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The Paris Review Daily: Christian Patterson Interview

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Object Lessons: A Conversation with Christian Patterson

June 24, 2013 | by 

Sissy Spacek in Badlands, 1973. By permission of Criterion Collection.

Lovers on the run tend to travel light. Generally speaking, in our collective imagination, accoutrements tend to be limited to car (probably stolen), gun (also stolen), clothes on their backs. Yet Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate (captured in 1958 after a violent shooting spree in Nebraska and Wyoming that left eleven dead) become legend in part by leaving behind a physical trail. Of the multiple films inspired by the Starkweather-Fugate killings, Terrence Malick’s 1973 Badlands (newly released by the Criterion Collection), is the one that—even as it takes dramatic liberties—most explicitly focuses on these tangible objects. Kit and Holly (Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek) cart along a birdcage, a copy of Kon-Tiki, and a Maxfield Parrish painting; the film’s art director, Jack Fisk, filled one character’s house with $100 worth of random pieces—a jar of black widows, a giant ball of twine—he’d bought from the relatives of a dead man. Just prior to their capture, Kit buries a few of their belongings, described in deadpan voice-over: “He said no one else would know where we put ’em, and that we’d come back some day, maybe, and they’d still be sitting here just the same, but we’d be different, and if we never got back, well, somebody might dig ’em up a thousand years from now and wouldn’t they wonder.”

Nearly forty years later, Christian Patterson’s 2011 book of photographs, Redheaded Peckerwood, continues down a similar path. Already in its third edition, with a thoughtful introduction by Luc Sante and curator Karen Irvine, Patterson’s is a work that defies the easy definition of photo book, approaching as it does the Starkweather narrative from a number of vantage points: newspaper clippings, interviews, ephemera. The photographs of bits of evidence, or of things belonging to the killers and victim—a hood ornament from the getaway car, the teenage Fugate’s stuffed toy poodle—have the aura of a saint’s relics. Tucked into the binding of the book are more souvenirs, reproductions of documents related to Starkweather (a store receipt with a poem printed on its reverse side; a typed list of dirty aphorisms). Even those things that are not directly related to Starkweather and Fugate take on the air of authenticity; the effect of seeing all these effects, in the context of the photographer’s present-day mapping of their journey, is transcendent and shocking, the objects themselves acting as witnesses.

What struck you most about Badlands when you first saw the film?

I was taken with the film in every way. Visually, it was just so damn beautiful, with its big, painterly skies and endless, romantic landscapes. And thematically, well … it was one hell of a crazy story. Sheen and Spacek were great too. It’s a great film.

What were some of the first pictures you made that appear in the book? And when you arrived in Nebraska, what were some of your early impressions?

House at Night and Ray of Light stand out in my mind. The former is the first of my photographs that appears in Redheaded Peckerwood and the latter is one of the last.

This story is quite well documented, and parts of it are well preserved in these various archives. But after all of my research, I felt that there was still plenty of room for me to step into this story, to attempt to reconstruct, then deconstruct, and ultimately fragment it. A new vision for the work began to form in my head—the idea of presenting this true crime story through a mix of photographs, documents, and objects, challenging the viewer to sift through the information, to decipher the visual clues—to deal with the crime story in a similar way an investigator or researcher would.

House at Night, 2007

How did those you approached in the course of your research respond?

The Starkweather-Fugate story is one of the biggest news stories in the history of Nebraska. There, the story is one of those events like the Kennedy assassination—anyone who was alive at the time remembers exactly what they were doing when the story first broke, and they remember that week of terror very clearly. Lincoln, Nebraska, is a relatively small city and Nebraska is a sparsely populated state.

For all of these reasons, it’s not hard to find people who have very personal connections to the story—family members of the killers and their victims, people who worked for the newspaper or police department, or who were somehow involved in the eventual trial. There’s still a lot of raw emotion surrounding the story. Some people are very eager to share their stories. Other people just want it all to go away.

I was also able to find people in the possession of various personal objects outside official archives—photo booth portraits of Caril Ann, Charlie’s cowboy boots, and even the car they drove as they fled Lincoln for Washington State, among other things. The people who now own these things were initially cautious about sharing them, but once I was able to explain my intentions, they shared them enthusiastically.

Map of Lincoln (Erased), 2010

Objects related to killers, whether actual evidence or simply things they touched, weirdly take on the quality of relics, and they certainly do inBadlands, from the things Kit and Holly carry with them on their journey to the comb and lighter that Kit, in his moment of celebrity, gives away like party favors or souvenirs to the officers after his capture. In your book, without pointing out what is “authentic” and what is not, you depict both actual ephemera and places related to Fugate and Starkweather, as well as things that look like they might have been theirs, or touched by them. What was your thinking behind the ephemera you chose to photograph and that which you include, in reproduction form, in the book?

As I said, I researched the story intensely. I read every book I could get my hands on and took note of anything of interest or potential. I began with factual information—dates, times, and places of the crimes, and every other known location involved in the story. But I also included many random ideas—long lists of visual ideas, objects, random words and phrases, anything that painted a picture in my mind.

Two of my favorite scenes in Badlands involve the objects that Kit and Holly carry with them—the scene where they bury a metal bucket containing some of these things and launch a red balloon, and the scene towards the end of the film when Kit is on the run alone, stops at a gas station and opens up a suitcase from the car. We catch a glimpse of clothes, cigarettes, and a magnifying glass.

My friend Luc Sante says murder charges everything it touches, and he’s right. I’m fascinated with the idea of the object as relic or talisman—an object taking on significance as a result of something other than itself.

Click here to read the entire interview.

Text courtesy of the Paris Review Daily.

Aperture: Interview

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May 28th, 2013

Interview with Hans Gremmen, designer of Rinko Kawauchi’s Ametsuchi

On the occasion of the release of Japanese photographer Rinko Kawauchi’s new book, Ametsuchi, Aperture Foundation associate editor Brian Sholis spoke with Hans Gremmen, the book’s designer.

Rinko Kawauchi on press at Mart.Spruijt in The Netherlands.

Brian Sholis: You’ve worked on many photobooks, several of which deal with landscapes. Was this your first time working with a Japanese photographer? What was unique about your working relationship with Rinko Kawauchi?

Hans Gremmen: Many of the books I work on as a designer and/or editor indeed deal with the topic of the landscape. Almost always the artist approaches the landscape in a conceptual way. For instance, Cette Montagne, C’est Moi, by Witho Worms, is about the influence of the mine industry on the landscape, but it is also about photography itself, and the book is also about printing and poetry. When things come together in the right way, a publication can be about so much more thn its one ostensible topic.

This is also the case with Rinko Kawauchi’s Ametsuchi. It is a project about the changing landscape, religion, and circles of life and memory, butAmetsuchi is also very much about Rinko herself, and her relation to the medium of photography. The book itself—the way it is printed and bound—asks questions about the medium of the book, and how people tend to use them.

Rinko and Aperture publisher Lesley Martin challenged me to come up with design ideas that could make this a unique project. It was indeed my first collaboration with a Japanese photographer. But that is a great thing about photography: it tells stories, but does not speak a specific language.

BJS: Can you describe some of the “questions” you’ve asked about the medium of the book? What unusual printing and binding techniques will people discover when they encounter this book? And how do those techniques relate to Kawauchi’s photographs?

HG: The book is bound in a variation of Japanse binding. In regular Japanese binding you fold the paper in such a way that the sides are closed. In this book the closed side has moved to the top of the page; the sides and bottom are open. This results in a book that has an “parallel world” on the inside of the pages, in which some images are printed in inverted colors. By inverting the images the existential and poetic nature of Kawauchi’s work is enlarged: fire turns into water, night turns into day.

Reproductions from the book on press at Mart.Spruijt in The Netherlands.

BJS: In another interview you have spoken about how every design decision regarding a photobook should serve the photographs within it. The variation on Japanese binding is a bold, easily legible decision. Ametsuchi is also taller and narrower than many photobooks. What other, subtler design decisions characterize this project?

HG: The size of the book is very practical: it is the maximum size you can get out a sheet of paper with this way of binding. I could go a bit bigger, but that would have limited me in the choice of paper. I wanted to avoid that limitation because the paper is a very important factor in binding the book. The paper needed to be flexible (read: “thin”), but the opacity should also be high. Otherwise the inverted images would interfere too much with the images on the other side of the paper. We made tests with and without images printed on the back, to see what the effect on the photographs would be; and with the paper we ultimately chose, there was no effect.

The endpapers and dustjacket are printed on a special paper as well; a paper which is rough on one side, smooth on the other. The design of this book looks for opposites—on various levels. This reflects in the choice of paper, in the way the images are inverted, but also in typography. On the book’s case, the artist’s name is printed upside down.

The design of this book also refers to a cycle. The book begins and ends Rinko’s name, which appears on both “ends” fo the dust jacket, and the title of the book likewise appears on the first and last pages of the book. Also the image on the endpapers repeats, as does the typography on the case. For this book I sought to make its major themes visible not only in the standout decisions, but also its many small details.

Text and images courtesy of Aperture.

Christian Patterson: Conscientious Extended

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A Conversation with Christian Patterson

Joerge Colberg

Christian Patterson, House on Fire, from Redheaded Peckerwood

Christian Patterson’s Redheaded Peckerwood made it onto so many “best of 2011” lists that it was by far the most popular book last year. A body of amazing depth and sophistication, it is a shining example of what the contemporary photobook can do. There now is a second edition, and I used the occasion to talk with Christian about the book.

Jörg Colberg: How did you first hear of the story of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate? And I’m curious about how you decided to approach the story photographically? How does one go about something like that?

Christian Patterson: Several years ago, I went to a movie theater and saw Terrance Malick’s film “Badlands.” I was taken by the film — its plot, its score, and most of all its cinematography. The film starred a very young Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek, and they portrayed Kit and Holly, a dumb, young couple who thought they were in love. In the film, Kit kills Holly’s father, they set out on the road and he kills several other people as they try to run away. It was a crazy story; beautiful, eerie, romantic and tragic.

I researched the film and discovered that Malick’s script was loosely based on the true story of Charles Starkweather, a 19-year-old boy from Lincoln, Nebraska who killed his 14-year-old girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate’s mother, step-father and baby step-sister in January 1958. The couple then drove across Nebraska, and Starkweather killed seven more people before they were captured as they approached the mountains of Wyoming. I was surprised to learn about this true story that was more prolific, tragic and strange than Malick’s more romanticized film version.

I then researched the story intensely. I read every book I could get my hands on made note of anything of interest. I began with factual information — the dates, times, places and circumstances of the murders. I also made long lists of visual ideas, random words and phrases. I should mention that I posted excerpts of these lists on my website, along with various scouting photographs and outtakes from the project. I thought it would be interesting to share this information, not only as a look into my process, but as a way of inviting viewers to enter the process and decipher some of these enigmatic clues themselves. If viewers read these lists and look at the work, they will find there are connections to be made. The information can be still found here.

I made my first foray into Nebraska in January 2005, during the same time of year when the murders took place. The spree included events in and around Lincoln, and in a few small towns and roadside locations between Lincoln and Douglas, Wyoming, where the couple was eventually captured. I began by using the story as a roadmap — I traced it 500 miles west and retraced it 500 miles east. I ultimately did this five times, during five successive very cold, harsh Januaries, usually working in the field between seven and ten days each year.

In addition to working as a photographer, I had to work as a detective. I searched for traces of the past in the present — places and things of significance to the story; evidence of these events that remained out there in the world. I found things that I never imagined I would find; I even discovered personal belongings and pieces of evidence that were never recovered by the detectives who originally worked the case. All of this came as quite a surprise, and a strange thrill. But still, there was a lot of the story that no longer remained, and it became apparent that I would not be able to simply travel from the scene of one crime to another and document what was there, nearly 50 years later. The project would involve much more than simply connecting the dots; I needed to find a new way of working with this material, conceptually.

Before I finished my first trip and returned home, I visited the archives of the Lincoln Journal Star, the local newspaper that originally covered the story. There, I not only found old newspapers; I also found press releases, news alerts, original press and police photographs and courtroom sketches. I also visited the Nebraska State Historical Society, where some of the physical evidence remains in storage. There, I flipped through Caril Ann Fugate’s photo diary and the contents of one of the victim’s wallets. I also saw crime scene photographs and held the murder weapons. Encountering this material gave me chills, and I began to see how it could complement and inform my photographs.

Digging into the archive was like falling down a rabbit hole; it opened up all possibility, in my mind. I saw how all of these different visual materials worked together to tell a story, and how they related back to what I was doing. It didn’t matter that these things were produced by different sources in different formats or different times. I let go of the old way of thinking about photographic documentation, truth and representation. Suddenly it all looked fluid; everything became the archive, everything became documentation. The only thing that mattered was telling a story visually, using my research and calling on my imagination as needed. Doing this with a well-known, pre-existing true crime story was unusual, I suppose.

JC: There seems to be a lot of hand wringing about the state of photography, about its ability or inability to depict what people like to call reality. Of course, I have no idea to what extent you had that in mind, but I’m curious about this - how did this enter your picture making, and the way you combined these images into Redheaded Peckerwood?

CP: In order to make this work, I had to abandon traditional notions of photographic documentation, truth and representation. Photography has never been reality and it never will be. It’s a two-dimensional representation of reality, ripped off from the real world. It’s not that I’m not interested in reality, or depicting that which exists in reality; it’s just that I’m much more interested in images and ideas. As far as Redheaded Peckerwood is concerned, I think the phrase I used earlier — “after the fact” — has some additional meaning here. All photography is “after the fact.” Other people hold onto the creaky, dusty notion of photographs as some sort of reality; this only increases the potential for complexity through the many different possible readings of work that challenges or contradicts this restrictive perception of what a photograph is or what it can do. I consider this a wonderful gift to me as an artist, or any artist making work that disregards this concern with the real.

JC: I’d like to talk about this a bit more, because I find this very fascinating. I’ve always been a bit puzzled by people’s insistence that photography presents the truth or reality. This does depend a bit on context, of course. In some contexts, photography might indeed represent a facet of reality just big enough to do the job (think of a crime-scene photograph or your passport picture). But in most contexts, a photograph tends to represent all kinds of realities, first and foremost the one the viewer wants to or prefers to see. I understand why that might have some people flustered, but if you think about it it’s such an enormous gift, because it means that photography not only can easily be the most amazing art form, photography also is easily usable: It offers itself to be used.

In your book you seem to be playing with this, by throwing together all this photographic material that, I’m sure, will confuse and maybe even annoy someone expecting the truth (or maybe it’ll be just one big puzzle). I’m curious how you approached this, because depending on how willing you were to grant some photographs the ability to show some sort of truth, while being playful with others, that would determine how you could use them as material. It must be much more fun to play with all the options available if you know how people might react, how people might be rubbed a certain way?

CP: I think this goes back to what I said about fluidity and telling a story visually using imagination. My two primary concerns were telling a story, and doing so visually, utilizing whatever means necessary. As I made this work, I continually consulted and revised my lists of visual ideas, and I allowed my ideas to come from anywhere, as long as they related in some way to some version of the story — even if it was a version that only existed in my own head. The ideas could be based on reported facts from books, newspapers, interviews or court transcripts; from highly interpretive literary or cinematic accounts, or based purely on my own imagination, which of course was also completely interpretive.

In the early going, I held tightly to the story and strived to artfully document whatever places and things were of specific importance and relevance to the story. But there was only so much of this that could be done, and once these things were done, many narrative and visual holes remained in my personal vision for the story. This compelled me to embrace new approaches to telling my version of the story, utilizing whatever means and methods necessary. I didn’t just want to retell the story; I wanted to tell it anew.

I often say that Redheaded Peckerwood is a body of photographs, documents and objects that utilizes a true crime story as a spine. The story continually served as a source of inspiration and ideas, but what really excited me about my work was the expansion of my own artistic practice. Previous to this work, I had only worked as a photographer. And while photographs are the heart of this work, they are complemented and informed by the documents and objects that in many cases were touched by the hands of the killers and their victims. In addition, Redheaded Peckerwood employs a wide variety of photographic techniques and styles — black & white, both appropriated and original; contemporary color, forensic imagery, both real and recreated; work on location — landscapes and interiors; and staged still lifes in the studio.

As I continued my work, the story began to disintegrate, fragment and fall away. It never disappeared completely; it was always there, but its sole function was to serve as a source of raw material with which I could play. I became much more interested in the conceptual side of the work, my process and practice, which expanded beyond the documentary and into more actively interpretive, manipulative realms — appropriation, reenactment, staging, word paintings and even blasting holes in pieces of paper with a shotgun.

I suppose that I gave some consideration to how people might react; this experience pushed my buttons and pulled me in different directions, and I wanted my presentation of the work to do the same for the viewer. Making this work was a new experience for me; it brought a sense of adventure and even a sense of humor at times to the work — take for example the political limericks, the dirty jokes, or some of the titles for some of the work (“Three-Story Rat Trap,” “Shit from Shinola,” “Fruit Cake 98 Cents” and “Let’s All Go Out and Get a Steak”).

Ultimately, I wanted the work to act as a more complex, enigmatic visual crime dossier — a mixed collection of cryptic clues, random facts and fictions that the viewer had to deal with on their own, to some extent. A certain amount of mystery was essential. A little mystery goes a long way. It’s funny, because a certain amount of “unknowing” forces us to form our own interpretations and responses, to fill in the holes ourselves.

JC: There is also a fair amount of archival material in the book. How did you go about deciding what to include, how to mix archival photographs with your own?

CP: I should note that not everything in Redheaded Peckerwood is as it may seem — there are photographs, documents and objects that may appear to come either from the archive or from me when in fact the reverse is true. This is the exception more than the rule, but there are exceptions in all cases. And in all cases, I had a visceral reaction to the material I created, selected and ultimately included in the project.

I approached this project methodically (through my research, note taking, list making and archival digging) but responded to its ongoing development intuitively (through my own image making and continual editing, sequencing and refining of all the material). I kept a mental inventory of my research, my lists, what I found in the archive, and what I was shooting. This was a fairly obsessive, ongoing process, including periods of inactivity, lasting five years. I treated every photograph, document and object as another piece of the puzzle. I wanted everything to work together; I wanted to confuse what was old and what was new, what was archival and what was not, what was authentic to the story or perceived as “real” versus what was simply a beautiful, eerie, sinister or strange image.

There are things about my nature as a person and photographer that relate well to the nature of Redheaded Peckerwood. I often strive to make timeless, or perhaps more appropriately, time-neutral images — images that bear little or no signifying evidence of the time in which they were made. Most of the images in Redheaded Peckerwood are successful in this respect, with a few exceptions. And as the work deals with a story from another time, this seemed necessary. I also feel I’ve always had a certain “forensic” way of seeing. I take pleasure in looking at things in a very intense, concentrated way — a very photographic compulsion. I say all this because I think these traits helped me to establish a fairly consistent aesthetic and feel throughout the book, despite the mix of material. Take for example the color palette — it’s fairly consistent throughout the entire work — the work has its own yellow, its own green.

JC: There is a second edition of your book now (congratulations!), and I saw that you mentioned there would be “Noticeable enhancements. New visual content.” Could you talk about this a little bit?

CP: I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to print a second edition of the book, for a number of reasons. First, I wanted the book to continue to be available. I have nothing against the first edition of the book being a collected or valued object, but I don’t want that to be a barrier to those who wish to access the work. I made the work to share it, not to have it become this unseable thing. Second, I wanted to make a few subtle changes and refinements to the book. And ultimately, when we went on press, we had the opportunity to work on an amazing new printer that made this new printing even stronger than the first.

The cover of the second edition will be subtly darker. I like the idea of the cover image changing with time.

Most significantly, we printed the second edition on a new ten-drum Heidelberg press using a new black ink and a light gloss varnish instead of the matte varnish we used on the first book. I also supplied improved files for a few of the images. I couldn’t believe the difference we were seeing with the new printer, ink and varnish. I’m sure all of these changes will be apparent, especially to anyone comparing the two editions.

Lastly, I revisited the material I acquired from various archives and added some images to the booklet insert, and so now the essays are accompanied by this new visual content.

Again, most of the content- and visual-related changes are subtle, so in that sense the book hasn’t changed all that much. But I’m excited about the improvement in the quality of the printing, which was already quite good, and the opportunity to add a few new touches, like the altered cover and additional images.

JC: In his essay, Luc Sante calls the book “a kind of subjective documentary photography of the historical past.” I’d be interested in your thoughts about that term.

CP: I’ve always felt conflicted about text in photography books. I very rarely read texts or essays; I prefer to have a direct, unmediated visual experience with the work. At the same time, I understand that text can provide context, among other things, and that it can add something to the experience of the work for some people. But with Redheaded Peckerwood, it was extremely important to me that a certain amount of mystery permeated the work and that any text did not detract from that mystery. Certain information could never be discussed or revealed. I’m very fortunate to have had two great essays written for the book. Luc Sante’s essay provides a historical/social context and Karen Irvine’s essay provides an art/conceptual context for the work. Each essay provides and reveals some additional information, but not too much.

I think it’s important to quote the entire sentence that Luc wrote: “InRedheaded Peckerwood Christian Patterson is working out something that hasn’t been done much before, if ever: a kind of subjective documentary photography of the historical past.” Further, he goes on to say thatRedheaded Peckerwood “walks the fine line between fiction and nonfiction.” I think that Luc is referring to the creative license I took with this well-documented pre-existing story that has been the source of inspiration for numerous books, films and movies over the past 50 years. But I think my handling of this material is dramatically different from anything else that’s been done before, and that to me is part of what makes it worthwhile.

I’d also like to direct you to Karen Irvine’s essay, which goes some way in explaining exactly that to which Luc is referring. She explains things much better than I ever could:

“Patterson approaches the archive as a space of negotiation, not authority. Patterson revisits and repackages the past, destabilizing the archive and making it a place of activation and possibility. Through his deft blending of fact, popular cultural elements, and personal vision he seems to be asking, ‘What are the limitations of the archive? What might it conceal?’ Hal Foster has written about artists who mine the archive: ‘the fact that … artists turn the archive from an “excavation site” into a “construction site,” is welcome … it suggests a shift away from a melancholic culture that views the historical as little more than the traumatic.’ In Patterson’s work, the archive is exposed as being incomplete and improvisatory, and this makes way for the implicit, liberating acceptance that human nature is unpredictable and flawed, not only in a tragic way, but in a strange and almost comic one as well. As Fyodor Dostoevsky, author of Crime and Punishment, reportedly once said, ‘Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him.’Redheaded Peckerwood is not an artifact of cultural memory. It is an interpretation of history that operates like memory and gives the past life in the present. Patterson mines the archive and injects the past with possibility, making art that is at once both contemporaneous and historical. His refusal to delineate what is real and what is fiction prevents us from mentally shelving the events as part of history. Forget considering them only in a passive, distanced way. We must actively engage with our imaginations and our memories, and in that hazy interior realm where they intersect.”

JC: I suppose we could discuss archives now. Assume you had a complete archive of something — this could be out of a Borges story — would you then have the full story? But what I’m after is something else. I’m more interested in your own role here, your role as the artist, your role as someone who creates what looks and feels like a documentary body of work, but isn’t at the same time. I love the fact that the book is both. As much as I hate using analogies from the natural sciences, the example of a photon, say, being both a wave and a particle at the same time as long as it’s unobserved as either seems relevant here. After all, all documentary work always involves a lot of fiction (history itself is a perfect example: a grandiose piece of fiction, composed entirely of facts), but we don’t want to see it that way. In much the same way, “art photography” is supposed to be fiction only, and of course it often is. But books like Redheaded Peckerwood are more like a photon: It’s both, a documentary (in the strictest sense of the word) and a piece of fiction (again in the strictest sense of the word) — and only when you “observe” it does it fall into one category or the other (it can’t stay in both). That’s where I have a slight problem with what Karen Irvine writes when she talks of “an interpretation of history that operates like memory and gives the past life in the present” - history in the sense of written or compiled history is an interpretation, just like your book is an interpretation of sorts.

Of course, there is a difference between that which historians do and that which you do: Historians are interested only in facts, even though, of course, what they produce is a construct that future historians might just brush aside, for whatever reason (new facts often play less a role than a changed cultural climate). What you do, however, is to do a historian’s job, except you are willing to do it in an artistic way, working with the limitations and possibilities of your medium, while still telling a story. The reason why this interests me so much is because I think it opens up opportunities to engage with the world, opportunities to realize that the word “truth” can have different kinds of meanings, many of them if not being the same then at least equivalent. For writers, we have long accepted this. A nonfiction book and a fiction book about something historical can each tell more or less the same story — and we know how to understand and treat the differences. As Karen Irvine wrote in the case of a novel “we must actively engage with our imaginations and our memories.” But for photography, we haven’t made that step, yet. We’re still stuck with people’s ideas that photography presents the truth or something real or whatever. I’m tempted to think a book likeRedheaded Peckerwood is a perfect example of what can be gained by finally leaving this simplistic approach to photography. It is a true story, and at the same time it is the story you decided to tell (if I did it it would look very different).

What do you think?

CP: I’m not familiar with Borges or his work, but I did find this rather insightful quote from his biographer Edwin Williamson: “His basic contention was that fiction did not depend on the illusion of reality; what mattered ultimately was an author’s ability to generate ‘poetic faith’ in his reader.” This, to me, is a beautiful, perfect encapsulation of the way that photography works.

Another “Borgesian” quality is narrative non-linearity. When I first began making this work, I held tightly to the chronological narrative of the story. But as I continued to make work, explore and appropriate the archive, and edit, sequence and refine the material, I also began to freely mix the material. My interests and motivations for doing this were were two-fold. First, I had a visual interest. With photography, the visual element greatly increases the interpretive potential and therefore unavoidably complicates the narrative. Second, I wanted to push the work and its interpretation in unexpected directions. As Williamson said, I had to generate poetic faith in the reader.

I agree with what Karen Irvine wrote about “history that operates like memory,” and I think it agrees with what you said about interpretation, if we acknowledge that memory is largely biased, completely selective and therefore highly interpretive. I’m not sure how to respond to or improve upon everything that you’ve just said — the issues of truth and representation are a problem in photography for many people. But when it comes to most of the photography that I look at or make myself, I’m really most concerned with what lies within — our feeling and imagination.

Image and text courtesy of Conscientious Extended

Arthur Tress on Blurberati

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Five Questions: An Interview with Arthur Tress

Arthur Tress at the DeYoung Museum

Arthur Tress is a photographer whose work freely crosses the boundaries of documentary, narrative, and the surreal. He’s traveled the world and traversed the subconscious. And his work has special meaning to us, as he’s not only created over 25 Blurb books, but he shot some of his early work in San Francisco, Blurb’s home city. His work from that period was recently shown at the DeYoung Museum. Quick-witted and introspective, the 71-year-old Tress continues to push boundaries and inspire. In fact, when I met Tress at the DeYoung on the penultimate day of his show, he was full of advice and ideas for me and my projects.

So naturally, I wanted to include him in our Five Questions series:

Blurb: What got you into photography initially?

Tress: Like most kids, I began in High school. I took pictures for the school yearbook and newspaper, but I also spent hours wandering around my neighborhood of Brighton Beach and Coney Island which, as it turns out, was very photogenic, being full of abandoned amusement parks, fun houses, rundown housing and pool halls. What was popular in the museums at the time was a kind of social surrealism and magic-realism paintings by Paul Cadmus, George Tooker, and Ben Shawn, who were trying to show the effects of economic depression and World War ll, but using the language of dreams and myths. I wanted my photography to be like that and I was eventually able to learn how to be expressive in that way .

Blurb: We love to know about cameras. Can you tell us about the cameras you’ve shot with?

Tress: Basically I have always shot with a 2 1/4 square format, either a Rollieflex or Hasselbald. It gives you a nice sense of seriousness and solidity and yet is small enough to be used spontaneously.

Blurb: What does surrealism mean to you in your work?

Tress: A definition of surrealism was once “a sewing machine on an operating table” – meaning taking things out of their original context with a displacement of location. Every photograph is kind of like that actually… removing things and people from their natural life flow and putting them in a kind of frozen freeze frame.

Paintball by Arthur Tress

But also things to me like paintball, with these guys running around in 100 degree heat in these elaborate military outfits in kind of “Mad Max” bunker environment… seem to me unreal – or surreal. And so I made the Blurb book Splat Zone that demonstrates that kind of weird human oddness.

Blurb: You’ve made over 25 Blurb books, but you’ve also had your work published by traditional art publishers. What do your Blurb books mean to you?

Arthur: I think the name of the game now is ‘sharing’ the work. I get about 300 hits a week on my Blurb bookstore. I think mostly it is students. No one really buys them, but I hope I can be an inspiration to the next generation and set an example of a lifetime devoted to making images, and in my fantasy even perhaps changing the world with a strong-but-slightly-wacky personal vision that has never paid much attention to other people’s opinions or the values of the art-world market place. I’m poor, but very free and might even now, at 71, finally be getting some of recognition I have long deserved. My advice is just hang in there for the long run.

To Live and Die in Dixie by Arthur Tress

I am slowly making my whole archive into small Blurb books. A book format can take a random bunch of miscellaneous photos and show how it was originally conceived of 40 years ago – i.e., my latest Blurb book, To Live and die In Dixie (1969) was just a magazine article that I include in the text. It makes the reason ‘why’ I took the photos in the first place much more understandable.

Also, I am always putting up newer projects all the time. Every photographer has series of photos that he has worked on for a year or two and that had only a brief shelf life in terms of exhibits or publications. The books take these orphaned or even forgotten-about projects and give them another more permanent life.

And the affordability of the well-printed Blurb book makes it an ideal vehicle for book experimentation in format, sequence and design. My books Barcelona Unfolds and Miami Unfolds take the very simple idea of DIY gatefolds to create a whole new concept of what is possible in the online book experience and I hope others take up the challenge.

Barcelona Unfolds by Arthur Tress

Blurb: You’ve said that you no longer see a difference between a documentary approach to photography and “staged, manipulated imagery.” Can you talk about how this understanding developed?

Tress: As I get older and have been photographing for about 55 years, I float between staged and documentary photography often in the same project. For the newest one, “100 views of Morro Rock,” usually I am doing a kind of traditional photo reportage that relies on chance juxtapositions, but sometimes I bring props or include my own hand a or feet in the photo.

It really is about having a neurological matrix of the mind/idea inside oneself internally that projects itself out onto the external world, and the world conforms somehow to that idea synchronistically or by accident to what you originally desired. The subject out there (if it really ever exists in the first place) becomes a kind of visual reflection or meditation of your own focused interior mental state. How you get to it is inconsequential.

Images and text courtesy of Bluberati Blog

On Frida Kahlo with Pablo Ortiz Monasterio

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Q & A: "Frida Kahlo: Her Photos"

Noreen Nasir

Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is well-known for her iconic self-portraits. They are, in fact, what many of us most likely imagine when picturing Kahlo. A new exhibit at Artisphere in Arlington, Va., is offering a new look at the painter. After her death in 1954, more than 6,500 of her personal photographs were sealed. In 2007, that collection of photographs was opened. Through March 25 and for the first time in the United States, 259 of them are on display in "Frida Kahlo: Her Photos."

Click here to view photo essay
Art Beat spoke by phone with Mexican photographer and exhibit curator Pablo Ortiz Monasterio from Mexico City. He is also author of the book, "Frida Kahlo: Her Photos," from which the exhibit is based.

Describe the process of putting together the exhibition.

When Frida Kahlo died in 1954, [her husband] Diego Rivera decided that he was going to give [Kahlo's] house, La Casa Azul, to the people of Mexico, as a museum. All the photographs in the house remained closed for 50 years. So when they decided to open the thing, they called me. I started looking, and the idea was to do a show with all the stuff that was there in La Casa Azul, which was not a very big museum. So when I was asked to curate that show, I did, but as I started looking at the work, I was so fascinated that I started working on a book, "Frida Kahlo: Her Photos." The show is a result of that book.

Why were you so fascinated?

These photographs are visually just very exciting images. We learned very quickly that there are the big names in photography from the 20th century...a lot of very famous photographers. Also, some of those photographs she took herself. Suddenly, to have this very, very famous artist that was also a photographer was like a novelty. So that became also very interesting. Going through those images was a wonderful and absolute treasure. Through these photographs, you kind of get a closer, intimate view, of who was Frida, and how did she live.

What can we learn about Kahlo's life through these photographs?

It shows how she was influenced in her work. One part of the exhibition is about her origins, and mostly her father, Guillermo Kahlo, who was a very fine photographer. In Frida Kahlo's archive, there were many self-portraits of Guillermo Kahlo. So when Frida started painting, what does she do? She had seen her father do self-portraits. So she does self-portraits too, and that is the main body of her work. When experts started studying the work of Frida, a lot of them saw Diego's influence, [who was also an important painter]. Maybe the big influence was not Diego, but was her father, her mother, her family. It's a way for people to understand why Frida painted what she painted.

There were over 6,500 photographs in La Casa Azul. How did you narrow them down for the exhibit?

These photos were used in the '30s and '40s as a kind of iconographic archive -- they had no Internet. So there are a lot of photographs about important people, politicians. That was part of [Frida and Diego's] interests. But we wanted to center on Frida, and not so much Diego.

Explain the layout of the exhibit.

The way it's divided, there are six different sections. This is how we divided different subjects of Frida's life: the origins, her family, amores [loves], the broken body, photography.... I must be honest. By the time I started working on the Frida exhibit, we were so tired of it. We'd seen it so much and she had become so big and she's an icon. So part of the tension is to discover a novelty around Frida Kahlo, and not do the very obvious things that dozens of books on Frida do. We worked in terms of trying to present it in a way that was with some freshness.

What can visitors expect to understand about Kahlo's character?

I would say that definitely, she was very devoted to friendship. She was very devoted to her father, in particular. She was acute in seeing and observing. She used photographs as models. Her accident [in 1925] was the biggest experience in terms of Frida's life. She was in pain most of her life. That accident produced this immense physical pain and also psychological pain. It became a big obsession in terms of life and death, and it was difficult to face that. As she grew up, she had this strategy that I find is very clear in her paintings, and you can also see it in the photographs. Instead of avoiding it and not trying to look straight at pain and at suffering, she said, 'Let's talk about it. Let's write about it. Let's paint it. Let's photograph it.' One of the photographs in which she has a neck brace is dedicated to Diego. And it's strange. If you have a boyfriend, you don't give him a photograph in which you are in pain, but Frida would do that. So those are the elements in which you see that she had a difficult life and she overcame it. Through that attitude, she became a great artist and a very influential figure in Mexican culture.

What was your experience like working on this exhibit?

You know, when I started, I was already fed up with this Frida-mania. And then, by going deep into Frida's life and really studying and looking closely and trying to link events and people and periods of Mexican history and specific works of Frida...suddenly, I really loved her.... I think she was a wonderful human being. She was fun, she was interesting, she was very bright, she was good looking, she was daring. I found this in these little images. So by the time I finished, I realized that I would have loved to be her friend, and have met her and drink with her. Now, I have this very intense feeling that I did after working on this for hours and hours and days and weeks and months and years. At the end, I had a feeling that she was part of my extended family, a very dear person.

Text and image courtesy of pbs

Pablo Lopez Luz

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April 9, 2012

5 Questions for Pablo Lopez Luz

by Megan Z

Do you collect anything?

I have a photography collection that evolves almost every year. I think that’s the only collection I actually have. I collect, of course, photography books and literature books, but I don’t see that as a collection, I see that more as a lifestyle. I have a photography collection composed of mainly classic Mexican photographers.

If you could spend an afternoon with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

I’ve always wanted to have a glass of wine with Tom Waits, but I think he lives in Sonoma. I was thinking of getting a bike and riding up to Sonoma and see if I could crash into him. He would be an interesting person. But many photographers, many writers, many filmmakers.

If you weren’t a photographer, what would your gig be?

I think I would like to write, or act. Usually I would not say this, but I think I would like to be the next Jason Bourne or something like that — action movies. If I was to be a movie actor, I wouldn’t want to be like a serious actor. I think I’d like to be jumping off cliffs and punching people, even though I don’t punch people usually. Seriously though, a writer. I’ve always wanted to do all the different arts. I wanted to be a filmmaker. I was talking to a writer friend of mine the other day, and I am always jealous of writers. I’m very jealous of people who can express themselves beautifully through writing. If I could, I’d love to be a fiction writer.

Have you ever run out of money?

No. I am very careful with money. Ever since I have started my profession I was always very smart about it so I always have something there.

What’s your favorite tool?

I almost don’t use tools at all. Lately it would have to do with a bike. Usually I’m into biking in Mexico City, which is a very nice extreme sport. I think I would have to go with that. Otherwise, I cannot think of another tool. I’m not very tool-savvy.

Text and image courtesy of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art blog: OPEN SPACE

Interview with Todd Hido

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1. Shooting a specific image often means to complete a complex process after a deep investigation. The photographer is supposed to find the subject following too many signs. Those signs are often inside us, many of them come from our past. How is it possible to recognize those signs? Is it possible to explain how every feeling, every memory, can be put together in one single image?

Firstly let me start out by saying that I completely agree that the signs you are looking for, many of them do come from your past. But no, I don't think that's possible to put it all together in one single image. If it were then this would not be a lifelong pursuit? A body of work does not even do it sometimes. I have noticed that within my own practice that often adding a genre, or another way of taking pictures, often adds an extra layer that complicates things more deeply.

I believe that all those signs from your past and all those feelings and memories certainly come together, often subconsciously, and form some kind of a fragmented narrative. Often you're telling your own story but you may not even know it. One of my most valuable bits of feedback for me came from an art therapist that I did an independent study with when I was in graduate school. He taught me that I was on the right track with my subject matter and gave me the confidence to pursue it. What a gift that was in retrospect. He looked at the beginning of my houses at night, the beginning of my foreclosed home pictures, and the beginning of my portraits—all back in 1995 when I had just two or three of each, and he told me that I was right in the midst of telling the story of my life and that my photographs clearly represented that.

2. The image “Untitled #2312-a, 1999” from the series Houses at Night is one of the few images without a visible illumination coming from the house. A beam of light cuts the front of the house but no light comes from the inside. In every house you have photographed the human presence is implied. The quality of the light is also the quality of the their presence. Thanks to this perception, you are able to establish a relationship between the viewer and the image, as a personal relationship. Could you explain something more about this particular choice? How important is it for your work to show inhabited houses with human beings’ presence instead of empty houses?

You are very perceptive. Yes, that is the only house at night that does not have a light on the window. I chose that particular one because it was actually a place that a lot of my ideas about home and loss and longing came to fruition. That photograph is the only exterior photograph that is taken of a home that is been abandoned. It was taken in the Love Canal, New York.

I used to live in Boston when I went to the Boston Museum school and I would drive from there to Ohio for holidays and visits to my parent’s house. I had always heard of that neighborhood and so I decided to get off the turnpike and go find it one day. What I found was really remarkable to me as it was a neighborhood that had simply been walked away from my many of its inhabitants. Not all of them. But most of them.

I find that house I shot to be particularly lonely and it was shot on a Blue Moon in the fall that can be seen behind the clouds and that's where a lot of the light comes from. That neighborhood was so spooky to me I can't really even explain what it was like to stand there. You felt like you were being watched. But there was no one there except for just a few homes where people were holdouts.

Yes, it's true that most of my photographs of homes at night have a light on in the window. That is a very important part to me as it implies that someone is in there. I have often said; “The lights come on and the inside seeps to the outside.” The light being on in the window makes the picture more about the people inside—and that is what attracted me to it in the first place. That there was someone there—and I was wondering about what his or her life is like.

One thing that we should say that hasn't come up yet is that all of my photographs are made on analog film with long exposures and there is no lighting that I am adding to the scene. I do not collaborate or get permission from the owners to make the photographs. I just do it. Also, 99% of the time I am alone when shooting.

Also, I find it much more interesting to simply discover my locations and shoot them then and there. I'm not the kind of photographer that goes out and creates something from an idea that I preconceived...at least not with landscapes or buildings. With portraits there's always some kind of collaboration inherent in the process. But we can get to that that later…

3. You often choose the vertical format over the horizontal one. Is there any particular reason (formal or narrative) for choosing this kind of frame?

Yes, I do often use the vertical format. With the houses I do it quite a bit, and the reason for it is that often times I just wanted to get a single home in the frame. The place seems more isolated that way. Also it was easier to focus the viewer's and my attention onto a single home. I also like that it shows lots of the sky and lots of foreground and that tends to flatten out the scene and utilize the negative space more.

4. You frequently have photographed interiors. How did you find the places, do some of them have a special meaning for you?

Yes, I love to photograph interiors. They often add another layer of narrative to a sequence of photographs. And I really like what that does—it sort of brings the viewer inside of the home. Even though none of the interiors are what is inside the homes they are often juxtaposed with. It is all just implied.

I found the interiors in a few ways. Some of them are the childhood home that I grew up in. I grew up in Kent, Ohio. There's a picture of a single pillow on the bed. “#1447-b”, And there's also a big console TV that has the light blaring out of it, “#1952”, those are both my childhood spaces, where I spent most of my time. Some of the other photographs are motel rooms that I have stayed in and photographed.

The third place that I find interiors were from a project that I started back in 1996 of foreclosed homes. This was way back before anybody was talking or thinking about foreclosed homes. I have added a few new ones to the group recently and hope to do more.

I am very much interested in the loss that happens in the spaces. Walls do talk. I was interested in the family drama that had occurred. A lot of my work is really about home and family. In these spaces I often recognize something of my own unstable childhood in them. Many of the places and people I photograph, resonate with me.

5. You curate very carefully every aspect of your books and exhibitions. Could you tell us a little bit about your approach when it comes to creating/editing a book and how different it is in comparison to preparing an exhibition?

Thanks for noticing how careful I am with those things. It is nice to know that someone sees it. Yes, I think about every single detail of my books, as those are something that I can for the most part predominantly control its outcome.

A book is an enclosed and encapsulated medium that you can actually come pretty damn close to perfecting. I also tend to think that the book is sometimes more important than the show, as the exhibit is a temporary thing, often hanging for a month or six weeks and then it goes away. Maybe a couple of thousand people see it? But a book is something that I always say is on your "permanent record" and it never ever goes away—so you better get it right!

And I am blessed to have a publisher, Chris Pichler of Nazraeli Press, who allows his artists to do what they envision and to be involved in each detail of the process.

With shows there's always many people involved and you're dealing with several different places, as each and every gallery space is it's own unique thing. Often the gallerist who is in that space every day is the one that knows it the best. They know how people walk through a space. What wall the start at, what the site lines are from room to room, etc. They also know the audience who comes in. So sometimes, they are the one's that layout the shows.

A the Stephen Wirtz Gallery—which is my home base in San Francisco, I have always been very involved in selecting what I show and where each piece goes. Since I live here, I am able to go in and lay my photographs out in the space while I'm actually midway through making them, so I am able to get a feeling of how it will look, and be able to better choose the sizes and layout that I will exhibit there.

But I also have to say there is definitely value in letting go and having others select your images and exhibit them. It’s always curious to me what other people come up with.

As far as putting together the books, I spend hundred & hundreds of hours shuffling around my photographs, making dummies, turning pages, and switching them around and all that. To me that is really the only way to do it, to print the pictures out, paste them in a physical blank book dummy, and turn the pages. {Oh, and smoke cigarettes, drink wine, and listen to loud music. Very important.} But seriously, that feeling of turning a page and what happens there is something that you cannot simulate on a computer while you are doing the design. It is just not the same.

Also another incredibly important aspect of a successful book is, of course the graphic design. I have always been very fond of excellent graphic design and I have worked with the same designers for all of my monographs, Post Tool Design in San Francisco. I work mostly with Daya Karam and Gigi Obrecht these days. David Karam chimes in with his mastery on occasion. {In the past Herb Thornby, Meredith Bagerski, and Kim West have been there and worked on my books too.}

Post Tool and I have had a great long-term relationship that goes back to a tiny newsprint catalog they made for a group show 15 years ago. We are able to really flesh out the details, find the very best fonts and typographic treatment that matches the style of the pictures and the mood I want to convey for the book.

One other thing that is important is that when it is time to do new book we start by lining them all up in chronological order, and make sure we are building on to this body of books, and consider all that we have done as a whole, before making the next move.

But I think most importantly we push each other. I push them to do new things, and they can recognize that even though I have never studied design, that I can still walk in, and immediately call it out when it needs to be tweaked more. On their end, they push me to be open to new ideas as well. Like pink end sheets. It really works.

6. Some of your photographs have been used as cover images for Raymond Carver’s books. Do you feel that your work is somehow related to his writings?

I feel very, very fortunate to have my photographs on the cover of what will ultimately be a whole suite of Raymond Carver's books. And yes, I do feel that my work is somehow related to his writings. There is a kinship. I often read his work and I "see pictures” and think of things I want try to make. In fact, in two of my previous books, “Roaming” and “Between the Two’, I had selected Carver poems to be in included as I felt like there was something in those poems that really extended my selection of photographs. They didn't literally illustrate them, but what they did I thought was open to them up. I was deeply flattered when his designer and publisher contacted me about using my photographs to be on the covers of his books.

7. Larry Sultan has been a friend and mentor as well as one of your teachers at the California College of Arts in San Francisco. Would you tell us something about your experience with him?

Larry Sultan truly was one of the most remarkable people that I have ever known. I was so fortunate to have been able to study under him and also become his friend and colleague. He was so incredibly articulate about talking about pictures and I learned so much from him about what photography can do and how it can mean something that extends way beyond what you are picturing in your images.

I remember when I first got to CCA back in 1994 he was very happy because myself and a couple of other graduate students at the time were good, old-fashioned photographers. He always said that was very excited about that because ultimately he was too, but he had been doing lots of Public Art at that time, and he relished being surrounded by people that cared about photography so much. He missed it, making pictures, going out and “getting the loot,” he called it.

I can certainly trace moments back in time to graduate school where Larry said something or saw something in my work that really influenced the path that I am on now. I very much miss him and so do so many, many of the people that knew him well or had him as a teacher. He was such an influential figure, especially out here in the West Coast, where many people were able to directly have contact with him on a regular basis.

8. You once told that you had the chance to see Emmet Gowin’s darkroom and how he made his wonderful prints in such a simple space situated in an extra room of his home. What does your darkroom look like?

My darkroom is extremely basic, in fact it's probably archaic but it works. As with much else in life, it's not really about the tools but how you use them. I rent space in a commercial photography lab and I use it after hours. I usually go there a couple nights a week and print with my assistant Lance Brewer, and we just print as much as we can for five hours.

9. In your series “A Road Divided” you photographed through the windshield of your car. Even if we can’t see clearly through the glass, we get a perception of vastness, infinity; we try to look beyond the blurry parts of the window. The images consist of two parts, on one hand there is the landscape, which is somehow exterior, and on the other hand the windshield of the car that creates another (interior) space. Do you think that this aspect influences the viewer in his photographic perception?

Yes, I do think that influences the viewer because, as you mentioned, it's not just a photograph of the landscape but it is a photograph from my personal perspective. I’m somehow in the picture in a way. That is my breath fogging up the window! It has more of an intimacy I think. It has a subjective, diaristic quality and now that I really think about it—it’s the opposite of something like an “authorless” objective view, which is most often seen from a higher, uncommon viewpoint.

10. All the images in “A Road Divided” are defined by an open horizon, a view that leads to infinity. Do you think that making the photographs in a different landscape (for example in the mountains) would change the meaning of the series?

I'm definitely interested in that open horizon. It's basically the landscape I grew up with in Ohio. That openness and those open roads are the kind of roads I'd ride my BMX bike down going to the next town over.

As for making the photographs in a different landscape, it certainly changes, but not as much as you would think. I have been most recently making that kind of photograph back in the suburbs and shooting homes again with the same kind of treatment. It is exciting to make images that combine elements from two groups of pictures.

11. You recently worked on a project initiated by Harvey Benge and the publishing house Kehrer Verlag called “One Day: Ten Photographers”. Like the title says, ten selected photographers had to take pictures on one single day. Could you tell us a little bit about this experience? How was it for you to make photographs in just one given day?

At first when they asked me to participate in the project I was a little bit worried, as I've often said to my students “you can't make great art on demand”. Great stuff can’t be forced and those kinds of situations often turn out poorly. But it was such a great group of people I could not decline participating.

So what I ended up doing was planning it out and re-visiting areas close to where I found good photographs before, so I was not wasting my time driving and just hoping I'd discover something that would work.  That is what I usually do, is just drive, and drive, and I enjoy that search a lot but that does not work if you have to come up with a book that can hang with Rinko Kawauchi and John Gossage in just one day. I also worked with a really great model that I had recently shot with so I knew just what to expect from her.

One thing that I did that was very different was to use a couple of assistants and a professional hair & make up person. I usually work totally alone in shooting my art, but in this case I had to maximize my time so I could vary the looks of the model quickly, so it looked more evocative, and more narrative, like more time had passed. It was the most planned out shoot I have done to date and I have to say I was really surprised and happy with the results.

12. Your latest publication “Nymph Daughters” has been published by the Japanese publishing house Super Labo, How did this collaboration come about? Could you tell us something more about the project?

Yasunori Hoki, who is the publisher of Super Labo, contacted me. He had done a few small books by other artists that I found were interesting, especially one by a favorite artist of mine, Ed Templeton. The books are almost 'zine like and small editions of 500. I had really wanted to do something that was much more loose and experimental and take chances and risks in a way that you would necessarily do with larger scale projects.

What I ended up doing was exactly that. I revisited some of the sequencing experiments that I had done in a class with Larry Sultan called the Narrative Workshop. This was back in graduate school, where I would combine found photographs with my own photographs to sort of broaden the story in a way.

Larry was teaching us about how to use an archive of images and to make something else completely different out of it, very much based on his experience with his classic book with Mike Mandel, “Evidence”.

For “Nymph Daughters” I started with a typical 50’s studio portrait of a woman who seemed to be a mother to me. And then I had a 1950’s newspaper photograph of the immediate aftermath of an automobile accident. I put the mother at the front and the car wreck in the back and set out to bridge the gap between those two photographs.

In doing this I worked off the 1950’s theme and style present in the found pictures and had dug up an old pulp fiction book called "Nymph Daughters" I owned that had a great cover—all it had on the it was the title and I just scanned it and represented it. Altered a bit by me with pencil.

For the interior I weaved together a sequence of some 126mm-snapshot photographs that I had recently taken, plus others that I have mostly never shown before, photographs of homes and models and a few other twists that I was excited to work with. Including spray paint. It is racy and ends in tragedy. I think there is a lot of meaning inside of it. I could see many of these elements popping up in other work of mine.

13. If you would have to choose ten photographs (by ten different artists) for a little book/slideshow, which images would you select?

It's funny that you asked that as I recently edited “Witness #7” that is published by Nazraeli Press & JGS, which is a journal that comes out a couple of times a year where one photographer is in charge of the entire contents of the book. In the back end I made a section that is just what you mentioned—photographs by other artists put together in a sequence in a book. I ended up photographing books from my own library that are really important to me, and books that I live with, and have often left open to the specific pages that I really liked best.

14. What are you working on right now?

Right now I am getting ready for show in New York of some of my recent portraits and nudes. It will be at Bruce Silverstein Gallery in early 2011. I am also working on shooting new images that incorporate figures into the landscape. That's something that I've not done that much, to photograph people outside, and I find that to be quite interesting at this point in time.

I also made a photograph earlier this year that is at the edge of the water, which is usually a place that I don't shoot much but I'm quite captivated by this picture. I could see myself going and doing many more.

That is how things always start for me—I will make one or two photographs that I don't necessarily fit with my other ones and then I go out and try to build on them. Slowly it adds up into something.

Interview by Daniel Augschoell and Anya Jasbar

Text and images courtesy of  ahorn magazine

Hisaji Hara - An Interview

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The Fog of Time

An Interview with Hara Hisaji

The legacy of Showa Japan runs deep and is also evident in your photographs. What is your attraction to Showa?

The building that appears in the pictures was a privately-run clinic built in the Taisho era (1912-26) and actually used until Showa 40 (1960). Discovering this building was the direct catalyst for my having realized this series. If this series exudes the feeling of Showa at all, then I think that’s largely due to the atmosphere of the building itself. Of course, having been born in Showa 39, I think that the age carries a lot of meaning for me. The values of Showa have probably had no small effect on the formation of my character.

However, for an artist like me who expresses himself through photographs, Showa pretty much means the 20th century just as it was. Photographs that appeared in the 19th century define the way of life of that age, certainly for having spanned some 100 years, and those 100 years mostly overlap with Showa, too. Living now in the 21st century, I’m seeking new means of photographic expression and to that end I think it’s essential that I look back and consider the 20th century with a critical eye.

Your photographs deftly balance innocence and eroticism. Can you please comment on this?

Is there in fact an underlying concept of innocence pairing off with eroticism? I suspect that reading an antithesis between these two components in the series comes from a 20th century mode of photographic expression. In the original Balthus paintings that I chose to use as my motif, quite a bit of the young girl’s arms and thighs appear. While that might be deemed eroticism, at the same time, a sense of tranquility hangs about it, as in early Italian Renaissance religious paintings. Perhaps the reason why Balthus dared to paint the limbs of a young girl was that he was attempting to provoke narrow-minded 20th century notions of eroticism. And so in this photographic series the dual presence of innocence and eroticism points to the objectification of 20th century values, which is itself an important part of the work.

Can you talk a little about your work flow (art direction, setting up, development, etc)?

Vis-à-vis the thousands—we might even say tens of thousands—of years of painting history, photographic history is but 200 years old. And yet, you can consider photographic history in the same context as the history of the discovery of photosensitive materials. Assuming that photography is an expression born of our gazing at the world, then I believe that photography should be included in the long history of painting.

To recreate in this series the same feeling of depth that appears in the paintings, I used a smoke machine to artificially create fog. It was one of those huge smoke machines normally used in concert halls. While the rooms depicted in Balthus’ paintings have a kind of flat illumination, he still manages to provide a fitting context for his figures and backdrop. I found that it was necessary to fog my backdrop with the right amount of smoke in order to control this sense of depth.

Also, the perspective in the paintings is different from the optical perspective of a camera lens. When shooting this series, I intentionally impaired the authentic perspective of the lens, and to achieve that, I had to take various multiple exposures. I made a huge matte box to surround the camera and lens. I then attached a mask to it that would cover up part of the picture and took multiple exposure shots. Because I was shifting the focus as I took the multiple exposures, the optical perspective was impaired and I got a really attractive sense of space.

Taking multiple exposures also has another benefit. When you combine the various frames that you’ve taken, you can reproduce your trusted model and have her perform elsewhere in the picture. Artists would often use a model they liked and paint that figure multiple times into their picture.

You sometimes appear in your own photographs. Why?

I only appear once in this series. That piece is based on Balthus’ own self-portrait. Going by 20th century definitions, a photographic self-portrait is very different from a painted self-portrait. In an age where identification photographs can be forged because of digital technology, do meanings based on 20th century definitions hold any water? I think there is quite a bit of opportunity to investigate this notion. Of course, this isn’t confined to a discussion of self-portraits alone, but perhaps even all the modes of photographic expression.

Who are some photographers you admire and why?

It’s not really photographers whom I admire, but the incredibly accomplished Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. It seems to me that he was a director who created his own cinematic devices, rather than rely on the cinematic devices shared by most 20th century works. That’s why his work never seems to grow old.

http://hisajihara.com

Hara Hisaji is represented by: MEM INC. NADiff a/p/a/r/t 2F, 1-18-4 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0013 tel. 03-6459-3205 (gallery) tel/fax. 03-6425-9482 (office)

Check out more at Ko-e Magazine

Lise Sarfati Interview

Added on by ROSEGALLERY.

Lise Sarfati On Hollywood.

Interview by François Adragna.

Malaïka #09, Corner 7th Street & Spring, 2010 Courtesy of  Lise Sarfati and ROSEGALLERY

What is a photographic series?

It is a set of photographs which are linked to each other and which create a whole. Something which shuts us in and in which we cannot find the exit. It is also a way of thinking. A form.

Is On Hollywood a series?

On Hollywood is a series. But each photograph can be looked at individually. It is a series because the images interrelate and reinforce the photographic form.

When did you start this series?

I started it in 2009 and finished it in 2010.

The colors and texture of your photographs have a particular quality. What film did you use?

I worked with Kodachrome 64 transparency film. The rolls were sent to Kansas in the only laboratory which still developed this film. I never saw the results immediately. I realized that this element of not seeing, not knowing, was a determining factor. This situation : where I had to wait and did not know brought me back to the mystery I felt when I discovered photography at the age of 13. A revelation, but after the fact. This Kodachrome film stock is also the one used in Hollywood movies of the 1940s. I wanted to complete the loop and end the story of Kodachrome film on Hollywood. I used this outmoded film stock in the context of Hollywood, which is at the peak of technological advancement and colossal production costs.

I was not part of a huge Hollywood production but on a boulevard where I photographed real women (without paying them, this I insist on in my work) who are considered outsiders.

Their weaknesses became their strength ,raising them to the rank of anti-heroes. It is true that film, photography and video have surpassed painting and sculpture and that it may seem odd to return to Kodachrome slides when analog film, photography and video have been overtaken by the digital format. But it is precisely this paradox which interested me.

One often wrongfully compares photographs to paintings. This is nonsense. The image does not refer to painting but to something alive through which passes silence...

Dana, 6323 Hollywood Blvd, 2010 Courtesy of  Lise Sarfati and ROSEGALLERY

Finally, why not a movie?

Because of the silence and stillness, because of the power of the fixed image and its circulation as an object.

On Hollywood is the boulevard but it is also movies?

Everything transits through the image. We are shaped by the image. We need to try and have a critical gaze on the image.

My series On Hollywood shows women who really live in Los Angeles.

They probably came to project themselves in the Hollywood landscape and to take advantage of the possibilities of success in this landscape. But everyone knows this story. It is a current affair. Hollywood interested me more for the concept of landscape as fantasy. These women smoked in general. They are mostly dancers or actresses waiting for a part.

Emily, 2860 Sunset Blvd, 2010 Courtesy of  Lise Sarfati and ROSEGALLERY

Why smoking?

Because smoking in the United States of America and in California is a revolutionary act. To show that one does not care, that one does what one pleases despite obvious health risks, is already an act of protest.

What seems strange is that these women need to be outdoors to smoke whereas smoking, for me, was always something that took place during a romantic or friendly encounter, or we simply smoked as teenagers, sitting around a table talking.

To have to be outside, on the boulevard, in the forgotten landscape of Hollywood to smoke seemed astonishing.

Everyone was behind the wheel of their car. These women did not have enough money to buy a car. I met Ajibike at midnight. I was photographing another woman in a parking lot. She came by in a pair of shorts. She was muscular and walked fast. She handed me her card in a decisive way, as if it was something obvious... She also wanted to become an image...

Elisabeth, North West Corner Sunset & Poinsettia, 2010 Courtesy of  Lise Sarfati and ROSEGALLERY

Who are these women?

These are women who work in Hollywood : saleswomen, dancers, strippers, junkies, fetishists, unknown actresses, out-of-towners, lost... Women at the end of their rope.

Many identify themselves with actresses or famous people. In fact I understood that they identified themselves with images. Malaïka was similar to Marilyn Monroe even if she did not say it. She was always expecting us to make the connection though. She had many of Marilyn's attitudes : her giddiness, mood swings which would go from very sad to artificial joy... Elizabeth wore a tattoo with the date of Queen Elizabeth's death. Her face, her makeup, the thinness of her eyebrows and her pale skin were reminiscent of the Queen mother and the imagery linked to her representation...

How would you define the Hollywood landscape?

The Hollywood landscape is elastic. Timeless. The 1930s, the 1950s, the 1970s. A series of locations without end, all real, accumulated next to each other. Or images of locations which stream by you on the boulevards.

I was always told that Hollywood was dirty and full of junkies. Maybe this was behind the scenes : a masked landscape where thousands of women with eye-opening stories were hiding.

How was the idea for the series conceived?

In 2003, when I travelled across the United States to create The New Life, I decided to return to Los Angeles to photograph the women I passed by on the boulevard. It was unconscious, just a desire.

But the idea took several years to grow and take on a precise form. Although they were photographed in the Hollywood landscape, I wanted the series to give the impression that these women felt at home there, like they were in their bedrooms, lost in thought.

Kelly, 4306 Beverly Blvd, 2010 Courtesy of  Lise Sarfati and ROSEGALLERY

How did this idea evolve and how did you materialize it?

When I spent a year in Aix en Provence, in the southeast of France, I was part of a group of situationists which was very theoretical. The concept of psycho-geographical wandering, created by Guy Debord, was our main activity. Guy Debord defines psycho-geography as the study of the precise effects of geographical surroundings on the emotional behavior of individuals. And wandering is a technique to experience brief sojourns in a variety of atmospheres.

In Los Angeles I wandered through Hollywood. I stayed several months. I did not wander like a director of photography or an artist seeking new locations. I just tried to find places where I felt good physically, places which affected my emotional behavior. These places were street corners, bits of sidewalk and small spaces... I returned ten, twenty, fifty times to the same place.

I stayed for a long time on the corner where we see Elizabeth near a shop where they sell grass and near a tobacco shop. All of a sudden, Elizabeth, whom I did not know, arrived. I asked her if I could photograph her. She told me she would be back. I saw her get into the back seat of a car. Two men were in the front, one of them at the wheel. The car disappeared.

I figured she took off with some dealers. She returned and I photographed her. She seemed quite scared. She was thin. She wore a pendant with a small butterfly. She had braces on her teeth that fascinated me because of her age... I took my photograph quickly. I had the feeling she was going to fall over she looked so fragile... Then she said she had to leave, I asked if we could see each other again, she said : "Yes." We made an appointment on Hollywood Boulevard and she finally never showed up.

Did you encounter any difficulties?

Creating a series is always like standing in front of a chain of mountains of difficulties and overcoming them...

Ajibike, 6433 Hollywood Blvd, 2010 Courtesy of  Lise Sarfati and ROSEGALLERY

The uniqueness of your work is based on the gaze. It reminds me of Roland Barthes who said : « The gaze, if it insists (if it lasts, if it traverses, with the photograph, Time) the gaze is always potentially crazy : it is at once the effect of truth and the effect of madness. »

Truth and madness. Subjectivity. No, I think I first start with a subjective mental image and I try to make it cross through reality, I project it on the outside world. I expect from the viewer, that they will project their subjectivity into the image as well. Also, I hate explaining my work. It is made to be looked at.

Your rhythm could be defined as an oscillation between the character and the landscape but we never really know which one you choose...

Yes, I try to vacillate from one to the other... It is a construction which resembles me. It is also an idea or a way of life.

On Hollywood at ROSEGALLERY, Los Angeles, 25th February until 26 March, 2012

All images Copyright Lise Sarfati Courtesy of ROSEGALLERY

Lise Sarfati Q&A from The Telegraph

Added on by ROSEGALLERY.

Lise Sarfati (1958-) lives and works between Paris and the United States. As a child she lived in Nice in the south of France and began taking photographs at the age of 13 of old ladies in their apartments and on the Promenade des Anglais. To begin with she taught herself photography learning from books published by Robert Delpire. She went on to study Russian at the Sorbonne in Paris and following her Masters Degree she decided to spend ten years documenting the history of the Soviet Union, Russia and its subsequent collapse.

Since 2003 Lise Sarfati has worked in the US. A road trip across the States in 2003 became The New Life (published by Twin Palms in 2005) in which she photographed young people in their own environments in a variety of small towns throughout America. She also conceived and produced a fashion magazine, Austin Texas, in 2008 in which she used ordinary girls in Austin as models or “characters” and photographed them in their usual surroundings.

Sarfati is currently focused on presenting SHE to a wider audience. Created between 2005 and 2009, it focuses on two pairs of sisters of the same family, but of different generations, living in Oakland, California. The banality of the settings Sarfati chooses, ordinary living rooms, shops and streets, gives each image a vivid psychological intensity. The composition is kept simple, constructed without effects, though each image is suffused with rich colour and atmospheric light. But the defining characteristic of this work is in the choice of the women she has photographed: they speak of a second America, of the underground and of antiheroes.

SHE will be at Brancolini Grimaldi from 3rd February until 17th March 2012.

What's the greatest picture you didn’t take?

The series by Michael Schmidt of Berlin-Kreuzberg Stadtbilder 1984, specially the first one which is untitled.

Which photographer would you most like to (a) work with and (b) talent spot?

I work alone. It is difficult to share a vision as there should be only one vision for one work.

What keeps you awake at night?

Working on my upcoming book just days before going to press.

If you hadn't have become a photographer what would you have like to have been?

A writer.

Do you have a life philosophy?

Having a vision.

How do you germinate ideas for your work?

Projecting myself in the outside world.

You in three words

Poetry. Passion. Beauty.

What advice would you give to your 16 year old self?

Keep your freedom.

SHE, a monograph published by Twin Palms with a text by Quentin Bajac, will be released in Spring 2012

Photo and text from The Telegraph

FOIL Editor Interviews Rinko Kawauchi

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Masakazu Takei, an editor and the representative of FOIL Publishing interviews photographer Rinko Kawauchi after working with her on a number of books with FOIL and Little More Publishing

When did you begin studying photography?

I attended a two-year college and took a photography class once a week, which I enjoyed more than anything else.

Did you intend to become a photographer when you entered college?

No. I went to art school because I thought it would be fun to take art class every day. I was interested in studying drawing, design and images. But what I enjoyed the most was my photography class.

What did you do just after graduating from college?

I was employed by an advertising company and worked in the photography section only for a year. After that, I worked as an assistant at a photography rental studio in Tokyo for about one and a half years. The first year I spent most of my time shooting packaging and works of art. This experience helped me learn a lot about technique. After about three years working for others, I decided to go free lance.

As a free lance photographer did you work more for advertising or for magazines?

In the beginning I worked more for advertising. However I have had many different types of clients including magazines.

Your first publications were the trilogy of photo books Utatane, Hanabi and Hanako. As a free lance shooting commercial work, when did you find the time to work on personal projects such as Utatane?

Well, sometimes I would work on my personal projects during the spare time I had between each job. At other times, I would shoot what caught my eye while working on a advertising project. I always carried a camera with me just in case.

Do you have a different approach to photography when you are doing your personal work?

I've been often asked that question. When I am shooting there is no difference in my approach whether I am doing personal work or commercial work. However when I am selecting them and putting them together, I do think about where and how the prints will be shown. For commercial photos, I sometimes have to shoot subjects that are set up in a studio, so perhaps I should say there is a difference with my personal work. I have a much clearer intention in mind when I am doing commercial work. But even when I am working on an advertisement, I am looking for the same kind of feelings and sensations as I am shooting.

When you shoot, do you have any specific plans?

It depends on the series. Generally, I have a potential book in mind. For Utatane, I took pictures of things that moved me. For Hanabi, I had something very specific in mind. I searched for the times and places of summer fireworks shows in Japan. I wanted to photograph them from many different points of view. I often shoot with the idea of a project in mind: a view from a hotel room, a view of the highway. Then I work on the layout of my publication.

What do you think about while you are shooting?

Basically I try not to think about anything.

Like athletes who can move their bodies without thinking?

Sometimes I am thinking as I shoot, but the best photos are brought about when I am not thinking about anything ?when my mind is empty of thought. When I am intently concentrated, I feel nothing of myself. I think it's similar to "runner's high".

Do you have this same feeling when you are putting together a series?

As I am printing, I always think about how I will put together a series ?at this stage my mind and my body are working together. I sometimes have a hard time finding an idea, but after several days of printing and reflection an idea will come to me suddenly.

Everyone says that you have a very unique way of capturing light on your prints. What do you think?

I do not do this consciously.

Sometimes your shots are deliberately en contre-jour?

Atmosphere and lighting are very important to me. When I photograph en contre-jour, what I am trying to do is capture the soul or aura of the subject rather than the subject itself... I guess that is the reason why people say that my lighting is unique.

In your work, you often address the universal themes of life and of death. Are these themes particularly important to you?

I do not necessarily think about them consciously while I am shooting. They emerge as I select the prints and put them together as a series. This is a very important process to me, as important as the shooting process. I look at my works objectively and calmly during this stage.

Are there moments during a shoot when you are sure that you have taken a great photograph? Or moments during the development when you are surprised by something you discover on a print?

I love it when I discover something extraordinary in my prints while developing. There are always moments when I surprise myself by seeing something I did not expect to find.

After you develop a photograph, you reexamine it and decide how you will include it within a series of images? This could be called an editorial approach to photography.

Sometimes I feel that it would be better not to do this. If you think too much about the selection of photographs and how they will be put together, the result will seem over-structured, artificially composed. It is always difficult to use good judgment during this process.

How do photography books differ from exhibitions?

The biggest difference is that a photography book can be held in your hands. It can thus be appreciated on a more intimate level. Exhibitions are seen in white boxes. When you are putting together a photography book, you must keep in mind that you look at them in a sequential way as you turn the pages. When viewing an exhibition, what counts most is the space and how it is structured. These are two very different ways of looking at photographs.

In your exhibitions, you often present a selection of photographs in a small box-like room.

When possible I like people to view the images in a very small space. In this way, the public is brought closer to the work.

The experience thus becomes similar to viewing the photographs in photography book.

Up until now, I have been mainly focused on making publications. It is probably for this reason that I like people to view my works up close. Although I know there are many advantages to showing my work in larger spaces, I still believe it is more suited for smaller spaces. For this reason, I always make sure that there is a small room where people can appreciate the work on a more intimate level. The one I made for the exhibition at Art Tower Mito was called a confession room, which was well described.

It was like a church?

It owed the effect to the height of the ceiling and the way the sunlight streamed into the room. When I am shooting, I appreciate the same kind of atmosphere. I want to create a quiet, intimate place where people can be alone and listen to their inner voices while they are looking at my works.

What were your interests as a child?

I wasn't a very cheerful child. I was rather gloomy. I didn't like school. I was always reading books, but they were nothing serious - fairy tales, illustrated children's books, novels for young women, and world literature.

Do you enjoy reading?

I like books. Even if I don't understand the content, I am happy just having them. I love libraries. Since there were not many books in my school library, I often went to the municipal library in Tsurumi Ward(Osaka) by bicycle. I like being by myself in the library.

Did you look at any photography books when you were a child?

Yes. I saw American Roulette of Shinya Fujiwara when I was in elementary school. I couldn't understand why he had given that title to his book of photographs of the US. I tried to read the postscript, but it was too difficult for me to understand. I also saw his publication Memento-Mori as well as Joji Hashiguchi's 17 years old and couple. I was also interested in photographs of animals in nature books. I remember being particularly surprised by the texts in Hashiguchi's couple. I was even reading Osamu Hashimoto and Seiko Tanabe. Once, a young librarian told me that I was too young to be reading such books. I didn't care and just kept reading them even though I didn't always understand them.

Who are the photographers that you particularly respect and why?

In Japan, I respect Kyoji Takahashi, Toyohisa Araki, Daido Moriyama and Takuma Nakahira. In Europe, I respect Boris Mikhailov. I also like the works of Wolfgang Tillmans. I generally respect the work of all photographers.

Have you been influenced by anyone?

Though there are many people, Banana Yoshimoto has influenced the spiritual part of me very much. I was also influenced by the work of Satoru Sato, a great illustrator of children's books.

It is very difficult for young artists abroad to publish their books before they exhibit their works, while in Japan young artists can publish their work relatively easily. What do you think of this difference in opportunities?

It has been my first goal to publish books. It has been more important to me than making an exhibition. Even when I knew my work would not be published, I did not consider it completed until I was finished organizing it into portfolios. Before I published my first book, I was making my own handmade books every half a year or so. It was very important for me to unify my works into a series before moving on to the next stage. For me an exhibition is a reward, not a goal in and of itself. I think that if I was not able to publish my work, I would continue making books on my own. It is more important to me to show my works in the form of a book than to show the print itself.

You simultaneously released three photography books in Japan. Did your situation change following the release of these publications?

It completely changed my life. It means that I am now appreciated as an artist. You are not recognized as an artist in Japan unless you have published something. People place more importance on your publications than on your exhibitions. For the selection of Annual Kimura Ihei Award, what they consider is the publications.

For this exhibition, you will show the photographs from AILA, the eyes, the ears, and cui, cui. What does each titles mean?

AILA comes from the Turkish word meaning ig family?or more generally relationship? the eyes, the ears, is about what can be captured with our five senses; not only what the eyes see, but also what the ear hears and the skin touches.

the eyes, the ears, represents your first experience bringing together your photos and your poems?

Organizing the photographs has gone smoothly because I usually listen to my inner voice when I am doing this. I have had many offers from various magazines to write, but I have always been a little reluctant to put words next to my images. I tried to express my inner voice as well in my poems as I do in my photographs. It was also a challenge for me to do things in a new way.

The AILA series not only deals with the themes of birth and death, it also includes scenes from everyday life. Why did you include these images in this series?

If I had not included these scenes from the everyday, the series would have been cut off from reality. I included them to make daily reality more tangible. As a result, the series became more interesting.

Why did you choose cui cui as a title?

Since I knew the exhibition would take place in France, I consulted a French dictionary. There was a column about how birds cry in various languages. It is "chun, chun" in Japanese and "cui, cui" in French, and so on. Among them, "cui, cui" sounded very cute, while the sound of "chun, chun" was too familiar for me. As it is a photobook of my family, I didn't want it to have a weighty meaning. In this regard, the sound of "cui, cui" was exotic and suitable for the title.

How long have you been taking the photographs of your family?

For about 10 years. It is really a quite an average family. Although there are dramas in the life of any family, I didn't want to focus on this aspect of things in cui cui. There is nothing exceptionally dramatic shown in this series. I wanted to consider the events that can happen to any family. I thus tried to avoid focusing on the specific qualities or personality of my own family. For me, these events are sometimes as small and insignificant as the cry of a sparrow. People die, live, get married, grow apart... I hope that after seeing my work people will begin to reexamine their own families. But it was very difficult to put the series together.

What was difficult for you?

I tried to be objective, but this was very difficult because the images concern my own family. I felt that in order to merit a presentation and publication, the work had to be more than just a personal family album. I wanted to make a book that would bring people to reflect upon their own family relationships. More generally, I would like that my work serve as a catalyst for people to think about themselves and their relationship to the world.

There are a great many photographs in the size of 6x6. Are there any reason for it? What kind of camera do you use?

I use Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex camera in 6x6 format.

Do you use any other camera?

I use Hasselblad 6x6 and Canon A1 and F1 once in a while. Also Kyocera T Proof, a compact camera and Panon Widelux, a panoramic camera. And I want to use 4x5 format from now on.

Do you change your equipment when you go from a commercial shoot to your personal work?

I rarely change them. I judge on a case-by-case basis. But I don't change the equipment I carry. When I go on location, people are always surprized at my very small luggage. I bought a suitcase only a year ago or so. I used to go abroad with a small camera bag and a backpack. As for the tripod, I only have a small one.

I believe that you will be doing more and more exhibitions abroad from now on. How do you feel about this?

I am grateful for having many opportunities. They are like rewards to me as I've explained before. I think I'm very fortunate that my works will be seen by many people. I would like to work on each exhibition earnestly and steadily.

Text and images courtesy of Baidu.

Interview with Rinko Kawauchi

Added on by ROSEGALLERY.

Rinko Kawauchi's Silky Bliss

By Brienne Walsh, Interview Magazine

UNTITLED FROM "ILLUMINANCE," 2009.

On the top floor of the Hermès store on Madison Avenue, past shelves of signature silk scarves and leather accessories, hangs "Illuminance," a new body of work by the Japanese photographer Rinko Kawauchi. Bathed in the sun from the skylight at the top of the curling white stairs, in a setting that mimics the top-floor galleries of the iconic Guggenheim Museum by Frank Lloyd Wright, the fifteen works in the show exude a sense of calm, a zen-like attention to small details and muted colors. "I spend my life itself in photography," Kawauchi told Interview. "Place itself doesn't matter to me so much as the image that emerges."

Captured in various cities over the past 15 years, and shot from the hip with a finder Rolliflex camera, the untitled works, taken mostly without a flash, are marked by their luminescence. Depicting seemingly unconnected subjects—a small, dead bird lying on a pristine white background; a group of people emerging from a doorway onto a color flushed garden from the dark shadows of an unlit room; a man standing on an outcropping of rock over a moon-bathed ocean—the study of light itself seems to be the unifying theme of the body of work. In one image, shot in 2009, the headlight beams reflected off of the side-view mirror of a moped obscure the faint outlines of the city street behind it, an effect that blinds the viewer and captures the optical layering that occurs when an eye adjusts to the flat darkness of night. In contrast, an image taken in 2009 flattens pinpoints of purple, pink and turquoise lights, which blur across the two-dimensional composition like expressive, free form gestures of the hands, or a diffusion of comets.

Kawauchi is a member of an emerging group of female Japanese artists, which includes Chiho Aoshima and Eye Ohashi, whose work is increasingly gaining notoriety on the international stage. In opposition to her Japanese male contemporaries such as Nobuyoshi Araki, whose photography is characterized by an aggressive fetish for the subjugation of the female body, and Hiroshima Sugimoto, whose precise black-and-white compositions harness monumental spaces with a burly, almost masculine confidence, Kawauchi's works are, at surface level, distinctively feminine. That is, if femininity can be defined by almost medieval notions of softness and unassuming passivity, a characterization that the artist herself rejects.  "There may be things that only a female can express, but in my works, it something that comes out naturally," she explains. "I'm not doing it consciously."

Text and images courtesy of Interview Magazine.

Bruce Davidson Interview

Added on by ROSEGALLERY.

Dwarf standing outside of tent with flowers and cigarette, 1958

“What you call a ..., I call my home.”

By Baptiste Lignel, ASX Guest Editor, May 5, 2011

Commitment

Baptist Lignel: I feel that many of your stories are led by a personal relationship with an individual, rather than by the content of the story (in that sense many stories verge on the portrait). Which is perhaps something you have in common with Eugene Smith.

Bruce Davidson: Everyone who had a Life Magazine subscription in those days was anxious to see W. Gene Smith’s next project. Schweitzer in the Belgium Congo, The Country Doctor, or the Spanish Funeral, all of those were in our consciousness as 17 to 20 year old photographers. I think Gene Smith is a very important fixture in photography, and of course very inspiring.

BL: To me the most striking example is the "Circus" project (book and exhibition). It feels like it has two parts. One where you are telling us about this one person you have a relationship with, and, oh by the way, he is a circus dwarf, but that seems almost secondary in the story.

BD: If you look through my total number of my photographic work, you’ll see that a lot of it is intimate. I call it “outside to the inside”. I don’t photograph stories, my photographs take on a mood, and have a cumulative effect, but there isn’t a beginning a middle and an end. It’s not a “story” story, it’s more a mood piece.

So the dwarf isn’t the story of a dwarf, it’s the emotion that surrounds this little man. At first I was attracted to the dwarf, and then he drove me into the circus. I photographed the circus itself but I didn’t publish it. I didn’t even print it. I edited it maybe, but I didn’t do much with it. At the time it was all about Jimmy Amstrong, and our relationship, and his life as a clown in that particular circus, at that particular time, 1958.

Duffy Circus, Ireland, 1967

BL: So what happened to those images?

BD: I just kept them. But when I decided to edit my entire archives, I came upon those contact sheets, and I could still remember the emotions. For instance the lovely trapeze artist… I was probably subliminally in love with this beautiful young woman, so I photographed her with a certain respect and a certain distance. It was very beautiful to see these young women go up the rope…

Magnum at that time was a very small organization, twelve rebels. Feisty rebels! We had a picture librarian, Sam Holmes who was an amateur trapeze artist and circus buff, and he told me “there’s a wonderful circus in New Jersey and what’s special about is that it has a white tent, light comes through it, it’s translucent”. Most tents use a heavy canvas, and are dark inside, but here I was able to photograph in natural light with a little Leica!

BL: Then in the book “Circus” there are two additional circuses, and they felt to me as less personal stories.

BD: The second story is on “Barnum & Bailey”, it was a show held in a coliseum. The reason I was sent there on assignment for a magazine was the fact that no longer were there tent shows. They were diminishing, because of television. People could sit in their houses, and watch a circus for free. The audiences now needed to be larger than was possible in tent shows, so they were held in huge coliseums. So they sent me to this particular coliseum, which, by the way, won a prize for its architecture, but was hideously ugly…

Here is a classic circus held in an ugly space. And you could see that it’s about the space, and how the space is separated from the show. And that’s why those photographs are cold and isolating.

Police water hosing of peaceful demonstration in Birmingham, 1963

Youth arrested during peaceful demonstrations in Birmingham, 1963

Another reason, is that in 58 I was a romantic photographer but when I went back to the circus is 65, I was more in the reality. And maybe I was a little angry, maybe a little disappointed that my beautiful tent shows, the romance of my tent shows had diminished. And now I’m seeing a clearer, sharper reality.

BL: None of the circuses change, only circus environments change.

BD: And I changed in those 7 or 8 years!

BL: And finally the “Duffy Circus” in Ireland. I loved it, it was a family thing, every member of the family had a role in it!

BD: Now what’s interesting is that the Duffy Circus interrupted the work I was doing on East 100th Street, in its second year, in 1967. That’s when I was given this assignment by Holiday magazine. I was getting a little tired, and also I was newly married, so I thought I’d take my wife on a honeymoon to the Duffy Circus. So we took a little time off, and then came back. It was a good break from East 100th street. But what’s important about that break is that I still carried my 4x5 Linhoff view camera, which means that I photographed the “Duffy Circus” in 4x5! Even the trapeze artist!

At the Clyde Beatty in 58, with the help of a roustabout, I was able to climb to the top of the tent and look down, which was very exciting for me. And I wanted to do the same thing at the Duffy Circus. I wanted to photograph the trapeze artists as figures of Art, almost abstracted, so one of the Duffy sons helped me get on top of the tent, where there was a hole, and my wife was on the ground with my strobe connected by a wire. But when I looked down I saw that my wife, who knew nothing about photography at the time, had the strobe pointed in the wrong direction. So I wrote on a little piece of paper: “move the light to the left”. And that piece of paper fluttered down, and she was moving around to catch it like it was a butterfly, in a pathetic way that almost caused me to have tears. Then she looked at the paper, looked at me, moved the light a little bit, and I waved that it was ok. That was a very romantic moment.

So the “Duffy Circus” was photographed in a more classic way, with a 4X5 camera, and that was new for me. A new awareness.

BL: One image that I’d like to confirm the meaning of: the coke vendor seems to have a protective hand on the shoulder of “Little man”, was he then being harassed by the surrounding kids?

BD: The roustabouts would be very protective. There is one picture where one of them is giving Jimmy a massage. Dwarfs get very serious rheumatism, because they have a heavy head and a little body, so the muscles become contracted. The beautiful thing about that circus at the time was that it was a family. It was a world within a world.

And it was also a world in transition because tent shows were going to die out. And I’m attracted to subjects in transition.

Lefty with his first tattoo, 1959

BL: And in those subjects you are always attracted to people, for instance “The Spanish priest” is another example where even when on one assignment you go off on a tangent and follow an individual to tell their story.

BD: In that moment I became Cartier-Bresson!

It was so classic. Fortunately that priest was an American who spoke perfect English and led me up to the caves. I was shooting on the film set of a war movie with Alain Delon, and a couple of American actors. The children saw the movie being acted and mimicked it. When the children were lying down and playing dead it was so Cartier-Bresson…

BL: With one difference though: Cartier-Bresson did not bond so much with the people he photographed, when you are the opposite.

BD: To some extent. I spend a lot of time on a subject, and that’s how I achieve some kind of intimacy, because people are used to seeing me, I’m part of the group.

BL: Like in "Brooklyn Gang".  Incidentally, I feel this story is not what the title suggests. We do not have the violence we expect in a “gang” story, rather a story about loneliness as a group, and as individuals within the group.

BD: Exactly right! And that is why that body of work has remained fresh over the years. People are still acquiring images from that story.

Remember I wasn’t much older than they were. I could be an uncle, but not a parent! So I stayed aloof, but observing. One of the things I didn’t know is that those kids were very poor. Alcoholism was really rampant in that working class area of Brooklyn. They were completely isolated and abandoned in that community. There was nothing for them.

So I picked up on that mood, which was also within me, because my brother and I were abandoned by our father. So I could understand isolation and abandonment in a subliminal way. I didn’t walk around with a flag saying “I was abandoned, I need a friend!”. It’s all in the atmosphere.

BL: You are not an activist, but, in your own words a “humanist”, could you define the difference?

BD: I don’t think overtly I was political. I didn’t think of my photography as propaganda. I thought of it as imagery, and capturing a mood. Or the atmosphere, or the climate around a given situation, which somehow I was drawn to. For example I wasn’t there to say “Save all dwarfs!”, you know. I could barely save myself…

It was all about passion and how I was attracted to photography. I loved to take pictures.

Boys lying under the boardwalk at night, 1959

BL: Yet the encounter with the “Freedom Riders” seemed to have opened up a new field of preoccupation and work for you. Then “East 100th Street” had an official agenda.

BD: Then I was trying to be useful to the community. I don’t think of it as politics, I’m not very good at politics. Whereas my wife is a very vocal activist. But I don’t want to get into any political discussions.

My work came out of a certain political climate, surely.

When I went down to photograph the Freedom Riders in 61, I ambitiously wanted to photograph “Youths in America”, whatever that meant! Then someone told me about that group of college students –“youths”- who were challenging segregation laws, and I didn’t know what that meant! I was from the Midwest, I was white bred, and the only prejudice I had ever encountered was prejudice towards my own family, we were jewish. Anti-Semitism I understood, but civil rights weren’t in my mind at that time.

So I went down thinking I was going to photograph youths on a bus! I didn’t know that it would potentially be very violent.

The first bus has been burnt, and there had been no press, so no visual record, it was just destroyed. For the second bus the federal troops were out, the police were out and there was press. And that’s when I first felt fear, because on that bus ride the soldiers had live ammunition and bayonets. And they were homeboys, southern kids, you know, they were forced to be there, but they didn’t want to be there. Plus there could be sniper fire on the highway from the woods. Anybody could hide in the woods with a rifle and shoot the bus, and there were one or two rifle rounds shot, just so that they could be heard… It was fearsome.

I followed that movement from 61 to 65, not every demonstration, of course, but many and I became sensitized. Man, at the time I was taking fashion pictures! My contract with Vogue was in 1962. I’d go down to Birmingham, then come back and take a fashion picture! So eventually I cut that fashion stuff out. I couldn’t come to grips with both the reality I was observing in the south and some fashion shoot for Vogue.

BL: Then how did you earn your living?

BD: To earn a living I did corporate work. Factories, how things are built, the space telescope, experimental liver transplant on a baby, all kinds of interesting things. And also presidents of corporations. But there I felt I was still within the reality of the country.

BL: So you went from not knowing about discrimination at all to making “East 100th Street” which is all about discrimination in New York, not even in the South.

BD: And I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I hadn’t spent four years following the civil rights movement.

So I became politicized, but although I rode on the bus I wasn’t a member of CORE or SNCC or any of those organizations.

Nor did I want to be close to Martin Luther King. I didn’t want to be favored in any way. I never actually met him! I was in a room with him, a church, or a press conference, but I never went up and said “I want to show you my work”.

BL: So your grand plan was to make a story about “Youths in America”. If you were 30 today, the age you were when you covered the civil rights issues, what would you do? What do you feel would be the great social challenge in the US today?

BD: Probably the environment. The fact that we eat too much, we drive too much, we spend a lot of money on expensive cars, so it is both consumption and the environment.

That sometimes means becoming aware of what you take for granted.

KKK handing out fliers, 1962

BL: You are of a generation of photographers who often took their social concern or political belief abroad, to Latin America, or to Viet Nam, but not you.

BD: I went to the Jersey Meadows! My theory was that a country is judged by what it throws away, and we throw away a tremendous amount of things. In the Jersey Meadows I used to pick things and take them home…

When they tore down Penn Station, they took all those incredible statues, huge, and dumped them in the middle of Jersey Meadows, and I found that spot. And I stayed with this scavenger family.

I was involved in those mountainous heaps of garbage. In a sense that was an early environmental project. But I never was a war photographer in any way. The Civil Rights movement was as far as I could go.

BL: You have mostly photographed in the US, except for a few commissions abroad. Local social issues or topics. Was it a deliberate choice?

BD: Well I did a book on England and Scotland, then there are the Welch miners, but even those are not so much about a country than about my attraction to a certain period of History in England.

I grew up during the second World War, and my Uncle who lived with us became a pilot. He was flying from England to Yugoslavia to drop bombs on oil fields, when he was shot down. He was rescued, and is living today. So that made us very close to the war. In out little town, the houses where someone had been killed had a little flag in the window, with a star. Sometimes there were two stars… I was probably twelve years old, and that left an impression on me, so I always had a warm spot for England and Scotland.

Then I always had an attraction to the Welch miners. Probably because of the photographs that I may have seen in photography school of Robert Frank’s miners.

Actually when I served and I was posted outside of Paris, my sergeant was from Wales and I asked him “where would you send your worst enemy?”, and he said “such small village in Wales!”, and I did! On a three day pass. I just barely made it there, I could be in the town for two hours and then I had to go back to the army camp. I don’t think I even took any pictures, I just stood there. Later I did take pictures in Wales, of Welch miners. And after that, in America, I photographed miners as well. There’s something about going into the bowls of the earth and it’s dark, and there’s only one way out…

BL: For that reason, you often go back to earlier stories. To see what the people have become, and sometimes to make another version of the same issue (“Central Park”). Tell me more about that.

BD: I think I grow out of a state of mind. The early central park photographs were right afterBrooklyn Gang, and I needed a rest. So walking through Central Park I began to feel very close to the place and the vegetation, which is very romantic, and very soft. Then later in the 90’s, I developed a different way of seeing Central Park than this kind romantic beauty. Then I related to people’s limbs, the roots of the trees, the images are more dramatic, and seen from a certain distance.

Basically when we had children we hated Central Park, it was very dangerous, and there would be hypodermic needles laying around. But when I photographed there, it was during a period of transition into the new park. Very well cared for, so that right now I wouldn’t photograph there, it’s too gentrified for me.

BL: Same story with East 100th Street, you’ve worked there for two years, and then returned 30 years later. You seem to keep working the same locations and the same topics again and again.

BD: That’s because they change, and I change.

BL: Nature starts to enter your imagery as early as the 60’s, in Central Park, in the NJ Meadows, then in Yosemite Park, but it is never a wild nature, always a nature that includes men, or which was built by men. Now in your latest nature projects that seems to shift.

BD: I took it on my own to photograph the nature of Paris. For instance a tree, three or four hundred years old, growing without anybody noticing it, next to the Eiffel Tower. That was important because I started getting abstract without any people. When I finished doing “Nature of Paris” a poet friend of mine by the name of C. K. Williams said to me that it was “a fierce reality”. In other words, they weren’t pretty pictures. Which highlights the double meaning of those images. A lot of it is sexually derived. You might think “oh god, horny bastard”. So the predator is still around… And that led to L.A..

Los Angeles is a desert but with water, where anything will grow. But people who live in L.A. don’t recognize it, they take it for granted. They’re really butting up against foothills of real wilderness but they pay it no attention.

I haven’t dug deep enough in this project yet, it is still a work in progress. I still don’t know what I’m doing. My first impulse was to photograph the back of the Hollywood sign, which everybody knows, but is very difficult to get to (I couldn’t get to it without a rope). I find great meaning in it, and the desert that is in front of it. There are no people at all in those photographs, I don’t want to see a human being!

The Hollywood sign is kind of vulgar, and now, more than a symbol, it is a brand. If I wanted to photograph a model there, they would charge me a tremendous amount of money. But I was there free, because I was working for the Los Angeles County Museum. They gave me letter saying that I’m working on a special project, a fine art project, and “could you please help poor little Bruce?”… And they fell for it, so I’m kind of an artist in residence there. They think there is going to be a show of those photographs. Well there might not be for another ten years…

BL: So after this first image of the Hollywood sign, what have you been looking for?

BD: I was asked to present my work at a photo happening sponsored by the Levi Strauss institute in London, and I found out that while I was talking they were transmitting those pictures on the internet. There were 16 000 hits! So I thought why don’t I use the internet to scout my photographs in Los Angeles? Put the word out for an incredible tree, a beautiful cactus, someone who keeps coyotes, an infinity swimming pool, etc… For instance there are fires in the foothills of L.A., well after the fire is out I want to be able to go in there where it’s all black. For that I have to make some sort of relationship with the fire department.

I have to figure out how to do research on the internet. I need to figure out what are the questions to ask. How to define what I’m looking for. I don’t even know…

BL: Why Los Angeles?

BD: I photographed Los Angeles in 64, and that was eastern snobbery. L.A. was a pit, a purgatory, it was soulless. It was about money, it was about Hollywood types, there was no aesthetic reality there, just a grid. And I photographed this, and so did Robert Frank, and so did a lot of other people. Esquire had sent me on assignment, but they didn’t understand what I was doing. The iconic, ironic, acidy pictures that I was making came out of my experience there.

Now, it’s a new L.A., it is full of Art, Museums, culture, sure there’s still Hollywood there, and a Rolls Royce convertible –someone’s toy- can pull up next to you at the light, but I don’t have anything to say about that, I think that’s self evident. What I want to say is: “while you are driving your Rolls Royce are you noticing that beautiful palm tree?”. Back to what people overlook.

I haven’t been able to find a palm tree fallen over. I think they might actually not fall over, but collapse. Maybe I’ll find that on the internet: “looking for a dying palm tree…”

BL: This man-nature relationship makes me think of Alec Soth’s “Broken Manual” where we find portraits of men who have fled society and hidden in the wilderness. Yet they never really renounce society. A bit like the Yosemite Park portraits where you end up finding all the elements of a living room spread around a clearing between the trees.

Like the three girls with the make up boxes! They bring themselves to the wilderness, but they don’t change, they don’t interact, maybe they’re not even aware. They know they are in a camp site, but they bring their TV.

Couple at the beach, boy smoking cigarette, Coney Island, 1959
BD: Those pictures were done quite early, I knew what I was doing there…

One thing that has occurred to me is that I have to be careful not to get into Lewis Baltz, or some of the other West Coast landscape photographers. I think my photographs are quite different. It’s not that idea of “save the world”, it is more “appreciate it!”, or “see it for the first time”. Like I explore it myself, I don’t know anything about the wilderness, but I do know that if I move around I will see things.

Photography and time

BL: Tell me about your encounter with Cartier-Breson, and your application to Magnum.

BD: I met Cartier-Bresson in Paris. Years later I was on a bus on fifth avenue, and looking out the window I happened to see Cartier-Bresson on the sidewalk, so I got of the bus to say hello. He said “come to Magnum, it’s round the corner”. And I guess he proposed me for the organization at that time. I met him in 56, and I met him again after “Brooklyn Gang”, so probably in 59. I think I submitted my “Brooklyn Gang” pictures.

BL: How did you first become aware of his work?

BD: When I was in college at Rochester Institute, there were 146 students in the photography department, and two women! I became amoured with one of them. When I was courting her I met her at the women’s dorm, which had a signed that said “males must have both feet on the ground”. We sat on a couch and she brought down a book, and that was “The decisive moment”. I was seeing those pictures for the first time, and she said “I love this photographer, I love Cartier-Bresson!”. So I thought to myself that if I took pictures that looked like his she might fall in love with me too… So I went out and I got a little used Leica, and I mimicked his photographs as close as I could. Well it didn’t work, she ran off with the English professor! But I was left with Cartier-Bresson. And that left an indelible impression on me.

BL: And later you actually met him…

BD: When I was sent to Paris, I was in an international army camp, and I became friends with one French soldier. He invited me to his home in Montmartre, where his mother gave us a lunch, and after lunch I could see that old lady walking down Rue Lepic. Later I was introduced to her, which led to “The widow of Montmartre” series.

And that is the work I showed Cartier-Bresson when I met him. It took a couple of weeks, Magnum said “well, he is not here, bla bla, next week, bla bla…”. When I finally met him, he looked at the contact sheets, the prints as well, but primarily the contact sheets. By the way I donated those very contact sheets to the HCB Foundation in Paris. Vintage contact sheets. When he liked a picture he would tap on the contact so we have his DNA on there!

BL: How do you “fit in” with the newer generation of Magnum photographers?

BD: Oh, there are some extraordinary photographers at Magnum now. For instance there’s a Leonard Freed show right now at the London office, and I didn’t know his work that well, I knew a couple of the iconic images, but he’s a wonderful photographer, in a certain genre.

I don’t think of myself as a Magnum photographer, I think of myself as a photographer who has an agency which supports certain aspects of his work. For instance when there’s an exhibition, they make publicity, and try to sell the photographs. When I have a contract with a magazine, they make sure that I own the pictures, all that kind of stuff. Legal, service, and some kind of atmosphere too, because there is some really good work that keeps coming out of Magnum. And new work! It rejuvenates itself.

Magnum is really an amoeba that can divide itself.

BL: Some of those younger photographers are more subjective in their approach, and go in a fine arts direction. How do you feel about that evolution?

BD: It’s all photography.

Once I asked a student what kind of photography she did, and she said “I’m a fine art photographer”, and I said “that’s really interesting, because I see myself as just a fine photographer!”

Yet my work has now made a bridge to so called “fine art” world, with collectors and so on. That probably seriously began when I joined the Howard Greenberg Gallery. I was with another gallery before but that didn’t work out so well, but Howard really understands my work and has championed it, and has sold quite a bit of it.

Today that represents almost all of my income.

From Time of Change, 1965

From Time of Change, 1965

The other day I was thinking to myself “I hope I don’t have a job because I wouldn’t know how to go about it!”.

BL: When was the last time you had a commission?

BD: It was a movie star. It might have been Paul Newman, when he was alive! Then George Clooney, Brad Pitt, a bunch of them…

To be able to swim, you need to be where there is water. You have to be there, suggest things to the editors, have something publish to show, and I’ve given all that up. It may be that I’ll go back and do something commercially, but I’ve turned down a lot of jobs. Particularly if they had a commercial bend.

All I want to do now is take pictures, and take care of my archives.

BL: How do you feel about your archives going from one world –a commercial commission- to another –the art world-?

BD: When I was doing fashion photography in the early 60’s, Vogue collected those photographs, and they are really beautiful pictures. I didn’t give a shit about fashion, I was just glad that I could pay the rent with those pictures, and then go down south when I wanted to. I wasn’t interested in making a lot of money, I wasn’t interested in the life…

“Outside Inside” is the essence of my work, and aside from Bernstein and Monroe there aren’t a lot of portraits of famous people.

BL: The imagery of "Brooklyn Gang" (1959) inevitably suggests that of “Rebel without a cause” (1955). You’ve also had a career as a film maker. How do you think the cinema has influenced your photography?

BD: Towards the end of “East 100th Street”, where my images were very still, I wanted to illustrate the vibrant colors of that community, so I bought a movie camera. I friend of 100th street told me he had 16 000 feet of fresh film, that he would give me for very little. So I bought this stolen Kodak film, and I started filming people I knew. They thought it was still a still camera, so they would not move in front of the movie camera, which made for some interesting images.

Then I wrote a loose script which was the story of someone who lost an element of their clothing every time they did a good deed. And they would be naked by a bonfire by the end of the film. I started shooting. The opening scene was a young girl in a leotard, opening the door to the roof and started practicing martial arts. But I had to stop the movie because the girl’s father was an activist and wanted an all black crew. I said “what about me?”, and he said “you, ok, because you represent the money!”. So I refused to do that.

Then I went to the Jersey Meadows because I knew that family, and that became “Living of the land”. Then later I did another film based on Singer, where he confronts his own characters. Then that was it! I went back into my still photography. I didn’t have a very long stay in films, I just made three little films.

Of course I was going to movies ever since I was a little kid, but I can’t think of any particular film which influenced me tremendously. Certainly I was aware of Kubrick, Antonioni, Fellini, Kurosawa, all the main ones that I probably absorbed. But when I was making my stories I didn’t think about anybody else, because I was wrapped up in what I was trying to do with it.

What was important was that moment when I first saw an image coming out of chemicals. I was about 10 years old, and I was waiting to get into a basketball game, when a friend of mine came by and said “do you want to see developing in my dark room?” and I said “what’s that?”. I went with him to his basement, and I saw that first picture come out! With the red light it was all very spooky, and intimidating, yet I was very much attracted to it. So I ran home and asked my mom if I could empty out my grandmother’s jelly closet, and make a dark room out of it.

It was always about the passion of photographing, of making a “click”, then putting that little thing into something else and it became alive! That’s what drives me: the beauty of it all, the little click on my Leica. It’s very cosmic, because that’s exactly what happened: a flash, and then the cosmos came out of the water, out of the void. Then time was invented.

Books

BL: “East 100th St” seems like it could bear the name “Outside Inside”. Both in terms of belonging, and in terms of imagery (you open with the street, and close with the street, with many interiors in between).

BD: That’s true about anything I would photograph. Even a tree. “Outside” means you’re not really connected. You may be there, but you are not connected yet, you need to find your way inside to understand. And perhaps you can’t fully understand.

On “100th Street”, some people would say “why did you photograph those bad things?”, when actually there’s a lot of dignity. Certainly this project has more layers of ideas and imagery than anything else I’ve ever done.

Black girls running past seated white children in the south, 1962

Brooklyn Gang, 1959

What many people miss is that the background is as important as the foreground. For instance that man standing on rubble: it not only dignifies him, it also shows where he came from.

BL: I’ve always been puzzled by the choice of the cover image, which happens to also be the closing image of the first edition. Why this one?

It’s a very religious community, and I felt that that child on that fire escape was a kind of crucifix. I’ve seen crucifixes in old churches in Italy, or France, and that child, in my mind, became this religious figure. That’s also why I printed her face dark.

Weeks before, I had photographed that same child, but from an elevation, the mother saw me do it and brought the children in, off the fire escape. So I went around and I knocked on the door, and I showed her my work. She said “ok, you can photograph my children out there on the fire escape, provided you also take a picture of them dressed up”, so I did. So she was comfortable at that time.

BL: In the new edition of 2002 the book changes quite a bit. More text, but more importantly: different sequence, different cropping sometimes, and different editing! Why all those differences?

BD: You see, I owed it to history.

The original printing was very very dark, and very contrasty. Printed on a German paper where you could do that. They finally took it of the market because it had Cadmium in it, and Cadmium is slightly radioactive. So the first edition of “East 100th Street” is radioactive…

Years later I decided to re edit, add pictures, maybe eliminate a couple others. I wanted it to have the same mood, but I didn’t want it to be so dark. If you look at certain pictures in the first edition, you can’t see the faces. Now the St Ann’s publication is very good, they actually hired a printing expert to be with me on press. Photographers often make the mistake of thinking it’s enough to say “oh, make it a little darker”, when that doesn’t mean anything to a printer. You need to be there and to know what to ask for.

I think the second edition is more beautiful than the original. Now everyone wants the original because it’s dark, which makes it “art”.

At the time I didn’t know anything about book printing, and I sent my prints to Rochester where the book was going to be printed, and it wasn’t very well printed. It looked like it was well printed, but it wasn’t.

BL: Most of your books are rare. Even when they are re printed. Is that a conscious choice?

BD: Well I’m not a very good businessman!

I’m working with Steidl now, and his distribution is not the distribution of a commercial publisher. All he cares about really is how beautiful the printing is. While he does have distribution, I don’t think he likes the distribution people, I don’t think he likes Barnes and Noble, he’d rather have his books in some little shops.

Then if the books went sold out so quickly it’s because he didn’t print enough copies, because I wasn’t famous enough! For instance for “Outside Inside” he chose to print 3 000 copies, 1500 went to the States, and 1500 went to Europe. And once it’s sold out, it’s the end. Now he tells me he’s reprinting it, but I haven’t seen it in the bookstores.

BL: But the second printing of “East 100th Street” I haven’t even seen once in a bookstore!

BD: Yes, I know! Well that’s a different story. This was published by St Ann’s who was really just a rich guy who wanted to get into publishing, but when he got there and started losing money on some of the books he just stopped publishing! And that’s tragic.

But sooner or later I think there will be another edition with Steidl… But what we are working on now will be “Subway”. I’m going out there on Saturday, and we start printing on Monday!

BL: Because of color, but also because of its violence your “Subway” series stands out. When usually you are driven by the development of a human relationship for a project, in this case it is impossible by nature.

East 100th Street, New York, 1966-1968

BD: Well you can have a 30 seconds love affair! And have a hundred different such love affairs…

The secret of it was that everyone was fed up with the subway. It was dirty, non safe, people getting robbed, it was just a horrible mess, with a lot of graffiti all over everything. I was there with my cameras and people would ask “what are you doing?” and I would tell them I was making a book on the subway, and they would go “Oh, we need a book on the subway!”. That was one approach. Or I’d take a picture and say “I’m sorry but I needed to do that”, or I would just take it and leave! It was dynamic, every day was different, and every photo was different.

And I paid my dues, I got mugged once or twice, which was expected the way I was walking around with my camera…

It was about color. I started in black and white then I stopped at a certain point and moved into color because I found meaning in the graffiti, and the fact that surprisingly it wasn’t supposed to be a color subject! You know, everyone photographs the subway in black and white.

There was a challenge to find something beautiful in the context of something that is ugly, but there was beauty down there. There are photographs in there that are beautiful! For instance the snow scene with the man, which reminded me of a Werner Bishof Japanese snow photograph, a beautiful picture.

Now for Steidl I went back and I looked at every single box of slides – I think there are 300 boxes – and I found around ten pictures that should have been in the first book, but weren’t. Also the first edition, which was published by Aperture, was really done by a book packager who turned out to be crook -but that’s besides the point-, well the printing isn’t very good. Then for the second edition the printing is pretty good, but now we are going to try and make it better! With new images, pretty much the same layout, but you know, when you add something, you need to change the rest around. It’s a different deck of cards.

BL: Could you tell me more about the cover image, did you get into trouble for that shot?

BD: No. It’s a matter of context. That kid was probably 18-19 years old, came right of off the beach and he had so much sun on his body that it almost radiated. So I just asked him “do you mind? You really have a good tan!”. So I asked him, and I think I sent him a print, but of an image further back so he could see more of his figure.

Funny thing that happened: I had a show at the Museum of the City of New York, there were C-prints, and a guy came up to me and said “I’m the cover!”. And this guy was huge, and when I asked what he did he told me he was a bodybuilder. And he said “if you want, come by the gym and I’ll work with you!”.

BL: The other image I’d like to know more about is the photograph with this guy probing his gun under this other guy’s chin. What was going on there?

BD: At some point you come to an end where you can’t go any further, or you begin to see you own pictures. So after I was finished photographing New York magazine asked me if would join with a group of undercover police who dressed and acted in such a way to precipitate a robbery, and then catch the robber. So I rode with them, and was like a decoy. I had my cameras out, you know, and I also had a subway map, like I was a lost tourist. After about 7 days, I think, someone robbed the policeman dressed as a rabbi with a gold chain. Rabbis don’t wear gold chains, but crooks don’t know that, they know that a rabbi is not going to fight back… Then he ran towards me, and I raised my camera and I took one frame. Now Billy, the backup cop is the one with the gun on that photograph. He dressed up and had a boom box with his music on, so with him the robber felt secure, like “oh, I got a homeboy”.

So the guy holding the gun is actually a cop making an arrest. And the other guy had a lot of burglaries in his record.

BL: Your book “Outside Inside” feels like a retrospective on your own terms, with not institution leading the agenda. What triggered you to venture on this very long and tedious project?

BD: My children. When they looked at my pictures all over the place they said “you’re not leaving this, are you?”. So I thought I’d better clean up the mess, I’d better go through every contact sheet.

I’d say there are 500 books, each containing one hundred sheets of 35 images. So that’s a couple of million photographs that I went through. And I printed them myself in the dark room I have at home. I would edit for two or three days, then print for two or three days. I never edit and print on the same day. No outside input on my choice of images. Just me.

BL: Were you never worried that you might now select images for nostalgic or historical reasons rather than photographic reasons?

BD: As we mentioned before regarding the circus, at the time I focused on the dwarf, but I had also photographed the circus itself as time went by. And I knew which were the photos that affected me then, and I just went for the emotionality.

I had missed a few. For instance I have some Mexican pictures from Oaxaca, and there was one picture that I had missed. I don’t know how, but I missed it.

I wanted to show the passion, and the connection from body of work to body of work. And working with no institution I had complete control and freedom.

BL: In this book, you’ve compiled personal projects and commissions. Yet all the commissions were either editorial or portraits. Why did you include neither your early fashion work, or you commercial work?

BD: It would be too big a book!

Well perhaps at another time I will show my corporate work, in color. There are some really good pictures in there. But I’m not ready to do that yet.

I wouldn’t call it a “retrospective”, I would call it an “introspective”. I wanted to show how one thing leads to another that leads to another thing, like a kind of fractal understanding of things. There are connections from one story to the next, almost organic.

BL: The opening quote of “East 100th st” says “What you call a ghetto, I call home.” Looking through many of your projects it struck me that this quote could apply to many of them just changing the word “ghetto” into another one (“circus”, “coal mine”, “meadows”, “the west”, “yosemite park”, etc…). What does that say about your work?

BD: Well, that’s “Outside Inside”.

I don’t want to get too self-conscious, I was just exploring things.

Lise Sarfati interview on American Suburb X

Added on by ROSEGALLERY.

Sloane #30, Oakland, CA. 2003

By Robert Wiedenfeld for ASX, March 2011

Robert Wiedenfeld: Initially how did the concept develop for The New Life (La Vie Nouvelle)?

Lise Sarfati: I just wanted to go to the States and to work there. I loved the feeling of my body in this space I felt free. I decided to do a road trip and to produce it myself. François came with me. I had no idea what I wanted to do. Just a road trip from the east to the west like in the American tradition of photography but not with the same spirit. I realized quickly the circulation of people was quite strange as in Europe we are more used to seeing people walking in the streets and appropriating themselves to the space (similar to the theory of the situationist regarding Psychogeography), or they were at home or at school or in their car, sometimes you see somebody at a gas station. Very quick the concept came to photograph young characters inside their home, in their garden and in the store next door.The concept also of a series came to me as I did not think about individual photographs. I wanted the frame of the work to stay in a very day to day life depiction of the middle class environment so that the people who looked at the photos could properly identify themselves. My questions were more geared towards how will I choose the characters? How will they have a connection between themselves and what was interesting to me really! Very quickly I decided to focus on a very challenging series with lots of ideas. The way a young person projects herself into another dimension, in another body, in another dream ... the exact movement of the projection. So we spent one week together, François and I, going around exploring different scenarios. Suddenly when I tried to speak with people they would not answer me. So there we were completely isolated in America while the US was at war. My perception was that people did not like so much the French people. As a result I began to say that I was from Belgium. The problem was that people did not know where Belgium was and it appeared to be an imaginary country for them. I also took an assistant along with us so that we could connect with the people faster. In order to connect with the people I would just point to him or her. So I didn't have to waste my time in explaining who we were all the time. During the whole trip I never saw my films and never knew what I was doing in order to go further I had everything in my mind because I wanted to stay in a suspended mood. I did not want to stop similar to an obsession as if I were writing a book. The fact that I never saw any of my films was very important for me. This was the first time also that I inaugurated this way of working I had absolutely no model regarding this ... This was something new for me also unknown that is why I was so excited.

RW: You have pursued youth in many countries throughout the world. What is your fascination with youth?

LS: Yes, that came from my inside feeling of being myself young even if I was not. Also it was a way for me to come back to a certain emotion that I only felt when I was young. By photographing youth I could take all my time to feel those same emotions again. I remember very well my sense of freedom as a child. However mainly I was very influenced by Witold Gombrowicz in particular his idea of perpetual (never ending) adolescence, his approach to the (human) form and by his persistence to have an adolescence like the subject of his narration. Also in Russian literature for example Dostoievski the youth is nearly always predominant as it is in Robert Bresson films. The youth I met before in Russia when I did my series with boys were mainly young prostitutes which came from the suburbs to Moscow so they were adolescents but also they were living a real extreme experience ... This tension between their life and their body and the atmosphere of never ending destruction took me to this theme. The way I worked on young characters with The New Life was completely different and I could have in me the Russian experience. With The New Life the environment was already predetermined so I could focus more on the characters at hand.

Suzannah # 23, Hillsboro, OR. 2003

RW: Lise one of my personal favorites from The New Life is Suzannah # 23 Hillsboro, OR 2003. Upon first seeing this picture my memory jogged back to a very short story that I read in high school called, " The Yellow Wallpaper." For me this image is perfection she almost appears to have just got off a ghost train of sorts ... also I love the strange little apparition that mysteriously appears just above the door frame in the top right corner of the picture. I just wonder how you so effortlessly construct these images that contain somehow a real emotional vacuum ...even if you artificially manifested this mirage I still maintain that you possess the mirror of a genuine clairvoyant .. Could you please deconstruct this image step by step?

LS: I met Suzannah in Portland at an art school where she was enrolled at the time. My first thought was that she was very very shy and very classical. As soon as I saw her I liked her. We did not speak too much. I was surprised she agreed to have her picture taken as I did not make such an effort to convince her. When we arrived to her house I was fascinated by the beauty of the house as I had never previously seen such a beautifully crafted house during our whole trip while traveling for The New Life. Everything was handmade from wood, there was a beautiful crafted staircase between the two floors. The living room was very rich in colours and very old fashioned. I remember the windows in the living room were traditional beveled leaded glass windows typical of the craftsman type homes in Oregon. Her mother was sewing dresses, old fashion dresses with very interesting cloth and I resisted to look at her work instead choosing to stay distant and focused on Suzannah. Suzannah was wearing this unusual yellowish mustard colored dress that presumably her mother made for her. I photographed her in every room not asking so much, especially in the bedrooms. I remember that she blushed became red during the shooting. For this particular shot we were in the kitchen where she naturally touched the glass of water. This was her natural instinct. Nothing was arranged you can see all this plastic and paper behind her that I did not touch. I did like that the plan was so large and so horizontal also I thought it was a nice touch that the arrière-plan was behind her. This picture was made during the day and I remember the way she put her hand on the pleats of her dress ... She was very quiet and her hair was obscuring her face.

RW: There is a real sense of continuity projected in all of your work whether the pictures were taken in Russia, China, France, or USA. Can you please speak about cohesiveness and the importance of authorship regarding your own personal work?

LS: I make all the works I do belonging to my own identity instead of being an observation of the world. My own experience drives me and I realize that my experiences of life were perceived more through the eyes of my youth rather than adulthood. I am interested in all sorts of projections. Also I will never do a mise en scene which will go only from my imagination or my mind I will use the potential of the personnage to give me a lot of possibilities and I will take a lot from either he or she. My specificity will be to choose the good personnage as Robert Bresson did in his movies, not professional actors, never models but encounters that have never been photographed before. When I was living in Russia much of my work was based on a mise en abîme of natural landscapes and stills mixed in a poetic way with my personnages. The main difference being that when I worked in the States I was primarily focused on personnages.

Rose #56, Austin, TX. 2003

RW: In The New Life series you refer to the girls as characters and the person in charge of the wardrobe as a costumer ... can you explain the roles of both?

LS: When I did The New Life the girls and boys I met were my personnages that is true but I did not have anybody managing their outfits with me. I could not think of changing anything in their clothes as their outfits represent a certain richness for me. I met a lot of girls who were very frustrated and they could only express themselves through the clothes they wear or through a color or a way to put their hair. I never asked them to change their clothes. The Austin, Texas series was something else as it was a commission of fashion work with a costumiere from Paris. I said to Leila think you are a costumiere and not a stylist it will help us to get where we need to be in terms of style.

RW: The use of analogous colors in your work is very distinct and as a result plays a very important role in all of your pictures. Could you describe the relationships between colours in your work?

LS: I work a lot on colors. When I began photography I was the photographer for the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Paris where I was doing reproductions of paintings. I spent a lot of time photographing with a view camera Monet, Dali amongst other academicians for the entire catalogue of the Académie ... I had a palette of colors for mixing and matching in order to find the right color ... When I am doing my prints my printer goes crazy as I could feel a point of a red or yellow or magenta ... I am very sensible about color perhaps because I spent all of my childhood in Nice in the south of France near the sun with a lots of white and blue. Then I went for the first time to Russia I was only 15 and visited the border of The Black Sea. I discovered the grey and I was fascinated by this world of no colour a very sad world ... When I came to America the color was everywhere and it gave me happiness I embraced this. I feel color like I breathe colour is my element.

RW: Which painters either modern or classical do you look towards for inspiration?

LS: I love the Russian artists from the 1920´s for example Alexei Kruchenykh, Kazamir Malévich, Natalia Goncharova. I love a lot abstraction, mainly Russian Suprematism but also I care for drawings. My masters for a long time have been Hans Bellmer and Unica Zurn for her drawings. I also like Fra Angelico and Giotto and a lot of other different painters so the list would be really long...

RW: Your pictures reflect a certain cinematic aura. I feel at times when looking as though I´m in the middle of a great movie while wondering what will happen next. Is part of what your trying to project similar to the approach of the mise-en-scène used by cinematographers?

LS: That is right. What will happen next is a good introduction to my photography. I would like the viewer to actively participate in the image. Of course I would be happy if the viewer could identify herself in the image also and do not look at it like a spectacle ... I think the feeling comes from the series rather than an individual image. I have been educated by Robert Bresson who elaborated the theory of the models instead of the actors. He said that the actors were doing theater and that we need real people, real emotions and he asks that the personnage will find themselves in the real life repeating a text about 10 times in order to let the real emotion keep going ... (that is what I feel too). The difference is that Bresson uses text while I don´t! The Text is in my brain (...) and I just project myself towards the personnage that I meet and it works all the time we just connect ... Sometimes some are dominating me sometimes I influence them but all the time something is happening and they will never forget that we met one day...

Lauren #57, Georgetown, TX. 2003

RW: Did you ever encounter a certain level of ethnocentric behavior exhibited by those subjects that you portray in The New Life Series?

LS: Yes in a way if ethnocentrism means to be an observer of my cultural group. I try to focus on an observation of personnages that mirror my own world or upbringing. These are mainly middle class from metropolitan cities. Additionally my work is not too much social. The girls and the boys of The New Life are those I am drawn to naturally however some are from very poor families while others maintain a middle class background. For example Terri was living in a trailer with her mother in Portland, Oregon. Madeleine was from a richer family from Berkeley and Gaelyn was living in New Orleans in a wooden house with only her mother who was a nurse and with her older sister ... I found a lot of common denominators between all the personnages and I felt that they were living the same life more or less and shared the same emotions. Their limits were based on their environments and on their circulation from their private homes to their school. Often the girls and boys that I have photographed were living in houses with their parents. They were mainly adolescents however what attracted me to them is that they all suffered a lot as well as sharing a certain propensity towards insecurity. The question for them is often Who am I? Where am I coming from? What do I want? Exactly like the personnages of Anton Tchékov in the 3 sisters. This is also why I decided to call my series The New Life as the notion came from Vita Nova by Dante.

RW: You seem to have a predisposition a knack for always choosing the right subjects while harmoniously weaving them into their own respective environments ... In The New Life you appear to be inventing your own Americana picture by picture ... industrial malaise, urban vortexes, suburban sprawl, etc ... How much of your process relies on serendipity?

LS: I think that I feel comfortable choosing the people I am working with. I feel them I feel that they have a little aura which creates a potential of freedom and a possibility to do a photograph. More so what I like best is the creative moment when I found somebody in a relationship with somebody else I met before in another city in another state ... That way for all time they will have something in common difficult to analyse like a magic circle that you cannot go through. I love to find my own signs inside the environment and to create my own universe which is becoming most important for me more and more as the world seems to me quite the same everywhere. I remember arriving in the states I chose what were the most significant themes for me at once and then step by step I discovered the small details. I enjoyed the environments as much as the personnages. My love is equal for the both ... Before I was photographing separately the two, one time a thing or a landscape and one time a personage then I associated the two which was the case in my Russian work especially demonstrated in my show in Salamanca, Spain and also the catalogue. Beginning with The New Life I felt good combining the two together and I felt that my photography was much more complex also adding a certain richness at the same time. In that way I could associate signs to personnage in the same image while simultaneously being precise also the idea of the personnage and the importance of the context...

RW: Could you describe the process of how you went about assimilating the sequence for The New Life book ?

LS: When I came back I never saw my photographs everything was shot with slides and I was really excited to discover the work entirely all at once. Initially I was of course scared to look as I knew that everything must be done with the edit. I wondered just how I would go about constructing the sequence. My time spent on editing and re-editing was very minimal. The decision came to me to introduce personnages which gave a disequilibrium to the series like Fenya ... Finally when I showed my work afterwards in galleries the collectors were focused mainly on very specific images which was not the same way I was looking at the work.

RW: Please describe the delicate balance between background and foreground in all of your pictures ... What is your mental process or rather the internal dialogue that you have with yourself before pressing the shutter?

LS: I am fascinated by the combination of the surrounding and the personnage. I acquired this skill when I was in Russia while I was doing strictly documentary photography. Then I worked on myself trying to understand what was the personnage what was the surrounding or the landscape and my specificity came from this balance. I recognize for myself the language regarding the relationship of which the subject has to the world .

RW: You shared that one of your main influences is the brilliant filmmaker Robert Bresson for various reasons. Bresson has stated that the number one rule to art is unity. He has also freely admitted to shooting the same scene again and again apparently looking for various nuances in the performance of the actors i suspect. How does this technique specifically re-shoots differ from how you worked on The New Life? Typically how many rolls of film will you expose to feel confident that you have what you set out to get?

Asia #33, North Hollywood, CA. 2003

LS: Bresson was totally against actors and never used professional actors. He used only real people that he found in various places. One of his ways to realize his films was to choose a text like a novel of Dostoevsky, adapt it to the reality of contemporary France and then ask the personnage (he calls him the model) to read the text but not to play it. For The New Life I did not shoot many rolls on each character around 3. I was concerned that my subjects would become tired of me quickly. In retrospect when I think about it I did not use much film. We just made appointments for the shoots everything was quite natural although I was mostly silent which must have been somewhat disturbing for the subject I guess. I already had the layout in my mind before I began the shoot. When I shoot I just take the pictures to have confirmation of what I already anticipated however sometimes of course this approach does not work. The personnage I expected verses the one I ended up with is often very different from girl to girl ... The problem is that my way of working has so many limits on which I am depending on where so much of the emphasis relies on the emotion of the person I photograph.

RW: Cinema has always been a close relative of fotographie ... In theory if you were given a budget free of constraints and were able to work under your own circumstances which kind of film would you make?

LS: Perhaps a black and white film becoming a color one something about the movement of the personnages in the city .. I would need to think about something close to my photographic works ... I will write a scenario possibly taking place in a eastern country mixed to another one ...

RW: You have a multitude of ideas regarding the female identity words such as internalizing, projections, intangible concepts, duality, and transversal themes. In your own words what defines femininity for you?

LS: For me femininity is to approach themes where women are shown in their relationship to the world, between themselves and in the way they struggle for their life in the society. I am interested by the body and the psyché of the woman I am also interested in maternity and in the relationship of the woman as a species. In The New Life series, the life of the adolescent typically expresses a certain boredom to the exterior world. In extreme cases this effect can climax into a big melodrama similar to the Columbine tragedy.

RW: You have stated that films can be more interesting although according to you the still image is more terrifying ... What do you mean precisely?

LS: For the moment I am more interested in fixed images as it is easier to realize than films which require lots of money ... I spend so much time to finalize a project between the time I finish my series and the time I am publishing a book and doing my show.

For The New Life everything went very quick the series was done in 2003 The Book published in 2005 and my first show was in London before the publication of the book. Finally I did a lot of shows with the series and I was very happy with the outcome as the public reaction was wonderful with lots of positive feedback from the shows.

www.lisesarfati.com

www.twinpalms.com http://www.franceculture.com/emission-hors-champs-lise-sarfati-2011-03-22.html

The New Life La Vie Nouvelle. Photographs by Lise Sarfati, text by Olga Medvedkova. Twin Palms Publishers, Santa Fe, 2005. 120 pp., 50 four-color plates., 13x11".

The New Life, Lise Sarfati Magnum Gallery ,13 rue de l'Abbaye 75006 Paris 17 March to 30 April 2011