photobook Bristol, June 6-8. www.photobookbristol.com

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Leica Turns 100

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As the world's original mobile camera celebrates its centenary, top Guardian photographers send their birthday messages to the little black box that changed their world.

Henri Cartier-Bresson with his trusty Leica in 1957. Photograph: Jane Bown

Eamonn McCabe

Now that we all carry cameraphones in our pockets, it's hard to imagine that the biggest breakthrough in photography actually happened back in 1914 – when Oskar Barnack invented the Leica.

Suddenly, photographers could throw away their heavy tripods and exploding flashguns, and step out of their studios to walk the streets and take photographs with this new mobile camera.

Barnack, a German optical engineer who specialised in microscope research, was also a keen amateur photographer, but his health was poor and he couldn't carry the heavy cameras of the time. He quickly turned his prototype Ur-Leica into a lasting success. By 1932, there were 90,000 cameras. By 1961, a million cameras were in use.

William Eggleston, Untitled, 1970-1973 [From Chromes] Photograph: courtesy of The Eggleston Artistic Trust. This image is currently on show at Tate Modern

Anyone who is anyone in photography has used the "miniature miracle", as it was known at the time – from Henri Cartier-Bresson to Robert Capa, Magnum's great war photographer. More recently, Sebastião Selgado used his Leica to shoot an extraordinary series of images of Brazilian gold mines. William Eggleston, known for his large-scale colour-saturated prints of everyday life, is an obsessive collector: he has more than 300 Leicas and has shot most of his negatives, now numbering some 1.5m, on them. He keeps them all in customised leather cases. How does he ever choose which one to use?

Bruce Davidson, another Magnum photographer, has always used Leica cameras: "For me, the things that define the Leica mystique are that it's small, it's relatively light, it's quiet and unobtrusive and they don't look like cameras," he said in an interview on Leica's blog. "For example, right now I'm thinking about doing something where I want to walk around the streets. I want to be very invisible and not aggressive in any way. That means quiet, and that means Leica."

People who own them swear by them. Some have their Leicas locked up in bank vaults and many watch the value of their cameras soar as photographers become disillusioned with digital photography.

Milestones in their development include the rangefinder cameras like the legendary Leica M3 (in 1954) and the M6 (in 1984), a Fleet Street favourite. At the same time, Leica lenses were beginning to be known as some of the sharpest lenses around and Leica binoculars were also wowing the world.

The R-System, an SLR camera that many Leica M users never came around to, kicked off in 1976 with the Leica R3 – their first electronic camera. In the late 1980s, they introduced their first point-and-shoot model first digital camera, the Leica Digilux.

Leica has become photography's badge of style – though not everyone knows how to use them properly. As Mr Holve, a camera blogger, told the New York Times, Leica aficionados can be divided into two groups: shooters and carriers. "Carrying a Leica around can be a little like driving a Bentley," Mr Holve said. "Just because you can afford it, doesn't mean you're a good driver."

Rudolf Nureyev, 1981 Photograph: Denis Thorpe for the Guardian

Denis Thorpe

My firm favourite is the M2. It's so quiet, so beautiful and the rangefinder is so precise. I have traded many cameras over the years, but I would never give up my M2. If I was sent to a desert island I would take it with me – provided I could get some film and paper.

I could never afford a black Leica, so I bought a silver one and covered it in black tape. Nobody could see it, and nobody could hear when I took pictures. I took the Nureyev photograph on it, one of my favourites.

Sean Smith

I used the Leica M series for everything, from the late 80s up to the early 2000s, when everyone working for news media had to ditch film. At that time, Leica were not making a suitable digital camera. Its future looked set to be as an exquisite accessory for the mega-rich (it was owned by Hermès for a while), among them the Queen, who is a longtime owner – and doubtless has an exceptional archive of the "upstairs-downstairs" life of grand houses.

In the last few years, at last, Leica have made up for lost time. With the new M Type 240, it has produced a camera that could be as revolutionary for documentary video as its first camera was for still photography.

What makes the new Leica so special is that the rangefinder gives the intimacy of a small camera, but you also get its legendary lenses. I think a new kind of journalistic video will be able to take a very large step forward thanks to the M type 240, and the new video function on this camera could be as important as those early Leicas.

I'm not sure how the traditional telegram of congratulations will be delivered to Leica on its 100th birthday – but it's not far to Leica's Mayfair offices from the Mall.

This article originally appeared in the Guardian and features ROSEGALLERY artists William Eggleston and Bruce Davidson. To view the article in it's original context, click here.

Lise Sarfati: Post-Factum Exhibition at LACMA

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Artist Lise Sarfati captured the homes of writer and filmmaker Marguerite Duras (1914–1996) only days after her death. (Duras was aligned with the French subjective-documentary style of filmmaking pioneered by Agnès Varda, subject of the exhibition Agnès Varda in Californialand.) Duras lived primarily in central Paris, but also had a house outside the city in Neauphle-le-Château. The imagery of both locations appears as if Duras has just left—windows ajar, bed linens turned back, faucet dripping. Presented in its totality, this sequenced portfolio reads cinematically. Sarfati’s approach is elusive—a cinematic poem hinting at a life well-lived, and one without a clear beginning, middle, or end. Her images are satisfyingly incomplete. The portfolio title, Post-Factum, taken from the Latin for “after the fact,” becomes a most fitting tribute to Duras.

printed 2007, Fuji Crystal Archive print, 13x16 in.

To view Sarfati's exhibition at LACMA, click here

Mark Cohen's 'Dark Knees' Best Photobook of 2013 by Lensculture

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This photobook, Dark Knees, and the accompanying exhibition in Paris at Le Bal, opened my eyes to one of my new favorite photographers, Mark Cohen — a new discovery for me of a man who has been making photographs since the 1960s!

I love the obsessive, cinematic nature of these tightly cropped images that seem too close for comfort, but endlessly fascinating all the same. These are compulsive images, rather than compassionate. But they have the intensity of actually seeing through someone else’s eyes — you see what he notices, you notice what he repeatedly sees — and there is consistency of vision and subject matter decade after decade after decade. There is a celebration of abstract shape and form here, as well as the love of luck and chance. There’s also a strong sense of voyeurism, perhaps a little too strong, but that is a significant factor in the success of these images, too, I think.

The book is beautifully edited by Diane Dufour of Le Bal, and the pairings of images seem perfect and add to the appreciation of the work. The simple titles are printed by hand, making it feel like a very personal photo album of stunningly unique images.

Here is the excellent introduction that accompanied the exhibition:

Mark Cohen was born in 1943 in Wilkes-Barre, a small Pennsylvania mining town. A figure of the street photography genre which dominated American photography in the early 1970s, he is also the inventor of a distinctive photographic language, marked by a fleeting arrangement of lines and, at the same time, an instinctive grasp of the organic, sculptural quality of forms. Two photographs hang opposite each other in his studio: one from Henri Cartier-Bresson's surrealist period and another by Aaron Siskind. The elegant geometry of one and the dry plenitude of the other transpire in the work of Mark Cohen, which John Szarkowski showed at the MoMA as of 1973.

Over the past 40 years Mark Cohen has walked the length and breadth of the streets in and around his hometown, seizing - or rather extracting - fragments of gestures, postures and bodies. In his photos we see headless torsos, smiling children, willing subjects yet still frighteningly vulnerable, thinly sketched limbs and coats worn like protective cloaks. Thus Mark Cohen slices and sculpts the very thick of the world to impose, in successive touches, a Kafkaesque vision, ruthless and poetic, of an environment that encompasses him. A vision from within.

This remarkable body of work - Cohen rarely uses the viewfinder, holding the camera at arm's length - is rooted in impulsions that last just fractions of a second. A disconcerting strangeness emanates from his subjects, some caught in the dazzle of the flash. Bodies seem uncomfortable, threatened, lost, grinning too wildly or reduced to their erotic dimension. Ordinary objects appear isolated, mysterious, sinister. The decline of this small mining town is right there, in its yards, at its bus stops, on its porches, but Mark Cohen's intentions are anything but documentary. Repetitive to the verge of obsession, he has no idea what brought him there or what he hopes to find. Rather he is driven by the beauty of a chance encounter, by the torments or delights he detects in another's substance.

There is, in the brutality of his gaze, a rawness and a nervous energy, an ambivalence and a grace through which the making of a photo becomes the expression of a revelation.

If you treat yourself to just one photobook this season, this is my personal recommendation.

— Jim Casper

To view Casper's other selections please click here.

Wayne Lawrence Selected in Best of Miami by V Magazine

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We are proud to share that V Magazine has selected Wayne Lawrence's Cinnamon, on view at the ROSEGALLERY booth at PULSE Miami, as a fair highlight in their latest Miami dispatch.

To read the article, please click here.

John Chiara Honored by his Alma Mater CCA

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For Bay Area native John Chiara (MFA 2004), who is preparing to create a series of photographs in and of New York, swapping the Bay Area for the Big Apple presents a few challenges.

The issue is not at all about tackling New York's art scene; having had 2013 shows at Pier 24 Photography and the de Young in San Francisco, as well as at galleries in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Zurich, it's clear that he is already coming into focus for an increasing audience worldwide.

Take a virtual walk-through of the Pier 24 show with Chiara’s work »

Rather, New York will be a challenge in terms of the subject matter it offers up, given that until now Northern California has been such a looming presence in Chiara's work. The Bay Area infuses the photography of this San Francisco-born artist like the terroir of a vintage bottle of Saint-Emilion.

Working throughout the Bay Area, Chiara takes large photographs -- as big as 50 by 80 inches, to be specific -- using a massive, custom, hand-built camera that he transports on its own trailer.

Once he's selected a location, he situates and then physically enters the camera, placing positive color photographic paper on its back wall, then using his hands to burn and dodge the image by manipulating the light coming in the lens.

The paper is then developed by spinning the drum, which agitates chemicals over the photographic paper. The process often leaves irregularities on the picture, and each picture is necessarily one of a kind, since the process involves neither film nor negatives.

Given the painstaking, manual method, progress is steady and measured. Currently, he is having another camera built in preparation for his project in New York.

Watch a KQED Spark video feature on Chiara’s process »

John Chiara, “21st at Kansas,” 2004 50 x 63 in. Unique photograph on Cibachrome paper

Finding His Artist’s -- and Teacher’s -- Voice

After graduating from the University of Utah in 1995 with a BFA in photography, Chiara found it a challenge to support his artwork financially. He had a succession of jobs, from graphic design to substitute teaching (K-12), running a screenprinting business, and web development for real estate firms.

"When I graduated," he says, "there were two jobs I swore I'd never do: work in a Joe Schmo photography lab and teach high school." Not only has he served his time in a photo lab ("a real sweatshop," he laughs), but also he now teaches part-time at Jewish Community High School of the Bay in the Western Addition neighborhood of San Francisco.

“I love that school," he says. "It's one of the best places in the city. I teach photography and sculpture. There are seven or eight kids in each class, so I feel I can really have an effect."

Chiara credits his teaching skills to his mentors at CCA: Larry Sultan, Richard Misrach, and Susan Ciriclio.

"Susan gave me really practical advice: how to format a professional teaching résumé, how to develop a teaching philosophy. She also championed programs in which grads could co-teach, which hugely improved my ability to support myself."

Ciriclio played a part in Chiara's education even before he got to CCA. "I started applying in 1995, although I wasn't accepted until 2002," he recalls. "And even before I ever arrived, Susan was helping me. We talked about my process, about Cibachrome printing and drum processing. She gave me the technical information I needed to grow as a photographer."

Advice from Larry Sultan

Nearly a decade out from his MFA, as he starts to see wider success with his photography, Chiara continues to draw on advice he was given at CCA.

"This year I sold some work. It's the first time I've hired people. It's the first time I've made some money. And I remembered something Larry Sultan told me: 'When you make money from your art, invest right back into it.' So when I heard that the manufacturers of Ilfochrome paper were discontinuing it, I bought what I hope is a lifetime supply, plus a freezer to store the paper at minus-20 degrees. I'm definitely committed to working this way."

Sultan also played a critical role in Chiara's evolution as an artist. In 2003, his photography featured jagged elements on the surface of the paper. "There was a lot of psychological disruption to the image. I felt it was meaningful to the state I was in. It was a difficult time for me -- I was dealing with a lot of stuff, working too hard running my business.

"Larry recognized the sense of controlled chaos in my work, and told me the control had gone too far. My hands were in it too much. So I started to find elements in the landscape that would disrupt the field of view. I became more of a photographer.

"Larry Sultan was the most articulate, intuitive professor. Almost shamanistic, at times. He had hyper-intuition; he'd be looking at your work and get totally under the surface of it, and then articulate his reactions so clearly."

Bay Area Roots

Chiara was born in San Francisco and grew up in the hills near Concord and Walnut Creek. As a youth, he found himself drawn to early photographers of Northern California such as Carleton Watkins, who used an oversize camera and huge glass-plate negatives.

Chiara's work combines much of that sensibility with an appreciation for the imperfections of the medium: hazy light, uneven exposures.

This past year, Chiara's geographical focus opened up. Over six months he made a series of trips to Southern California, commissioned by Rose Shoshana of Rose Gallery in Santa Monica, and subsequently showed them at her gallery. "L.A. is fascinating," says Chiara. "And for my work, it wasn’t a stretch at all."

He has also spent time recently in a different kind of art hotspot: Clarksdale, Mississippi. "That idea came from Rose Shoshana too. I really trust her, and she told me, 'I think your work would really sparkle there.' She set the whole thing up. It was kind of magical. And incredibly hot! It's so different because it's flat farmland. And it's all green. Everything's green."

Upcoming Solo Show

Wherever he sets his lens, from Contra Costa County to Clarksdale, from the East Bay to the East Coast, John Chiara continues to develop. You can see his work here in San Francisco in his upcoming March 2014 solo show at Haines Gallery.

Please click here to be directed to the CCA website.

Wayne Lawrence's 'Orchard Beach: Bronx Riviera' Reviewed in ASX

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Orchard Beach: The Bronx Riviera By Peter Baker, for ASX, November 2013

In Robert Caro’s Pulitzer Prize winning classic The Power Broker: Robert Moses and The Fall of New York (Vintage Books 1974) he describes Orchard Beach, a 1.1 mile stretch of sand that Moses himself had imported to the Bronx from Sandy Hook and Rockaway, as resting “here, in New York’s northeastern corner, so far from any built-up areas in 1934 that visitors could hardly believe they were still within the borders of America’s largest city.” Eighty years later we’ve seen the Bronx built-up, burnt down, abandoned, and later reclaimed, by an array of immigrants and a new generation born in the only borough on the American mainland. And yet, as a native Bronxite myself, I’m willing to bet the vast majority of New Yorkers, certainly those living in Manhattan or Brooklyn today, would have the same reaction as those who visited Orchard Beach in 1934: We’re still in New York City?

Earlier this month, in what was the least suspenseful election in recent memory, Bill de Blasio was named the next mayor of Gotham. Suddenly his campaign slogan, which pleads that this is “A Tale of Two Cities,” the rich and everyone else, has become populist sentiment. Rest assured, the rich are always safe in their unambiguous category. It’s the everyone else that gets complicated, embodying a thousand shades of color and a multiplex of micro economies. As the city changes and gentrification implodes, its no secret that the habitable space of the city is shrinking for average families. One thing is certain for now: The Bronx belongs to the working people of New York. And for the 1.3 million who call the borough home, they take the Bx12 bus across the Pelham Parkway, or drive to the sprawling 8,000 car parking lot, and arrive at their cramped yet beloved Riviera at Orchard Beach.

The Bronx is now considered the most diverse area in the United States and the only borough of the city with a Latino majority. The beach’s popularity should come as no surprise considering the thousands of Bronxites who come from the islands and shores of the Caribbean. In his new book Orchard Beach: The Bronx Riviera, photographer Wayne Lawrence points his lens toward New Yorkers who flee the grid of sweltering streets for this modest but sacred summer haven on the Long Island Sound. Lawrence, who migrated to New York from the West Indies island of Saint Kitts, was drawn to the underdog status of the Bronx and sees the people at Orchard Beach as “children of survivors who went through that period in the Bronx and somehow made it.” Lawrence’s book serves as a kind of high quality, all-inclusive yearbook, representing the various denizens of Orchard. The subjects participate in the making of the portrait, in a straightforward style that brings to mind Avedon or Arbus. As for the pictures themselves, they succeed or fall flat based on the level of individuality expressed by the particular subject. The inevitable problem with this process of portrait making, i.e. asking a person to stand in front of a large format camera at eye length and stare into the lens, is an apparent passivity from the subject, as a result of simply doing what the photographer has asked them to do, which isn’t much. The hope is that somehow something profound will transmit from this exchange. The least effective pictures, however, merely look like the person is thinking about having their picture taken.

In such projects we hear about the photographer’s desire to convey the dignity of a people, an admirable gesture no doubt, and a familiar note in the history of photography. But, more often than not such amicable attempts wind up being reductive or sentimental. As Geoff Dyer writes of Dorothea Lange “[She] was all the time keen to discover and represent people’s dignity. As became the case with Paul Strand, the danger of this approach is that people can be reduced to their dignity.” In the strongest pictures, and there are many in Lawrence’s book, there is a kind of resistance and attitude from the individual, who while consenting to the photographer, still pushes back with a sense of self that overwhelms the process. In this case the most engaging pictures by far happen to be of women. We see the women of Wayne Lawrence’s Orchard Beach represented with more distinctiveness and intrigue. The beach of course prompts sexuality, but it’s the combination of toughness and vulnerability that makes the pictures of women memorable. Gestures and stances vary, and the viewer is invited to eye the details of the body, the fierce assortment of swimsuits and jewelry, tattoos that read like proverbs, and the multifarious shades of skin basking in the mixed light.

To read the article at ASX, please click here.

Mark Cohen Featured in Republican Herald

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Wilkes-Barre Photographer Has Gained International Recognition

By Nancy Honicker

When I was a kid living on Greenwood Hill in Pottsville, we staged a Tom Thumb wedding at the local playground. Everyone got involved, even the bullies, decked out in their Sunday best. We girls wore frilly dresses and plastic hair bands with veils attached. In the empty lot that was our playground, we lined up for photographs and a few days later, there we were, on display in The Pottsville Republican.

I still have that photo, I can still name the kids huddled around the bride, and, what strikes me is how dusty we were. Despite our finery, despite our efforts to look our best, our patent leather Mary Janes had lost their sheen and the boys' oxfords looked shabby and gray. It wasn't our fault. We had done our best, but the playground was no more than coal dirt and every step we took stirred up a cloud of dust.

Playing baseball, when we slid into base, we blackened our pants and sneakers. Wearing shorts, we darkened our bare knees. Blackened sneakers, dark knees, the stuff of summers spent on coal banks and coal dirt lots.

I've just been to a photography exhibit in Paris bearing that name - "Dark Knees." The photographer, a pioneer of street photography with an international reputation, is from Wilkes-Barre. His name is Mark Cohen and for more than 50 years, night after night, after days spent in a commercial photography studio, he has tracked pictures, an affair of choice and chance, in the streets of Wilkes-Barre, Scranton and towns in between.

I did not know Mark Cohen's work and I discovered him listening to the radio, listening to an announcer struggle in French with the pronunciation of "Wilkes-Barre," as I asked myself if he was really talking about the Wilkes-Barre I know.

Listening more closely, I learned that a photographer from that town was showing his work at "Le Bal," an exhibition space in Paris devoted to photography. Checking out the information on the web, I promptly got on the metro and went to see the show.

There, against blood-red walls, I discovered a continuous line of 16-by-20 photographs, mostly black and white, traveling across the four walls of a large underground exhibition space. I did not discover Wilkes-Barre or the coal region: no breakers, no strip mines, no deserted downtown that had once seen better days. There was nothing that deliberately drew attention to a specific time or place. There weren't even people, at least not people posing, composed faces, bodies shot from head to toe.

From Dark Knees

Instead, there are fragments: a coat collar, a pearled eyeglass chain, a chin, a brooch, two calves wrapped in rayon knee socks, two feet wearing leather buckle shoes. Sometimes there is only a forehead, a hairline, bodies without head or feet, hands folded in the lap of a girl wearing cut-off jeans, a bare bony torso, dark knees against a background of vacant lots and clapboard houses, with a stairway leading to paradise…

There are also still lifes: the tops of unlaced boots, a string of outdoor lights, tomatoes ripening on an old wooden table in somebody's backyard.

These fragments, these photos, often beautiful and shot through with a disturbing grace, are not restful. Cohen's exhibition is not restful. Truncated bodies, defiant or frightened eyes, a fist slammed against a car window with the photographer inside, connote aggression and this notion is inherent to his technique and work.

Cohen has defined himself as a "trigger-happy gunslinger" and he has called his way of taking photos "grab shots."

Working for 35 years as a commercial photographer, when he closed shop each day, he began a second life, becoming a different person from the man "doing" weddings or annual reports.

At nightfall, he set out, a stalker of sorts, with three rolls of film, a lightweight camera and a flash, entering a world filled with pictures, out there waiting for him. What was necessary, as much as style and technique, was the courage to make the "grab."

Walking through the streets of Wilkes-Barre, Cohen, like a gunslinger, shot from the hip, camera in one hand, flash in the other. Constantly on the move but using a wide-angle lens, he had to get close to people, dangerously close at times, confronting raised fists, threats, insults and run-ins with the police. Approaching his subjects, according himself "artistic license" to burst into their lives, Cohen "flashed" them, grabbing the picture and then, just as quickly, merging back into the flow of street life.

Returning to his studio after having shot more than 100 photos, he might make no more than eight prints. In many of the shots, choice and accident did not mesh-or the picture he envisioned did not take off once he captured it within the rectangle that is his signature format, one he never crops.

The next night, he was back in the street, following instinct, believing chance, luck, fate, call it what you will, would deliver new treasures, fragments of himself as much as of the place where he anchored his work.

Night after night, Cohen forayed into the streets of Wilkes-Barre, fueled by a shot of adrenaline and the desire to delve deeper into himself.

Recognition and critical acclaim came early and in 1973, at age 30, the photographer had a one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Had he settled in the city, he might have become a star of the New York photography world. Instead, after a quick visit, Cohen got back in his car and drove home to Wilkes-Barre because he "felt like he wasn't done there."

Forty years later, the photographer moved to Philadelphia. It took a long time to wrap things up.

Cohen claims he could have just as well taken his photos in Elmira, N.Y., as in Wilkes-Barre. I'm not so sure. Too much coal dust, too much darkness, too much grace born of a violent, mystical marriage between a man and a place: the coal region of northeastern Pennsylvania, an intrinsic part of that self he mined for nearly 50 years.

Some readers may already know Cohen's work. Some may have seen his 2010 exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. There is also a book, "Grim Streets," published in 2005. But, except for a college show in the early '60s, there has never been an exhibit of his work on his home turf. Too close for comfort? I wish we could have a chance to tell.

To read the article in the Republican Herald, please click here.

William Eggleston Book Signing Featured in W Magazine Online

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William Eggleston At Zenith Signing at Gagosian NY

Although he is a man of remarkably few words, William Eggleston most resembles the gallant Southern rascal of his reputation when he is reclining, his legs scissored, a rapt audience before him—in other words, when it looks as if he is about to spin a great yarn. So the Memphis photographer sat, last week, before an expectant huddle of family members and advisors, in the private library of Gagosian Gallery’s Madison Avenue offices in New York. Upstairs in the gallery, “At Zenith,” a show of Eggleston’s photographs of the cerulean sky first taken during the late ’70s, but little seen since, had just been installed. (The exhibition opened on Saturday, October 25.) Easing into a sofa, Eggleston, 74, noted his pleasure at the way the pictures looked on the walls, but otherwise appeared very comfortable saying very little. A photographer of the everyday epiphany, Eggleston is also a master of the excruciatingly grand pause. At last, he announced, “I’ll see my great friend Ed Ruscha tonight.” Later that evening, Ruscha was to be honored at the Whitney Museum’s annual gala, where he singled out Eggleston for an unofficial “suave man award.” For Eggleston, that was something of a life achievement honor. His persona as a rakish Southern gentleman of enormous persuasion—on the art world, on photographers and filmmakers, on women throughout his life—was formed early on.

William Eggleston in Memphis.  CLICK HERE to view a video from the Eggleston opening at the Whitney Museum. William Eggleston in Memphis.

On this afternoon, Eggleston was dressed in a navy-blue suit, white shirt, gleaming black loafers, and an extra-wide striped prep tie that he’d flipped about his neck with nonchalant élan, like a scarf. His silvery hair was neatly slicked back. “If I was as dramatic-looking as Bill Eggleston,” Ruscha once remarked, “I’d probably do nothing but photograph myself.” Eggleston first turned his camera heaven-wards while driving under the big Southern sky, on a 1978 road trip from Georgia to Memphis with the music writer Stanley Booth. “I just looked out the window,” Eggleston said, pointing his index finger towards the ceiling, “and there it was!” Initially, he shot the passing clouds from the car with a Polaroid camera. “They looked like frescoes,” he said. The overhead shots he subsequently took with his Kodak while prone on the ground have the same painterly quality that made Eggleston’s color photography so pioneering early on. These cloud pictures were first collected in 1979 in Wedgwood Blue; the series has now been collected into a new volume from SteidlWilliam Eggleston: At Zenith. (Eggleston will be signing copies tonight at the Gagosian Shop.) The book is dedicated to John Szarkowski—the late MOMA curator who first exposed Eggleston’s radical work to an art world that had previously regarded color photography as a commercial vulgarity—and opens with a W.B. Yeats poem. Eggleston’s son Wlliam, arriving with a galley of the book, implored his father to read the passage aloud for his audience. “You have such a great voice, Dad.” Eggleston made a brief show of protest—his eyes are not so great, and he did not have his reading glasses on hand—but soon he picked up the book. He cleared his throat, and began: “‘Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths/Enwrought with golden and silver light …’” As he continued on, Eggleston’s previously matter-of-fact voice took on a roguish warmth, as if he were regaling an entire Memphis bar with a story he knew was bound to kill. “‘… I have spread my dreams under your feet/Tread softly because you tread on my dreams,’” he finished, his eyes crinkling, and the room broke into applause. To read the feature on W online, please click here.

Graciela Iturbide in Upcoming 'America Latina 1960-2013'

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AMERICA LATINA, 1960–2013

From November 19, 2013 to April 6, 2014, the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain will present América Latina 1960-2013, coproduced with the Museo Amparo in Puebla (Mexico). The exhibition will offer a new perspective on Latin American photography from 1960 to today, focusing on the relationship between text and the photographic image. Bringing together more than seventy artists from eleven different countries, it reveals the great diversity of photographic practices by presenting the work of documentary photographers as well as that of contemporary artists who appropriate the medium in different ways. This unique presentation will provide the visitor with the opportunity to delve into the history of the region and to rediscover the works of major artists rarely exhibited in Europe.

Latin America : a Fascinating Region Over centuries, Latin America has fascinated observers as much as it has mystified them; there is a sense of the exotic that derives perhaps from it having once been perceived as a “new world.” Today, while contemporary Latin American culture has received much attention, the historical circumstances surrounding its production are often less widely explored. The exhibition América Latina will cover the period from 1960 – the year following the Cuban revolution – to today. In many Latin American countries, this period has been marked by political and economic instability, and has seen a succession of revolutionary movements and repressive military regimes, the emergence of guerilla movements as well as transitions toward democracy. By exploring the interaction between text and image in the art of Latin America over the course of the last fifty years, the exhibition provides a vivid look into this tumultuous period of history through the eyes of the artists.

Photography and Text in a Shifting World During the era covered by the exhibition, when the climate of political upheaval required an urgent response, many Latin American artists increasingly sought to escape media specificity by bringing text and image together in their work. This new visual approach provided them with an effective tool for expressing themselves and communicating, as photography is a medium that rapidly and realistically records reality while text provides a way of expanding or altering the meaning of the image. Through these formalistic inventions the artists tried to portray the complexity and violence of the world around them and in some cases to sidestep censorship. In the 1980s the Chilean artist Eugenio Dittborn created ‘‘airmail paintings’’ which were folded up and sent all over the world, circumventing Chile’s cultural isolation under Pinochet. As for Miguel Rio Branco, a figurehead of Brazilian photography, he has depicted the underclass of a two-tiered society in a highly poetic manner.

ARTISTS Elías ADASME (Chili), Carlos ALTAMIRANO (Chili), Francis ALŸS (Mexique), Claudia ANDUJAR (Brésil), Antonio Manuel (Brésil), Ever ASTUDILLO (Colombie), Artur BARRIO (Brésil), Luz María BEDOYA (Pérou), Iñaki BONILLAS (Mexique), Oscar BONY (Argentine), Barbara BRÄNDLI (Venezuela), Marcelo BRODSKY (Argentine), Miguel CALDERÓN (Mexique), Johanna CALLE (Colombie), Luis CAMNITZER (Uruguay), Bill CARO (Pérou), Graciela CARNEVALE et le Grupo de Artistas de Vanguardia (Argentine), Fredi CASCO (Paraguay), Guillermo DEISLER (Chili), Eugenio DITTBORN (Chili), Juan Manuel ECHAVARRÍA (Colombie), Eduardo Rubén (Cuba), Felipe EHRENBERG (Mexique), Robert FANTOZZI (Pérou), León FERRARI (Argentine), José A. FIGUEROA (Cuba), Flavia GANDOLFO (Pérou), Carlos GARAICOA (Cuba), Paolo GASPARINI (Venezuela), Anna Bella GEIGER (Brésil), Carlos GINZBURG (Argentine), Daniel GONZÁLEZ (Venezuela), Jonathan HERNÁNDEZ (Mexique), Graciela ITURBIDE (Mexique), Guillermo IUSO (Argentine), Alejandro JODOROWSKY (Chili), Claudia JOSKOWICZ (Bolivie), Marcos KURTYCZ (Mexique), Suwon LEE (Venezuela), Adriana LESTIDO (Argentine),Marcos LÓPEZ (Argentine), Pablo LÓPEZ LUZ (Mexique), Rosario LÓPEZ PARRA (Colombie), LOST ART (Brésil), Jorge MACCHI (Argentine), Teresa MARGOLLES (Mexique), Agustín MARTÍNEZ CASTRO (Mexique), Marcelo MONTECINO (Chili), Oscar MUÑOZ (Colombie), Helio OITICICA (Brésil), Damián ORTEGA (Mexique), Pablo ORTIZ MONASTERIO (Mexique), Leticia PARENTE (Brésil), Luis PAZOS (Chili), Claudio PERNA (Venezuela), Rosângela RENNÓ (Brésil), Miguel RIO BRANCO (Brésil), Herbert RODRÍGUEZ (Pérou), Juan Carlos ROMERO (Argentine), Lotty ROSENFELD (Chili), Graciela SACCO (Argentine), Maruch SÁNTIZ GÓMEZ (Mexique), Vladimir SERSA (Venezuela), Regina SILVEIRA (Brésil), Milagros DE LA TORRE (Pérou), Susana TORRES (Pérou), Sergio TRUJILLO DÁVILA (Colombie), Jorge VALL (Venezuela), Leonora VICUÑA (Chili), Eduardo VILLANES (Pérou), Luiz ZERBINI (Brésil), Facundo DE ZUIVIRÍA (Argentine)

To read more about this exhibition, please click here.

Mark Cohen 'Dark Knees' in The Guardian

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Mark Cohen: The Photographer Who Literally Shoots from the Hip

"If you have your camera up to your eye, you can't keep track of what's going on," says photographer Mark Cohen. "By holding my camera down here" – he gestures to his waist – "I can suddenly take pictures." Cohen has a peculiar style of shooting: he does it secretly, and always at hip level. Working like a sniper, he gets close, snaps low, then moves away before anyone has the chance to bristle. "There's no conversation," he says. "I'm not interested in having to explain myself. I'm just using people on the street in the most transitory way."

Cohen has been pursuing scrappy street photography in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, for 55 years, ever since he received a plastic camera at the age of 13. "I don't take my camera everywhere," he says. "I go for designated walks where I'm just taking pictures." A selection of images, culled from his years of walking around the industrial town, is now on display with Dark Knees, an exhibition at LE BAL in Paris, and available as a photobook.

Cohen likes to keep his wits about him while he walks, and finds that holding the camera low allows him to be extra watchful for antagonists. But his furtive shooting technique has always been laced with danger. One of his images is of a man, angered by the invasion of his personal space, swinging a punch at Cohen (Man Flinching, 1969). "That type of interaction took a psychological toll over the years," he says. "I made a lot of nifty pictures by being that close to people. But after a while, I went to a wider lens. 28mm. Then 35mm. Now I'm at 50mm, so I feel very safe."

But isn't getting audaciously close, almost predatory, integral to his work? "The trespass makes it happen, yes," he says. "When you're trying to make a new object, you've got to make something happen. And you learn to read people's reactions quickly." After all these years, honing in on details to find images has become automatic. "Here's a wonderful button – I love to see the buttons come out," he says, examining his silver print of a lady's coat. Or, of Seedpod in the Snow (1978), he comments that the orderly row of kernels "look like they're on a bus". The titles of the images – Wisp of Hair, Red Bow/Bare Back,Shirtless Boy with Chain – emphasise his powerful fixations.

For years, Cohen's approach was to shoot three rolls of film over a two-hour walk, develop the rolls directly, have dinner, then go back to the darkroom, develop eight to nine prints directly from the negatives, and cast aside the rest. Cohen did this several times a week for decades. He estimates he has 600,000-800,000 images that he's never seen or developed, not even on contact sheets.

"It's something I've never encountered before," marvels Diane Dufour, the curator of the LE BAL show. "And it's something I have trouble understanding. It's almost vertiginous to think of the number of photos we could have selected just from the negatives Mark has never seen." Cohen has recently revisited some of his overlooked images. He's even compiled a dummy book of rediscovered pictures, tentatively called No Contact No Print, which is how he classifies the forsaken negatives.

The 1970s were a notable era for Cohen. His photos were showcased in an expo at MoMA in 1973 under John Szarkowski, and he regularly showed new work at galleries, though he always retreated back to Wilkes-Barre. Removing himself from the New York scene gave him a "purity", he says, by virtue of "not having a personality so involved in the dissemination of work". But by his own admission, he "dropped out" in the late 80s.

"Gallerists couldn't sell my stuff," he says matter-of-factly. "My work's not the most optimistic. It's not like Yosemite." The framing is unexpected and the subjects sometimes gritty. Cohen often photographed the poorer neighbourhoods in his area because they were "more exposed": children playing outside, people lingering in the streets. "This guy's teeth are so terrible," he says, looking at the craggy, not-so-pearly-whites inLaughing Man's Teeth (1976). "This", he says,"is not right for someone's living room". Though gallery interest waned, it didn't put a dint in his productivity.

He moved to Philadelphia six months ago, and is still acclimatising to living in a metropolitan space for the first time. But he still operates in exactly the same way, going on single-minded photographic missions: "I get on a trolley and go to a specific intersection. I like to go to the same one 10 times, so I understand the texture of the neighbourhood," he says. As for Wilkes-Barre, he sees no need to dwell on it any more: "The slice of America I've been looking at is everywhere."

To visit The Guardian website and read the article in its entirety, please click here.

ROSEGALLERY will be exhibiting classic works by Mark Cohen in Booth C9 at Paris Photo 2013.

Wayne Lawrence at the 5th Annual FLAG Group Exhibition

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ROSEGALLERY is pleased to be working with photographer Wayne Lawrence, who is part of the 5th Annual FLAG Art Fair in Brooklyn, NY. Lawrence's work will be on view from October 5 through December 14. Lawrence, who is included in the 'emerging artists' group show, has a dedicated floor of his work curated by Awol FLAG Art Foundation celebrates its 5th anniversary this fall with two exhibitions Cecily Brown, Untitled (Blood Thicker than Mud), 2012. Oil on linen, 109 x 171 inches. Photo ©Cecily Brown. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photograph by Robert McKeever. Share on facebook Share on twitter Share on email Share on print Share on gmail More Sharing Services 4 NEW YORK, NY.- The FLAG Art Foundation celebrates its 5th anniversary this fall. To commemorate this milestone, the 9th floor features a 5th Anniversary Group Exhibition and on the 10th floor, Images of Venus from Wayne Lawrence’s Orchard Beach: The Bronx Riviera curated by Awol Erizku. Both exhibitions are on view October 5 through December 14. FLAG has organized 30 exhibitions since it opened to the public in 2008. FLAG would like to thank the curators and artists for their participation. Their vision and talent have been invaluable and has impacted thousands of viewers. FLAG remains committed to its mission to encourage the appreciation of contemporary art among a diverse audience. Through the duration of the exhibitions, FLAG will host a series of salon events to thank FLAG's supporters and welcome new viewers. In the spirit of FLAG’s focus on collaboration, the events will intersect art with performance, fashion, food, and more. 9th floor The 5th Anniversary Group Exhibition includes 15 emerging and established artists, the majority of whom have previously shown at FLAG. Cecily Brown • Marc Dennis • Ellen Gallagher • Jane Hammond • Nir Hod • Jim Hodges • Wayne Lawrence • Josephine Meckseper • Julie Mehretu • Chris Ofili • Ged Quinn • Charles Ray • Gerhard Richter • Jeff Sonhouse • Mathew Weir 10th floor Identifying and promoting emerging talent is core to FLAG's program.

FLAG presents Images of Venus from Wayne Lawrence's Orchard Beach: The Bronx Riviera curated by artist Awol Erizku. Awol exhibited in FLAG's 2011 Art² and 2013 personal, political, mysterious exhibitions. The Orchard Beach series resonates with Awol's approach to portraiture. When discussing Wayne's work, Awol notes it quotes both photography and painting and that it both engages and leaves the spectator wanting to see more. The images are subtle yet confrontational; this aspect of the artist's image making enables him to navigate two complementary axes-as a form of documentation and as a reference to classical portraiture.

"Originally from St. Kitts, West Indies, I immigrated to the United States almost 20 years ago, settling in Los Angeles, California, where I worked as a commercial carpenter for five years. In my mid-twenties, while searching for new direction in my life, I discovered the autobiography of Gordon Parks, A Choice of Weapons, along with the work of Richard Avedon and Eli Reed at the local library. As an immigrant searching for my place within American society, I immediately identified parallels within Parks' life story and my own journey. The inherent emotion in Reed and Avedon's work was palpable, and I felt immediately that I, too, could master this new language of photography. For the first time I was faced with imagery that dealt with the human condition, and I committed to use photography as a tool for my own personal education and to confront long-standing ideas about race and class. In 2002, while continuing my pursuit of photographic education in California, I received news that my older brother, David, had been murdered back home in St. Kitts. This tragedy marked a major turning point in my journey, and photography became an integral part of my healing process. With the realization that my life's work, my survival, would require a heightened level of personal engagement, I gave up the isolation I had always felt in Los Angeles and relocated to the bustling streets and diverse culture of New York City. With a new sense of purpose, over the next six years I began focusing my lens on the only beach in New York's Bronx, Orchard Beach. Although the Bronx is considered one of the most diverse communities in America, its image has been largely defined by the urban blight that the city endured during the late 1960's through the 1980's when arson, drug addiction, and social neglect decimated many of its neighborhoods. Built in the 1930's, Orchard Beach, or 'Chocha Beach' as it is commonly known, remains an oasis for generations of Bronx families but is stigmatized as one of the worst beaches in New York. My personal experience of Orchard Beach, however, has been one of the most fulfilling of my life, and I have strived over many years to create an honorable representation of the community there. Orchard Beach consists of portraits of proud men and women with audacious attitude, loving couples, and families at play. In this work I am interested in challenging the stereotypes associated with working-class people by highlighting themes of community, cultural pride and the individuals' quest for identity." - Wayne Lawrence

More Information: http://artdaily.com/news/65560/FLAG-Art-Foundation-celebrates-its-5th-anniversary-this-fall-with-two-exhibitions#.Ul7VPmRMUhp[/url] Copyright © artdaily.org

Martin Parr 'The Non-Conformists' on TIME LightBox

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We are pleased to announce that we will be showing selections from 'The Non-Conformists' at Paris Photo this year. We hope you can join us and see this fantastic work in person! Not going to be in Paris? Visit TIME LightBox to view some a slideshow of selected works from this series. To purchase a copy of The Non-Conformists, click here.

“In the 70s, in Britain, if you were going to do serious photography, you were obliged to work in black-and-white,” master photographer Martin Parr tells TIME. “Color was the palette of commercial photography and snapshot photography.”

“It’s only late in the decade that we began to see color photographers being shown in museums — like Eggleston and Stephen Shore,” he adds. “I took note of that and got excited.”

A few years later, in 1982, Parr made the switch from monochrome and never went back. To the many fans who have come to know his work over the last three decades in color, it may come as a surprise encountering Parr’s first major project in black-and-white. The Non-Conformists finally finds closure over 35 years after it was started with the publication this month of his latest monograph from Aperture.

It was 1975, and two years out of art school, Parr moved from the gritty, bustling city of Manchester to a picturesque mill town in the English countryside called Hebden Bridge. There, he found a traditional way of life in decline. Factories were closing, industry was leaving and the town was gentrifying. A new community was emerging made up of  “incomers — youthful artistic refugees… in search of alternative lifestyles and cheap housing,” Parr’s wife Susie writes in her introduction to the book.

With four other artists, he opened up a storefront workshop and darkroom in the middle of town. Equipped with a Leica and a single lens, he took to the streets and began one of his earliest extended photographic studies.

“Places change all the time and the type of people who live there change. I was not so much looking at the new incomers,” of which he was a part, “but at the traditional lifestyle there.”

He would wander around, attend events listed in the local paper, and on Sundays, go to services at the Non-Conformist churches which were all over town. In these chapels, which had historically distanced themselves from the rules of the Church of England, he and his wife, who had been working on an accompanying text for his pictures, found the focus for the body of work.

“There’s a certain independent spirit these Non-Conformists have, which not only gave the chapels their names,” — like the Mount Zion Strict and Particular Baptist Chapel — “but was also very emblematic of the fading attitude of the whole place,” he says.

Parr’s photographs in which he aimed to capture that attitude reveal a greatly skilled young documentary photographer with a keen eye for British quirk, anticipating the tremendously poignant sense of humor for which he has become known. There is great wit in these images, but it’s more subtle and less sardonic than his later saturated color work; it seems above all, affectionate.

“Black-and-white is certainly more nostalgic, by nature,” he says. “My black-and-white work is more of a celebration and the color work became more of a critique of society.”

Parr and his wife, whom he had married in Hebden Bridge, became very active in the community during their documentation, if at first only to gain trust and access. Some church members mistook their interest as one in keeping the chapel life going in the future.  The documentation came to an end, however, and the Parrs moved on. By the late 90s, most of the chapels had closed and the communities disappeared. Hebden Bridge today, “sandblasted and quaint,” his wife writes, “is a lesbian stronghold and a lively commuter town to professionals working in Leeds, Bradford and Manchester.”

“We did this photographic documentation and that’s all that’s left,” Parr says. “Virtually everyone in the photographs is dead now. It was just another era. But that’s the great thing about photographs; they’re there forever.”


Martin Parr is a British documentary photographer, photojournalist and photobook collector. The Non-Conformists is available through Aperture from October 2013. The work will also be on view at Media Space in London through March 16, 2014. Read more: http://lightbox.time.com/2013/10/21/the-non-conformists-martin-parrs-early-work-in-black-and-white/#ixzz2iUBJNHSX