TODAY on fototazo we embark on a new in-depth series exploring photography in Argentina. This time, Tom Griggs and myself collaborate with our friend and talented colleague Eleonora Ronconi.
For our first post, here's my conversation -and overview of the history of the photographic medium in Argentina- with Fabian Goncalves Borrega, Curator of the Art Museum of the Americas in Washington DC.
A hermit coming out of dark woods and hobbling back towards civilization, I entered the bookstore and purchased a hard-cover novel for the first time in years. Like switching a setting on my phone, I green light Philip Roth's pounding and expansive prose, yes allowing it to access my brain - and yes - to displace all that I have mistakenly and wantonly placed there of late.
On Friday March 6th, I was invited to speak about my artistic practice as part of a panel discussion of Contemporary Art from Guatemala organized by the New School, Ciudad de la Imaginación and presented in conjunction with Independent Curators International. My fellow panelist were Jessica Kaire, Terike Hapooja and Nitin Sawhney. Curator María del Carmen Carrión moderated the conversation.
The conversation was live streamed and a videocast of the same can be found here.
It was my great pleasure to serve as a reviewer in this year's American Society of Media Photographers Portfolio Review in New York City. Together with a very distinguished group of friends and colleagues, including Elizabeth Avedon, Jim Estrin and Ruben Natal-San Miguel among many others, we spent an evening looking at work by talented local photographers.
Parisian photo daily L'Oeil de la Photographie dedicated a whole issue to the reviews asking each one of the reviewers to pick an artist to showcase on their pages. My pick - as well as writer Rebecca Robertson's - was the very talented Jon Henry who is re-inventing the way athletes are photographed. His lush prints are as much a tribute to Caravaggio as they are to the prowess, grace and dedication of professional athletes.
David Choi and Kana Beisekeyev recently graduated from New York Film Academy where I teach. They visited me in Harlem to talk photography and this is a short clip from our conversation. David and Kana have combined their talents and are publishing a new online photography magazine: Serazard. Word to the wise: keep an eye out for these two!
*i remember my first glimpse of New York from the window of a Greyhound pulling into Port Authority, how massive, cold and grey it appeared.
*i remember being twenty three and putting on a jacket and tie to interview with Charlie Traub at the School of Visual Arts only to find him waiting for me with an amused smile, stockinged feet propped up on his office desk.
*i remember walking my suitcase block after block to arrive at a loft in the East Village -two floors up from the Pyramid Club- and meeting my crazy roommates for the first time.
When the Biblioteca Nacional de Cuba asked for a copy of YONKEROS, I offered to deliver it in person. When I arrived at the library it turned out that a foreigner can only visit passport in hand and with a written permit. Being that I had a book to deliver it only took an hour to find an acceptable compromise. And not only was I escorted to the right department office but I was given a grand tour of the premises, which are filled with a wonderful collection of art. Many of the furnishings there date back to the Batista regime and are inspired by those of the New York Public Library.
While photography is my first love, academia is a close second. One of my favorite mornings in Cuba was spent striking up random conversations with students and faculty at the University of Havana.
Oh... and I was also rebuked by an aging curmudgeon of a professor who was upset when I photographed him admonishing a truant student without asking for permission. The truth is the light was beautiful inside the auditorium and class was not in session yet. I dutifully apologized and his tone somewhat softened when I replied that I photograph because I have the misfortune of being born a photographer. His eyes seemed to consider my words and then he said to me with some conviction: I am not sure one can all that a misfortune.
For many years I've dreamt about Havana and today I finally get a chance to travel there. Not as a tourist but as a presenter in la Fototeca de Cuba's Month of Photography. I am thrilled to offer an Artist Talk and a Book Signing for YONKEROS.
I remain grateful to the Master of Professional Studies in Digital Photography at SVA for generously sponsoring my presentation.
Visit to Willets Point -
My friend Anne Mette W. Nielsen is in town leading a group of young students from Denmark and Norway in an exploration of the inner workings of this city. Although reluctant at first, I agreed to take the group on a site visit to Willets Point. I say reluctantly but I actually mean with great trepidation. The reason being that it is so painful to witness the gradual demise of a place that meant so much to me. These days a full 60% of the businesses are shuttered down and the place has an air of abandonment like the ghost towns of cowboy westerns. Almost all of my good friends are gone from there.
Our visit was far from depressing however. Youth is charming after all. And our small and unexpected parade of blondness brought some smiles to the worried faces of the mechanics. Most importantly we had ample time to discuss the changing character of New York City and other large metropolis and to dwell on the nature of documentary work. Our friend Robert Schweitzer was also present and his questions and observations were penetrating and inspiring.
Making our way back to Manhattan on the 7 train, three of the girls asked to see my copy of YONKEROS again. I loved the way they lingered on each image and discussed it at length. Something of Willets Point will live on in their spirits too.
“El Sistema” is particularly interested in how the turbulent political life of Guatemala collides with the didactic project and impacts the country’s youth. However, it is also a testament to the spiritual force of music and how its practice helps elevate humanity above its sometimes desperate condition, bringing hope and light to a broken-down society.
This work received its premiere in the 2014 edition of BAVIC the Bienal de Artes Visuales del Istmo Centroamericano (Guatemala) and will be on view until August 24. The installation features four photographic prints and one multimedia piece, which you can see below.
There are millions upon millions of photographs in the vaults of the Smithsonian. This week however, I'm expanding my search to the National Archives in Maryland. Counterintuitive? Perhaps. I mean, I could spend the next year researching and never leave DC! But as an artist you gotta trust your instincts.
One thing is for sure: my Fellowship at SI is as complex, fascinating and challenging as I hoped it would be.
What's in a little black box?
When I returned from Guatemala in mid-March, I had 5000+ new images on my hard drive. After seven weeks of daily editing (5AM to 9AM) I've pared down that number to just under 300 images.
Printed 4x6 inches, the stack fills the box to the brim.
My hope is that I will return from my Artist Residence at FotoVisura with a new edit of 100 shining photographs. Then, I can begin to lay out the book.
The wildlife at Serengeti Tea as captured by Richard Bram on a recent afternoon in Harlem.
For the series "Mexican Notebook" on fototazo, Tom Griggs, Hannah Frieser and I are curating an in-depth look at the contemporary photography scene in that country. Today's installment is my interview with César Rodríguez a talented young photographer from Tepic, Nayarit who is starting to make a name for himself on the international stage.
Next week Friday, my wife, Hye-Ryoung Min and I are packing matching bags for our twin Artist Residencies at the Foto Visura Lodge in Stowe, Vermont. Can't wait to work closely with the expert eyes of Adriana Teresa Letorney and Graham Letorney! Posting a recent landscape from each of us: on the left side a Korean landscape by HRM and on the right one of mine from my most recent trip to Guatemala.
I am thrilled to announce that I have been awarded a 2014 Smithsonian Artist Fellowship.
As an Artist-in-Residence, I will be creating a new project in collaboration with the Anacostia
and American History Museums.
Also, I'm honored to be nominated to a United States Artists Fellowship for 2014.
Artists who are awarded receive a $50,000 prize.
Wish me luck!
While in Madrid, my friend and colleague Irina Rozovsky spotted YONKEROS in La Fábrica's book store. She was kind enough to send me this snap.
When I left the house that morning, my wife said to me: think of Saul Leiter when you shoot today.