Posts Tagged ‘Ray Metzker’

Reflections on Ray Metzker, 1931-2014

October 10, 2014
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©Ray Metzker, “Sailor, 1963,” Laurence Miller Gallery

“I want a deep space that overpowers the figure: worlds of voids.”—Ray Metzker, 1931-2014

Sadly, we’ve lost a poet of light and shadow, Ray Metzker. Here is Alex’s thoughtful reflection about this unique street photographer—and specifically this dark urban haiku of a photograph (above) that Metzker took some 50 years ago, that has long lingered in Alex’s mind and influenced his early street photography, notably Alex’s image from Uganda below taken some 20 years after Metzker’s.—Rebecca Norris Webb

“As a budding street photographer, I’d spend hours huddled over a stack of books in my Vermont high school’s library, many of them the classics: works by Cartier Bresson, Kertész, Frank. I was particularly taken by a slim booklet called Toward a Social Landscape— which included early work by Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, and Bruce Davidson, among others, and was edited by photographer Nathan Lyons—as well as a selection of Ray Metzker’s photographs entitled My Camera and I in the Loop,in an issue of Aperture. Although reminiscent of the street photographs of his teacher, Harry Callahan, Metzker’s work struck its own special note: stark shafts of light crisscrossing impenetrable shadows; self-absorbed figures darting in and out of the light, caught in a kind of black-and-white chiaroscuro; isolated faces peering out of the darkness.

 It wasn’t just the formal mastery of these images that captivated me. They also suggested something about the isolation, the alienation, and the loneliness of the urban world. “—Alex Webb, from “Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb on Street Photography and the Poetic Image”

In Memoriam: Ray K. Metzker, 83, PDN Online: http://www.pdnonline.com/news/In-Memoriam-Ray-K–11820.shtml

©Ray Metzker, “Sailor, 1963,” Laurence Miller Gallery, NYC: http://www.laurencemillergallery.com/artist_metzker.htm

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©Alex Webb, “Uganda, 1980″ from “Slant Rhymes” at Robert Klein Gallery at Ars Libri, Boston, thru Oct. 31, 2014; Alex’s image and Metzker’s above are also included in “Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb on Street Photography and the Poetic Image”

 EVENTS AND WORKSHOPS:

—SATURDAY, OCT. 25, APERTURE FOUNDATION, NYC, 3-4:30PM: Join Aperture, Larry Fink, Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb for an afternoon of presentations and readings from the recently launched The Photography Workshop Series. In the series, Aperture works with the world’s top photographers to distill their creative approaches, teachings, and insights on photography—offering the workshop experience in a book.

Fink and the Webbs will present their titles, Larry Fink on Composition and Improvisation and Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb on Street Photography and the Poetic Imagefollowed by a Q&A with the books’ editor, Denise Wolff, and book signings.  For more information on the book party follow this link.

——NEW WORKSHOP ADDED: FINDING YOUR VISION @ MIAMI STREET PHOTOGRAPHY FESTIVAL, Monday Dec. 1-Friday Dec. 5, 2014.

 

CURRENT AND UPCOMING EXHIBITIONS, EVENTS, REVIEWS:

——THRU OCT. 31, BOSTON, MEMORY CITY at ROBERT KLEIN GALLERY; SLANT RHYMES at ARS LIBRI WITH ROBERT KLEIN GALLERY;

REVIEW OF THE TWO BOSTON SHOWS BY ELIN SPRING.

——FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 7: CHICAGO: MEMORY CITY ARTIST RECEPTION, TALK, AND BOOK SIGNING, STEPHEN DAITER GALLERY: 5:30-8, with artist talk from 5:30-6pm

——PARIS PHOTO BOOK SIGNINGS, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 14, \Grand Palais, Paris: APERTURE BOOTH: 3:30pm book signing with the Webbs of “Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb on Street Photography and the Poetic Image” and Alex’s “The Suffering of Light”; SATURDAY, NOV. 15, 3:00pm at RADIUS BOOKS booth: Webb book signing of “Memory City” and some of the last copies of “My Dakota” and some of their limited editions.

GROUP SHOWS:

——THURSDAY, SEPT. 18-November 1, 2013, “Rectangular Squares,” at Sepia Eye Gallery, NYC, a group exhibition with Alex Webb, Rebecca Norris Webb, and other photographers. Sepia Eye is located at 547 W. 27th, 6th floor.

——SATURDAY, OCT. 11-OCT. 19, CASTELNUOVOFOTOGRAFIA FESTIVA, ITALY: CONTATTI: Contact sheets and prints of Alex Webb, Rebecca Norris Webb, Jason Eskenazi, Donna Ferrato, Lucia Nimcova, Roger Ballen, Callie Shell, and Anders Petersen.

——MEMORY CITY REVIEW in Fraction

——SLANT RHYMES: Interview with Teju Cole and the Webb on the New Yorker Photo Booth

BEGINNINGS

April 6, 2009

As a budding street photographer, I would spend hours poring through the photography books in the library of my small high school in Vermont.  With snow piled high outside the windows, I would huddle over a stack of books –– many of them the obvious: works by Cartier-Bresson, Kertesz, Frank.    But I was particularly taken by an issue of Aperture with a selection of Ray Metzker’s photographs entitled “My Camera and I in the Loop.”  Although reminiscent of the street photographs of his teacher, Harry Callahan, Metker’s images struck their own special note: stark shafts of light crisscrossing impenetrable shadows; self-absorbed figures dashing in and out of the light, caught in a kind of black and white chiaroscuro; isolated faces peering out of the darkness.  Sometimes a subtle gesture –– the tilt of a sailer’s head as he passed into darkness –– added a slight emotional twist.  It wasn’t just the formal mastery of these images that captivated me.  They also suggested something about the isolation, the alienation, and the loneliness of the urban world.  

Metzker has gone on to produce other remarkable bodies of work, from Sand Creatures to Terra Incognito to wonderfully complex and nuanced images of the natural world.  He’s one of those photographers, like Lee Friedlander, whose eye never fails to delight.  And although it’s been some 40 years since I first looked at that issue of Aperture, Metzker’s early Chicago images still linger in my memory.––Alex Webb

                       

I remember exactly where I was when I first encountered the photography of Ralph Eugene Meatyard.  I was sitting in the tiny library in the old I.C.P., alone except for Lucia Siskind, the enthusiastic and one-of-a-kind librarian. Lucia had pulled from the shelves for me the Aperture monograph that Minor White had edited in 1974, two years after the photographer’s untimely death. 

Originally a poet, I was instantly mesmerized by these rather odd and mysterious photographs.  Seeming deceptively simple to the eye, the images caught in the heart and flapped about provoking a host of contradictory emotions  –– wit and suffering, delight and melancholy, calm and impending doom.  Paradoxes seemed strangely at home in Meatyard’s work:  the transcendent and the transitory, the mundane and the uncanny; the nascent and the ruined.  And I felt strangely at home, too, or at least in familiar terrain, the terrain of poetry.

So, it didn’t come as a complete surprise to learn that Meatyard had counted poets among his closest friends in Lexington, Kentucky, the university town where he lived with his family and worked as an optician. I remember being particularly struck by the following passage by the poet Guy Davenport, Meatyard’s good friend, that I’d read in that Aperture monograph some 15 years ago. Perhaps it takes a poet to illuminate another poet’s obsessions:

Light as it falls from the sun onto our random world defines everything perceptible to the eye by constant accident, relentlessly changing.  A splendid spot of light on a fence is gone in a matter of seconds…I have watched Gene all of a day wandering around the ruined Whitehall photographing as diligently as if he were a newsreel cameraman in a battle.  The old house was as quiet and still as eternity itself; to Gene it was as ephemeral in its shift of light and shade as a fitful moth.––GD

––Rebecca Norris Webb


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