This framed portrait of Vladimir Putin caused quite the stir at one of the last estate sales I visited. The picture was moderately priced at $10. The women organizing the sale giggled in recounting that they had planned to hang a framed portrait of President Obama next to it, priced at “at least $100″. Unfortunately, they had not managed to find such a portrait in the days leading up to the sale. So Vladimir Putin hung alone in this hallway, gazing unperturbed at the shoppers walking by.
In the end an old man bought the portrait for his friend – a retired CIA-operative. The man thought this gift would amuse his friend, who had spent the better part of his life limiting the spread of Soviet influence across the globe.
In the past year, I was a part of Giorgia Fiorio’s and Gabriel Bauret’s Reflexions Masterclass. During this time, I learned that the masterclass is an autonomous organism, bringing together a diverse range of photographers whose approaches to life, art and photography diverge vastly from one another. But in spite of our differences, we were united in our love for the image and the intellectual, intuitive and intrinsic process that image-making entails.
I only met the other fifteen photographers a year ago, but today I consider them very close to me – like a small, scattered family. I think about them all the time. I guess this is what happens when you are locked in a room for 14 hours on end, sharing work that comes from the deepest part of you, and trying to understand why we create these images in the first place. There really isn’t any way of explaining the intensity of the two days spent reviewing the work. The critiques could be brutal and enlightening at the same time. There were screaming matches and tears, defiance and stiff upper lips, clammy palms and stoic stares, but also laughter, a happy sense of astonishment and the discovery of a scope and depth previously unimagined.
Once the critiques were over, we had two to three days to produce work for the institutions that had invited us in the first place – to roam around and do our thing. Below is a gallery with a selection of images by each of the 16 photographers who were invited to the Novartis Campus in Basel, Switzerland, in early March. Going through the images, I still find it difficult to believe that we inhabited the same space.
Seeing as photography is normally not allowed on the campus, the Novartis administration made us wear neon yellow vests to clearly identify us as a part of the visiting masterclass. Today, not knowing when and if we will see each other again, I smile at the memory of catching a flash of neon yellow out of the corner of my eye. For in that moment, I knew I was surrounded by members of my tribe.
Some times are darker than others and it always amazes me how deep down humans are optimists: how we need to make light of a dark situation and look for the silver lining on the dark clouds hanging over our heads. I took this photograph in Venice during the Reflexions Masterclass at the Museum Fortuny, which was one of the institutions hosting us. Inside the darkened rooms of the museum I found myself seeking out the rare slivers of light, setting up my tripod and exposing for minutes that dripped like molasses. I let the weak light seep into my negative. This exposure was six minutes long. The room of the photograph does not resemble the room in reality at all. Yet it is how I saw it.
Since then I’ve received some bad news and again choose to see it my way. I hear Emily Dickinson’s poem in the back of my mind and soldier on, looking for the lighter days.
I took this photograph in Vermont thinking about the animals in the antique store and how it felt weird to drive or walk by them with all their empty eyes staring out at me. Taxidermy is a strange phenomenon. It’s a little like playing God, I guess. One is able to preserve something beautiful, graceful, fleeting and domesticate something that is wild – bring it into a space where it couldn’t exist otherwise. I hope these animals lived good lives, were able to breath the mountain air and feel loose earth under their paws and hooves. Standing in the storefront they looked equally amused, sheepish and pissed off at the pane of glass separating them from their true habitat. And though these expressions were somehow part of the taxidermy process, I could understand all of their reactions.
A few weeks after having made this photograph I went to the MOMA to see Eugene Atget’s Documents Pour Artistes and stumbled upon this photograph:
It’s funny how photographers today are always treading in the footsteps of the masters of photography – regardless of whether or not they are aware of it.
There really was no need to winterize my mother in law’s roses this year. The winter has been abnormally warm. I keep bumping into people – friends, acquaintances – who are delighted by the warm temperatures and tell me what a great “winter” this has been. I can’t quite understand this reaction. To me it’s a worrisome thing.
This is the slideshow I produced for 2011′s LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph. It was the final piece shown on the night of June 10th. (I just went to double-check the date on the LOOK3 website and realized that they have a picture up of the slideshow on the 40 foot-wide screen. It does not quite compute to 450 pixels… but believe me, it was grand!)
The slideshow was recently picked up by Erica McDonald for a Women in Multimedia Night at Spazio Labo’ Center of Photography in Bologna, Italy. To look at other multimedia pieces that were shown there please click here.