Today I had a chance to view Pieter Hugo's "1994" exhibition at Yossi Milo Gallery. The title references the year of the Rwandan genocide. Hugo photographed children born after that year. In many cases they are posed directly seated or reclining on the ground. Overall, the portraits come across as tender and hopeful, and yet there is an ominous quality to them as well. The clothing worn by the children can have a jarring and surreal effect; the ground enshrouds them like an open grave.
As I viewed these incredible portraits I couldn't help superimposing them onto another set of images: Gilles Peress' iconic document of the tragic events of 1994, which I printed repeatedly for his exhibitions when I worked for him in 1996/7.
I hope the future has better things in store for these kids than the past did for the previous generation.
One hundred and two years later...
Last Sunday, when I took the photograph on the left, I had an uncanny feeling. Later the realization hit me: I had wandered into the same vantage point as Paul Strand did in 1915 when he gazed out on a group of pedestrians raked by morning light.
I'm working on my first exhibition in Eastern Europe: recent images from Cuba at the Kaunas Photo Festival.
Vilnius and Kaunas were the two most important cities for Jewish life in Lithuania. Before the Holocaust there were more than a quarter million Jews living in the country. Vilnius alone had over 150 synagogues - of which only one was spared destruction. My own family came from Poland and Belarus, neighboring countries to the south.
So on one level, this is a photographic journey. On another, it is a personal and sentimental journey as well. Grateful for the opportunity.
If I can find cheap tix, I'm on a plane to Lithuania next week!
For an artist who lives far away from his place of birth, it is always a special feeling to return to the home country with a solo exhibition. This was certainly the case for me in presenting "Before the Eclipse" during the month of June at Galeria Panza Verde in Antigua, Guatemala. The gallery itself has two separate spaces, which inspired me to present images from two different cities: Havana and Beijing.
Opening Night was beautiful and well-attended. In the following weeks there was important coverage in the media, including a full page interview in Prensa Libre, Guatemala's largest daily, and an interview during the prime time news for Telediario Canal 3.
It's good to feel the love when you go back home!
Packing bags for Cuba!
Our second SVA Destinations Digital Photography Workshop sold out once again and we're heading to Havana for a week of cultural and photographic immersion. I'll be teaching this workshop in tandem with my esteemed colleague and fellow Faculty member Alex Garcia.
If you're interested in joining us in the future, drop me a line and I'll add you to our Mailing List. More info here.
Yesterday I attended the New York Times Portfolio Review with an all-Cuba portfolio. Some of the work - like this photograph of a despondent, newly-married couple - was shot barely a couple weeks ago.
Out of the 2500 photographers who applied 160 were accepted. It's truly a world-class gathering of photographers, editors and curators. Some of my colleagues came from far away as India, Africa or Asia.
Doorbell rings at 8AM. I get up from my cup of coffee and ask through the door who is it. "Cuba". That is, my 85 year old downstairs neighbor Don Nico, who is dressed impeccably in a button down guayabera, freshly pressed slacks and a cotton cap. He looks like he may just take a stroll to the Malecon this chilly winter morning. Except he comes bearing gifts: six tubes of Colgate and a CD he recorded for me with three albums by one of my favorite Cuban crooners Beny More.
Made my day.
Once in a while, I couldn't help myself. There were certain books in my father's beautiful library that I had to keep close to me and couldn't bear to return to their rightful place. One such book was "Exiles" by Josef Koudelka. 'My' copy since the early teenage years, the book has been my constant companion in different continents throughout the decades: Guatemala, Jerusalem, Europe, New York.
Frederic Brenner's epic exhibition project "This Place" opened last night at the Brooklyn Museum. It is a unique gathering of some of the world's greatest photographers in an exploration of Israel and Palestine. Two of them I count as dear friends, Jungjin Lee and Rosalind Solomon. Years ago, I printed books and exhibitions for Gilles Peress. Legendary photographers one and all.
Last night I finally had the chance to spend time with my childhood hero, Josef Koudelka. And in this photograph, I look happy as only kids know how to be.
My book YONKEROS (La Fabrica Editorial, Madrid, 2013) as seen at Livraria Cultura on Avenida Paulista in Sao Paolo, Brazil. The photo was sent to me by my former and very talented student Patricia Montrase!
I'm still trying to come to terms with my experience of Beijing. The city made a deep impression on me. On the one hand, it stretches so far back into the splendors of history that you feel like you are witnessing the origins of culture. On the other, it projects forward into the future as a cautionary tale, with intimations of a post-apocalyptic era and of the last cities on earth.
I'm fresh back from Beijing where I led a workshop for the China Photographers Association in tandem with Shen Wei - one of my favorite photographers - and distinguished curator Ren Yue.
Next, I'm heading to Havana in March 2016. Together with Katrin Eismann, Department Chair of the Masters in Digital Photography Program at the School of Visual Arts, we will lead a week-long workshop. Applications are now open: we are looking for a few good photographers to join us in exploring this historical moment of transition for the people of Cuba.
More details here:
With best wishes for the Holiday season,
I'm off to Beijing to teach a workshop sponsored by the China Photographers Association, in tandem with stellar photographer Shen Wei and distinguished curator Ren Yue.
What could be better?
"If you were to ask me to define a photograph in a few words, I would say it is “a fossil of light and time.”
Daido Moriyama’s dictum is the inspiration for a book of photographs curated by Elizabeth Avedon and published by the Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography. Daido’s words are as penetrating and haunting as his photographs, which I have long admired. Anybody familiar with the industry knows the iconic work of Elizabeth Avedon and how it has helped shape our notion of the photographic book.
Initially, when Elizabeth and DCCP called for photographs in the spirit of Moriyama, I didn’t consider sending in my work. I think of the Japanese photographer as the “Stray Dog of Tokyo”, nose close to the ground and eyes distended with hallucination and hunger. My own aesthetic seemed too far removed. However, his words stayed with me and I found myself returning to his images again and again.
With a few weeks left before the deadline I decided to create new works in dialogue with Moriyama. I spent a week shooting at night. I would set off around 10PM and stay out until my legs gave out and my eyes got red and heavy with sleep. I wandered around the deserted streets of Chinatown and Harlem, looked under bridges and overpasses. Feeling a growing excitement and energy, I couldn’t help myself and started going out earlier and earlier.
My second week of shooting started about an hour before dusk. In the end, I feel like the intensity of my night-time scavanging crossed over into my daylight photographs. Every one of those carries a hint of the approaching darkness in it. Elizabeth chose the one above – my own favorite - for the book entitled “Fossils of Light + Time”
This photograph from my "Untitled" (Cuba) series is a Winner in this year's edition of AI AP's Latin American Fotografia. Congratulations to my esteemed colleagues Ron Haviv, Rocio De Alba, Stefan Falke, and Ed Kashi for being awarded as well!