Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

TWO QUESTIONS: On Photographs that Inspire and Confound; On Birds and Returning

January 4, 2011

This month’s TWO QUESTIONS column features questions posed by two U.S. photographers. Based in Austin, Texas, BILL MCCULLOUGH makes his living predominantly from photographing weddings.  However, he is far from your typical wedding photographer — his pictures are witty, surprising, spontaneous; they take us into social worlds not often seen so perceptively.  His humor is gentle and good-natured, very much like Bill himself.  EMILY PEDERSON is currently studying photography, languages (she has mastered Portuguese, Spanish, and Czech), and social justice at New York University.   Her grandfather was a noted underwater photographer, so she grew up with photography in her life.   She has photographed in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and New York, as well as in her home state of Rhode Island.--Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

Robert Frank, "Elevator Girl, Miami, 1955" from "The Americans"

BILL MCCULLOUGH: In photography, music, painting, and many other forms of expression, there is work that strikes the perfect balance of technique and emotion that can leave one in awe.  You may ask yourself, “how did they do that?” You are both photographers who have been in the trenches and attempted many things; therefore, you also have insight, understanding, and respect of what is truly difficult to accomplish.  Is there a photographer, dead or alive, who both inspires you and stumps you?  If so, who and why?

ALEX WEBB:  Ever since I first picked up a copy of Frank’s The Americans –– sometime in the late 1960′s –– my favorite photograph in the book has always been the mournful elevator girl.  I hesitate to say much of anything about it because Jack Kerouac in his introduction to the book said just about everything that needs to be said:  “And I say: That little ole elevator girl looking up sighing in an elevator full of blurred demons, what’s her name and address?”   What Kerouac latches onto is what has always most intrigued me about Frank’s work, its emotive heart.  Somehow, Frank managed to make deep and surprising poetry out of the mundane stuff of the world of America.

That quality is still what interests me most about Frank’s work. But looking back now at this photograph, I am also intrigued by how it speaks of another era in America.  I can’t recall when I last saw an elevator girl.  The notion seems quaint.  It makes me almost nostalgic, nostalgic, among other things, for a more intimate world, where human beings –– including those in more menial positions –– somehow seemed to count.  Now, soulless elevators in Miami gleam of burnished chrome.  Chimes denoting each floor have replaced the human voice.  Modern demons may sometimes stalk these elevators, but mournful elevator girls are long gone.   I guess today, Kerouac would have to go elsewhere to find a name and number.

Robert Frank, "Barber shop through screen door, McClellanville, SC, 1955," from "The Americans"

REBECCA NORRIS WEBB: From the moment I first saw a print of Robert Frank’s barbershop in McClellanville, South Carolina, the image has lingered with me, a sign –– I’ve learned to trust over the years –– of a truly poetic image.  Like the strongest and most resonant poems, the image sends me into a kind of reverie each time I view it.  I think this has something to do with the fact that it’s a reflection, one that blurs inside and outside, like a daydream. So, for me at least, Frank’s mysterious barbershop blurs into the barbershop in my small town in southern Indiana where I was born.  Like Frank, I, too, have pressed up against a small town barbershop’s screen door, have seen into the interior thanks to my own shadow.  Come to think of it, the screen door itself seems somehow quintessentially American (I don’t recall coming across that many screen doors in Europe, for instance…).  The screen door is welcoming yet protective, practical yet vulnerable, luring both june bugs and photographers alike.

ROBERT FRANK LINKS:

Link to NPR story:  “Robert Frank’s Elevator Girls Sees Herself Years Later”:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112389032

Link to Robert Frank’s book, “The Americans”:

http://www.amazon.com/Americans-Robert-Frank/dp/386521584X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1294157675&sr=8-1

Link to reviews of the “Looking In: Robert Franks” The Americans” show:

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/09/14/090914fa_fact_lane

http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/2009/sep/29/looking-in-robert-franks-emthe-americansem/

Links to reviews of Robert Frank’s,  “The Americans”

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100688154

http://www.harpers.org/archive/2010/01/0082794

Rebecca Norris Webb, Havana, 2008, from "Violet Isle"

EMILY PEDERSON: Rebecca, what is it about birds?  In Violet Isle, birds are constantly appearing in your photographs. Why is that? What is it that draws you to birds?

RNW:  As someone who comes out of the street photography tradition, I only photograph what I come across in the world, and the most common creature I found in Cuban menageries was the bird –– from roosters and peacocks and woodpeckers to cockatiels and pigeons and parrots.  I love the rich and resonant questions this suggests:  Of all the creatures, why are birds the most popular animal in Cuban menageries?  What does this suggest about the individuals who have these menageries?  What does this suggest about Cubans and their relationship to nature?  And what does this suggest about Cuban culture more generally?

What I love about photography –– and poetry –– is that sometimes images have the ability to suggest these sorts of questions.  One of my favorite lines about birds is by the poet, Li-Young Lee:

Only birds can reveal to us dying by flying.

And just yesterday I came across these two wonderful lines by T.S. Eliot in his poem, “Four Quartets”:

…a hollow rumble of wings…

…wait for the early owl…

Personally, when I first started photographing birds in Cuba, it was a period in my life that roughly corresponded to my acquiring my first pair of professional birding binoculars, inspired in part by the red-tailed hawks in Prospect Park near my apartment, the same kind of hawk that’s also found in my home state of South Dakota.

During one of my last trips to Havana, I remember the delight of watching a hawk attempting to open her wings just inches away from me –– instead of my observing the raptor from the usual distance of my field glasses.  Yet simultaneously I also felt a something catch in my throat as I watched the hawk fumble, unable to spread her wings fully in so small a cage .  Looking back, I realize that I often had this complicated and seemingly contradictory emotional response –– delight and discomfort –– while photographing caged birds throughout Cuba.

Li-Young Lee link:  http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/291

LInk to T.S. Eliot’s poem, “Four Quartets”:  http://www.tristan.icom43.net/quartets/

Alex Webb, Havana, 2008, from "Violet Isle"

 

EP: Alex, when you photograph you seem to go back again and again to a particular place. You don’t move there for a while to carry out your work, but you return over and over. How does that affect the way you see, the way you work?

AW: My meanderings in a country are rarely planned.  For instance, in Havana, even when I find myself working in the same neighborhood, it is often somewhat by chance: I wander into the same locale three days later –– or even, perhaps, a year later.  And even if I contemplate returning to a specific area, it is often a spur of the moment decision: I find myself completing work in one street or block and suddenly decide to return to somewhere that I have been before.  Sure, sometimes I may decide that a street or a market that I photographed in the morning might be more interesting in the afternoon or vice-versa, but as often as not the return to a particular locale is serendipitous.

For instance, the above photograph was taken during my last of 11 trips to Havana over 15 years.  Who know how many times I had walked down this particular street during my other trips.  But the particular mood and color and feel of the street caught my eye in fall 2009.

EMILY PEDERSON

Emily Pederson, Prague, 2009

I was born in Newport, Rhode Island in 1989. I study photography, Portuguese, and Spanish at the Gallatin School at New York University.

My grandfather was an undersea photographer and cinematographer, and documented undersea life in the Bahamas in the 50s and 60s. So there were always neat old cameras in my house as I was growing up, and I started to take photographs early on. The summer after my junior year in high school I lived in Peru for a month doing volunteer work at an orphanage. It was my first true experience of life elsewhere, and it played out like a fever dream. I took thirty rolls of film, and after that was significantly more fascinated by photography.

After graduating high school, I moved to New York City and have lived there since, except for four months last year, which I spent studying in Prague, learning Czech and traveling in Eastern Europe. I’m currently working with Alex Harsley at the 4th Street Photo Gallery, which he established in 1971, helping him distribute his work and documenting the history the gallery has witnessed. I see photographs as agents of information and as records of light. What allures me the most is how photography gives us the ability to freeze time.–Emily Pederson

My website: http://www.flickr.com/photos/emilykpederson/

BILL MCCULLOUGH

Bill McCullough, Waco, Texas, 2005

American photographer Bill McCullough was born in 1963, in Dickenson Texas. He graduated with a degree in Plan II economics from the University of Texas at Austin in 1986. He is a self taught photographer. His work has been published in Spot (Houston Center of Photography), United States; and Photonews, Germany. In 2008,  his work was purchased for the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. His first solo show will take place at the SRO gallery at Texas Tech University in March, 2011. He has been chosen as a 2010 Fotofest discovery. He currently resides and works in Austin, Texas.

Bill’s webswite:  www.billmccullough.com

FOUR CONTINENTS: 17 Photographers

December 21, 2010

We invited photographers we’ve met in workshops around the world — and through this blog — to help us celebrate the holidays by posting a photograph and giving us an update about their work.  So here are images from 17 photographers from FOUR CONTINENTS around the world.

To everyone in our online photographic community, we’d like to wish you a holiday season filled with joy and love. –– Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

Matthew Goddard-Jones, New York, 2010

 

Congratulations to Australian photographer, MATTHEW GODDARD-JONES, whose above photograph was a finalist for a National Geographic prize.  Matt took this photograph during our Master Class this past May in New York.

Matthew Goddard-Jones website

Bill McCullough

Austin-based photographer, BILL MCCULLOUGH, often finds moments on the edges of the weddings he photographs professionally — and passionately, too.  “I love and am obsessed with what I do,” says Bill, who is also a musician. The above is from his limited edition book, “Technicolor Life: American Wedding,’ which you can peruse (and order!) online.

Bill McCullough website

Wenjie Yang, "Low City" exhibition

Chinese photographer, WENJIE YANG — who some of you know as “BaiBai” from the Oslo Magnum Workshop — has been quite busy working on personal projects as well as photographing for clients since she graduated recently from the ICP photography program.  For those in New York, be sure and visit her current exhibition, “Low City, Photographs from Chongqing,” at the Chinese-American Arts Council in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

Wenjie Yang website

Wenjie Yang blog

Magdalena Sole, from her upcoming book, "New Delta Rising"

New York-based photographer, MAGDALENA SOLE (who some of you know from the Magnum New York Workshop or the Venice Workshop), is finishing her first book of photographs, which is about the Mississippi Delta.  Called “New Delta Rising,” the book will be released next year by the Dreyfus Health Foundation and distributed by the University of Mississippi Press.  It includes a essay by southern writer, Rick Bragg, and was one of those rare books by another photographer that we chose to edit this year.  You’ll read more about Magdalena’s book next year on this blog, after it’s released.

Magdalena Sole website.

Lisen Stibeck, Palestinian refugee camp, Beirut, Lebanon, 2010

Swedish photographer, LISEN STIBECK, is working on a recent project that has taken her to this refugee camp on the outskirts of Beirut (above), as well as to other struggling neighborhoods around the globe, including those in Syria, Lebanon, and, next year, Mexico.  Lisen’s project arose from the work she’s been doing at an orphanage in Marrakesh, where she is currently mentoring teenaged girls.

Lisen Stibeck’s website

Alessandro Marchi

Italian photographer, ALESSANDRO MARCHI, who some of you met in the Lucca Workshop, has photographs that will be exhibited as part of the Format International Photography Festival from March 4, 2011- to April, 3, 2011, in Derby, UK.   Here is a link to the series that will be shown called, “Floating Between Possible Breakdowns.”

You can also see a multimedia presentation of his work from another project, DZMK, in which Alessandro has been photographing many of the workers in a steel factory in southeastern Kazakhstan.

Alessandro Marchi website

Dimitri Mellos, New York, 2010

Above is an image from a long-term street photography project by Greek photographer, DIMITRI MELLOS, on New York City, called “Its Strangest Patterns,” a title inspired by a wonderful quote by novelist Joseph O’Neill.  Some of you met Dimitri at either the Magnum New York Workshop or the first Photo Project Workshop in Dumbo, Brooklyn, this past fall.  We will feature more from his project on the blog next year in an upcoming UNBOUND column.

Dimitri Mellos website

Tone Elin Solholm, cover of her new book, "The Giants' Living Room"

Norwegian designer and photographer, TONE ELIN SOLHOLM — from both the Venice and Barcelona workshops — had her new book, “The Giants’ Living Room,” featured in a recent NEW BOOK column on the blog, a book with a prose poem written by Rebecca called, “Remember When the World Had Seven Rooms…”  To see more images from Tone’s book — and to order a copy of the trade edition or the limited edition of the book — visit Tone’s website below.

Tone Elin Solholm website

Yvonne Liu, Toronto, 2010

Some of you met Chinese photographer, YVONNE LIU, at the Toronto Magnum Workshop in May this past year, in which she took the above photograph.  Although relatively new to photography, Yvonne’s enthusiasm and grace and compassion inspired many of us who have been photographing much longer.   She’s currently working on a new project in Tibet, and will be, we’re sure, an invaluable member of our upcoming Hong Kong Workshop in January.

Yvonne Liu website

Shea Naer

LA-based photographer, SHEA NAER, from our New York Master Class last May in Dumbo, had seven portraits from her series, “Pugilists” published in the NYC journal, Canteen, this past summer.  This coincided with a group exhibition, which included some of this same work, at the powerHouse Arena in Brooklyn last August.

Shea Naer website

David Bacher, Sud Tirol, 2010

“At least once a year I visit the South Tirol, which is the area where my father was born. It is like a pilgrimage back to his roots and mine as well, as my parents often took me there when I was growing up. This past October I spent a week near the town of Brixen with my father. One of the neighboring valleys is called the Vilnösstal. It is where the mountaineer Rheinhold Messner grew up and is the location of one of the most famous and breathtaking massifs in the Dolomites, the “Geislergebiet.”

Being near the mountain fills me with an overwhelming source of energy, purpose, and place. It is the most beautiful place I know.” — David Bacher

David Bacher website

Francois Dagenais

Canadian cinematographer and photographer, FRANCOIS DAGENAIS, currently has work included in three group exhibitions in the U.S., including “HumanKind,” a juried invitational photo exhibition at the powerHouse Arena that opened on December 17th, and “Scene on the Street: Photos from Public Places,” at the Vermont Photo Space Gallery, an exhibition which was curated by National Geographic photographer and VII member, Ed Kashi.

Francois Dagenais website

Justin Partyka, Isleham, Cambridgeshire, 2010

“This year I was commissioned by the publishers Full Circle Editions to produce a new photo essay to appear in their reissue of the classic oral history collection ‘Fenwomen,’ first published by Virago in 1975.

The essay I have produced, ‘Black Fen they call it….’ (taken from the first line of the book) was made in and around the village of Isleham in the Cambridgeshire Fens, where the oral history was originally collected by the author Mary Chamberlain. Twenty-three photographs will be featured in the book.

The book went to press on 29 November, and will be available in January. A series of events and exhibitions are currently being planned for 2011. Details of the book are available from the publishers website, where the book can also be ordered.”–Justin Partyka

Justin Partyka website

Thomas Lindahl Robinson, Cuba

THOMAS LINDAHL ROBINSON is continuing to work on his long-term project on Cuba, and the above photograph is from this series.  Thomas is also working on a project on China, which is not yet up on the website below, as well as blogging.

Thomas Lindahl Robinson website

Thomas Lindahl Robinson blog

Steinar Haugland, cover of his Blurb book, "Aloneliness"

Norwegian photographer, STEINAR HAUGLAND, who some of you met during the Venice Workshop, has published his first Blurb book, “Aloneliness,” and you’ll find the cover above.

Steinar Haugland Blurb book, Aloneliness

Uwe Schober

“This summer in Spain, I have been working on a series that I have named ‘Perturbadora Pasión | Disturbing Passion | After Francisco Zurbarán.’ The idea came when I was walking through the streets of Barcelona at night and saw all the homeless people sleeping in church entrances, on benches, shops and restaurants. The characteristically yellow light reminded me of Goya and especially of Zurbarán. So I decided to photograph the homeless in just that way with a reference to Spanish masters of the 17th century – not to mock the homeless, quite the opposite: to give them a different voice.  I will exhibit part of the series in a group exhibition this winter in the ‘atelier freier fotografen’ in Berlin.”–Uwe Schober

Uwe Schober’s website

David Belay, Istanbul, 2010

 

“I was drawn to Istanbul both by Alex’s book and by the many things I had heard about Istanbul from so many different people. I found a city that is so complex and multifaceted that, in my opinion, the best way to try and capture its spirit is just to ‘sample’ it, as in this wonderful enumeration of places, moments, etc. in the essay by Orhan Pamuk featured at the end of Alex’s book. It seems to me that a collection of pictures is just the visual equivalent of that, and therefore that photography is a great medium to approach this unique city.”–David Belay

To see more of David Belay’s photographs


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