A couple of weeks ago I posted on a photo I picked up over Easter of a mother holding a child still during a photo. I metnioned how this forms a motif in vintage studio photography of the hidden mother.
I bumped into a great site this morning that has a good number of example the "Invisible Mother" as they call it. I suppose I understand the practice considering the sqirmy or frightened child, but why cover the head of the mother? Why not photograph the two together or instead draw upon a Madonna and Child sort of precedent? Some of the photos in this motif do hide the mother quite well, others...well...do not. Because they are so obvious, they look rediculous...and kinda creepy. Anyway...Enjoy.
Occasionally I see some good postings off of Facebook....this happens to be one of them. If you are a photographer, you would do well to check this out.
The Photography Tips that 96 Photographers Wish They Would've Learned Sooner.
In my ongoing effort to migrate from my old blog AOA, I am continuing in a series of reposts.
One of my favorite books on photography is Geoffry Batchen's Each Wild Idea. The book contains 9 essays wrestling with the histories of photography. My favorite chapter, not surprisingly, is on vernacular photography. Batchen's work attempts to elucidate the "complex matter of photography's conceptual, historical, and physical identity." He continues, "Morphology is another of those issues that most histories of photography ignore. Indeed, the invisibility of the photograph, its transparency to its referent, has long been one of its most cherished features.
Most of us tend to look at photographs as if we are simply gazing through a two-dimensional window onto some outside world. This is almost a perceptual necessity; in order to see what the photograph is of, we must first repress our consciousness of what the photograph is. As a consequence, in even the most sophisticated discussions, the photograph itself--the actual thing being examined--is usually left out of the analysis. Vernacular photographies tend to go the other way, so frequently do they exploit the fact that the photograph is something that can also have volume, opacity, tactility, and a physical presence in the world. In many cases, the exploitation involves the the subject of the photograph's intervening within or across the photographic act. These subjects make us attend to their photography's morphologies, and thus to look right at rather than only through the photograph. In this sense, vernacular photo objects can be read not only as sensual and creative artifacts but also as thoughtful, even provocative meditations on the nature of photography itself" (Pages 59-60).
One of the trajectories of my MFA show was a means to highlight is the physical nature of the photograph. Batchen's text was released in 2001, and since then the digital revolution has only picked up speed further minimizing the physicality of photographic objects. The vernacular photographic objects that I have collected over the past few years intend to highlight the diversity from this relatively young medium. Varying in sizes and processes, the objects mounted in artifact trays, encapsulated in drawers, bins etc intend to suggest the physicality of the photo object. It has been interesting to me in this process the varying sizes, papers, and processes that were quickly cast away as the technology of photography advanced. Fewer and fewer sizes of film and prints were available over time to where we are now, if we print our images at all, have the options of 3.5x5, 4x6, 5x7 etc. Some of my favorite photos that I have collected are the smallest ones that are 2x3ish.
This past month has been a busy and exciting one with two solo shows up simultaneously. Tomorrow, the show Concrete Abstractions at Minot State University will come down and I will make the 3+ hour drive out to pick up the work. Minot State has 2 galleries, one in the art department and one in the library. This exhibition was in the library. It is a unique but quality space for displaying. As Micah Bloom shown with his images below, the reflective surfaces mirror nice angles. (A special thank you to Micah for his photographs...leave it to the photographer (me) to forget to shoot images of his own show at the opening). I am immensely grateful to Minot State for the opportunity to show my work, much of which has not been seen beyond the walls of UND's art department.
Today's posting is a delacate topic: photographs of Nazi Germany. What are we to do with images of German soldiers? There are various restrictions and laws around the world prohibiting the sales of Nazi memorabilia. (You can see eBay's here.) In spite of the difficult subject matter and horrific legacy of Nazi's upon the world, I feel it is important to consider the images for a number of reasons...and pehaps ones that may seem contradictory.
First, we live in a strange time of Holocaust denial. What makes this strange phenomena worse, is that it is growing. Because of photography's veracity, these images and other like them, serve as a reminder of the horrible attrocities the Nazi's committed. These images do so only indirectly, however.
Secondly, I noted in my post on the 13th that "photography is intimately caught up with the documentation of place and time, sometimes the poignancy of history, like Barthes prick of the punctum, is startling." One of the other peculiarities about looking at vernacular photographs is that as viewers we are peering into another person's life. And in these cases, they are not able to interpret the image for us. We are outsiders to the photographic event. Many of the photographs I've posted here came in one large lot bought off of eBay. What was striking to me in these photographs, like Barthes punctum, was the domestic nature of in which many of the photographs shot...homes, weddings, with friends and lovers laughing and eating. One of the reasons the photos are important to see is that they humanize those who are often painted in the widest of brush strokes as Nazi's. For me, the prick of these images highlighted the nature of being an American, brought up with Hollywood films full of patriotic American soldiers fighting the Nazi's. And not to deminish the atrocities of the Nazi's nor the sacrifices of Allied troops, but the images remind us of the humanity behind the stereotypes cast about in popular culture. It reminds me of the dangerous power of propaganda within the popular imagination.
Of the thousands of photographs that I have, several hundred are of American soldiers. Photographs of them with girlfriend or wife. Photographs of them with parents and siblings. Photographs of them with their children and friends. Photographs of them in their uniforms getting married, going for dinner, relaxing in the safety of their home. The difference between these images is simply the uniform which subsequently triggers all of our collective memory and preconceptions into action.
Historically, "stereotypes" originated from an efficient printing process that allowed for repeated usage of one typesetting. We use the term now in a metaphorical manner. “Stereotypes are rather negatively defined as ‘conventional, formulaic and oversimplified conceptions, opinions, or images’ that may communicate without nuance or subtlety. For visual communicators, whether they are filmmakers, photographers, graphic artists, etc…stereotypes are useful devices because they are easily understood and make clear, albeit possibly injurious, points.” “Stereotype is a shorthand way to describe a person with collective, rather than unique characteristics. To stereotype is, in both a real and metaphorical sense, to lose sight of the individual.”
And while I absolutely condemn the atrocities committed by the Nazi's, these photographs of the intimate moments of life of these German soldiers remind me to consider the humanity of the individual as well as the larger historical and geopolitical context of their life.
 Images that Injure, Lester & Dente Ross, xi.
 Lester & Dente Ross, 2.
As I said a few weeks ago, it is MFA season here at UND's Hughes Fine Art Center. Last week Meghan Duda presented her work. Influenced by a range of artists from the New Topographics to Gordon Matta-Clark, Meghan's work considers the ubiquity of the suburban home. When Meghan and her husband relocated to Fargo a few years ago, she was struck by the possibility of horizontal expansion has shaped the suburban housing areas of Fargo. Home shapes follow a few rough patterns in theses new developments. And yet Fargo is not alone in that respect. Several of her images come from Utah as well.
As someone who shares her interest in the New Topographics, I was immediately struck by (at least what appears to me) a strong lineage with several members of the group, namely Stephen Shore and the Becher's. Her connection to Shore is in subject matter while her connection to the Becher's is in matter of typologies of suburban homes as well as their rigorous system of grids within their installations. Following this method of Becher's typologies, Duda has laser cut the houses from the image thus breaking up the picture plane. By floating the image off the back frame, she is able to accentuate the break and absence with the lighting and shadows. On others, she has used the laser to etch detailed house floor plans over the image.
Another one of the key factors in her images is that she also draws upon the objective or sense of detachment so often associated with the group but extends backward strongly to Ed Ruscha. Like the New Topographers, she attempts to stay neutral...balancing between critique and endorsement.
I have said numerous times in the past that receiving an emvelope or package of photographs in the mail from eBay reminds me a lot of collecting baseball cards in my youth. And like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, you never know what you are gonna get. And while photography is intimately caught up with the documentation of place and time, sometimes the poignancy of history, like Barthes prick of the punctum, is startling. This photo does that for me. It is one of many recieved in a packet sometime this spring. What I love about it is the the beautiful script that dates and a name or two of the men standing around at Lehigh. Not only is the date of the photograph given in June of 1924, but the dates of graduation of these men.
The photograph was taken by Albert Broadhead, aparently a well-known and generous 1888 alumnus of Lehigh.
"When Albert Brodhead learned of James Ward Packard’s large gifts to Lehigh, he asked then university treasurer Walter Okeson if Packard had visited Lehigh since his graduation. Okeson said no, and Brodhead replied, “It seems to me if an alumnus without any local contact with the university can do so much, that I, who have always lived here and whose father was one of the early trustees of Lehigh, should do my share.”
Brodhead’s father, Charles, for whom Brodhead Avenue is named, acquired extensive properties in what was then South Bethlehem and was involved in the iron and railroad industries. A business associate of Asa Packer, Charles was an early benefactor of Lehigh, donating the land on which the Alumni Memorial Building stands. A Bethlehem native, Albert Brodhead joined Chi Phi fraternity, the Photographer's Club, and the Electrical Engineering Society while attending Lehigh and graduated in 1888 with a degree in electrical engineering.
Brodhead spent his career managing the family real estate, most of which was located in the Bethlehem area, including the historic district, South Bethlehem, and the then-undeveloped farmlands north of Route 22. He was an organizer and director of the Northampton Country Club and belonged to several other social organizations, including the Bethlehem Club."
When he died in 1938, he left the bulk of his estate – 51 Lehigh Valley properties – to Lehigh. Subsequently, the multi-million dollar Brodhead endowment was established, and Brodhead House, the university’s first high-rise residence, was dedicated to his memory in 1979."
If you are member of Ancestry.com, you can find more info on Albert Brodhead there and here.
Happy Easter Monday. This past weekend my wife and I trekked down to see my family in NW Iowa. On Friday we had the priviledge of meeting up with my undergraduate printmaking professor from Northwester College, John Kaericher and his wife.
We also had the opportunity on Saturday afternoon hit a few of the antique shops around the Spirit Lake, IA region and I picked up two little photographs.
They are not all that unique or rare, but both made me chuckle. Both do display a few typical motifs, if you want to call them that. In the first image, a partially seen mother holds the child head upright. Often in pictures of children at such a young age you may find an arm or emerging from the side to help balance the wobbly child or even see the form of the mother having been draped with a cloth in the background. This one however makes no attempt to disguise the mother's presence. In the other image, a child contemplates another photograph...a motif I've mentioned before here. I doubt that this image is a mourning photograph, but it does make for an adorable image of the little girl in what looks like a velvet dress.
This is your new blog post. Click here and start typing, or drag in elements from the top bar.
Last week was spring break here at UND which coincides with midterm. Even though I am no longer a degree seeking student, I still measure time according to the university calendar. It has been a busy and productive first half of the semester with the production of a significant body of work.
Since graduating last May, I've been thinking about this series...perhaps even earlier as it actually utilizes aspects of other projects. I wanted to take the idea and execution of the prints that I did for the books in the MFA exhibition and put them into a format similar to the large translucent cyanotype landscapes that hung out from the wall without a frame. I reworked the hanging process to a more suitable and minimal method.
Overall, I am fairly happy with these pieces. Doing the work, the process of hanging it, and simply the look of it on the wall suggests new directions and possibilities that I hope to work on perhaps yet this semester.
Yesterday I posted a link to a great site dedicated to mourning photography. I dont think that this is a mourning photograph. But what strikes me about this wonderful little cased Ambrotype is the lace pinned in the verso cover. It is stained and stiff with age. It is pinned in with very sturdy pins. I wonder, and there is not way to know, if this little piece of lace is from the dress of the child in the photo. It would make sense given the practice of often pinning or sewing some form of memento into the the verso that is connected to the person in the image. Often a lock of hair was sewn into the cover. This practice is just fascinating to me. Why is the photograph insufficient as a reminder that there needs to be an addition of something more physical? Is it precisely that...physical?