Posts Tagged ‘Philip Gefter’

POSTINGS: April 2010

April 8, 2010

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Torcello, 1953

TWO VIEWS:  Henri Cartier-Bresson

The Cartier-Bresson show that just opened at MOMA is a very different kind of exhibition than the last one that I saw at the museum.  That prior show concentrated on his early work, his surrealist-influenced street photography of the thirties, largely from Europe.   This new exhibition concentrates on his entire work.  Though the early photographs are represented –– and indeed there are a few extremely early images that I am utterly unfamiliar with –– the show largely focuses on the later, more journalistically oriented work from all over the world.  There are examples of many of the magazines that published his work from this era, and there is a set of astonishing maps, representing an incredible amount of research, that track Cartier-Bresson’s wanderings throughout the world.

Though I remain personally most excited by the early, more lyrical work — it was so pure, so visionary, such a special moment in the history of photography ––  it is fascinating to see the broad spectrum of his oeuvre, including many images that I was unaware of.  And there are certainly some gems to discover:  I was particularly taken with this image from Torcello (above). I may well have seen it before but now, thanks to this new exhibition, it is burned into my memory.––Alex Webb

“In a portrait, you are looking for the silence in somebody.”––HCB

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”––HCB

Above, I selected TWO QUOTES by the late great Cartier-Bresson, who I had the pleasure of meeting in Paris a few years before he died.  In addition, I’m also including links  to two interviews with him –- one a TV interview with Charlie Rose of PBS and, the other, a radio interview with Susan Stamberg of NPR.

And, lastly, here are TWO LINKS to reviews of the current MOMA show, one by the New York Times art critic, Holland Cotter and the other by Philip Gefter of The Daily Beast, which includes a slideshow of some of Cartier-Bresson’s most iconic images.–– Rebecca Norris Webb

TWO RARE BIRDS: BARB and HELEN

Rebecca Norris Webb, Barcelona, 2010

Last month at the Barcelona Zoo, I was thinking about a good friend of my parents, Barb, a lover of birds, who had died recently in my hometown in South Dakota. I’ll always remember my last visit in February with Barb and her husband Don, the couple surrounded by a menagerie of assorted birds, dogs, cats and ferrets.  Bird-thin from the cancer, Barb was holding one of her prized cockatiels close to her chest, and –– like always –– her chief concerns were about her many rescued creatures, not about herself.

So, in the Barcelona Zoo last month, I couldn’t help but think of Barb as I photographed this caged cockatiel (above), while outside my frame –– above the bars and the glass and the zoo’s many fences –– the largest nesting colony of gray herons in Spain was flying free.––Rebecca Norris Webb

Helen Levitt, New York City, 1988

When I first moved to New York in the late 1980’s, Helen Levitt was one of my favorite photographers, and continues to be so, today.  Known predominantly for her black-and-white photographs of children in New York City, she also worked some in color.  Above is a rare bird for me personally, a photograph I’d never seen until recently.

When I look at this image, I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic for a couple of reasons:  It’s a photograph taken of the once ubiquitous icon of the New York City street –- the phone booth–– this one crammed with mother and children.  And secondly, because it was taken on the now extinct Kodachrome film.––RNW

DARK HORSE: Louis Faurer –– Text and Images

Louis Faurer, Self portrait, New York, 1947

Some photographers seem to fall through the cracks of photographic history.  Such seems to have been the case for a time with Louis Faurer.  When I was a young photographer, no one ever mentioned Faurer’s work.  In the late 70’s, after moving to NY, I began to see some of his images, images that I found intriguing, evocative.  I’ve seen more over the years and have always been excited by the uniqueness of his eye.  But until Rebecca recently returned from Houston Fotofest with a book of his collected photographs –– with a fine introduction by Anne Wilkes Tucker of the MFA, Houston ––I didn’t really have a sense of the scope of his work.

Most of the Faurer work that I had seen over the years reminded me a bit of that of Robert Frank (not necessarily surprising, in that they were apparently close friends):  that sense of immediacy, of being inside a poetic moment, often captured a little off-kilter.   As with Frank’s work, with Faurer’s work there is often a strong sense of freedom to the camera. Situations are seen through glass, through reflections, through car windows.  At times, the seeing seems to look towards the later complexities of Friedlander — though consistently striking a more lyrical note.  And for me, personally, this is the side of Faurer’s work that I am particularly sympathetic to.  However, what surprised me most in looking at this book of his work was its variety.  There seems to be a willingness to experiment, to move in different directions, to try new approaches.  For alongside the more spontaneous off-kilter street pictures are more conventional portraits as well as negative sandwiches.  There are echoes of Lisette Model, Arbus, and even Maholy-Nagy.  Perhaps it was simply a fertile time in American photography, when photographers felt particularly free to explore.––Alex Webb

Louis Faurer, Accident, New York, 1952, Gitterman Gallery

IN HIS OWN WORDS: The Photo Not Taken

The MFA Houston book of Faurer’s work by the insightful and thoughtful Anne Wilkes Tucker, includes a wonderful passage from a letter written by the photographer to the then editor of Camera Magazine, Allan Porter, in December 1974.  Faurer, who was known, among other things, for his sympathetic photographs of people on the fringes of society, reflects on an incident in which he missed a photograph of a destitute man in the New York subway.  Interesting how sometimes the photo not taken gives us a different kind of picture of a particular photographer’s process, body of work, and even, sometimes, as with the passage below, his humanity.—Rebecca Norris Webb

Slowly I walked down the slope leading to the second lower level platform.  Was it because I was not courageous that resulted in a miss?  Because I could not further humiliate him?  Was this cadaver-like man with no direction beyond the need for food, thought, and love?  Again, the thought came to my mind, was I cowardly?  Had I become a counterpart to this man?  Hadn’t I been pacing, darting aimlessly, without direction, like the man?  Later I related the incident to several people.  I said, perhaps I thought I was he, maybe I was afraid of myself, but I wanted to think that he had experienced so much pain and anguish that additional injury to his once felt dignity was not possible and that I could not risk accepting the guilt.  Or maybe from way back I heard Walker Evans once say to me, “You wouldn’t photograph a fat woman, would you?” and he might have added “and hurt them?—Louis Faurer

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POSTINGS: November 2009

November 16, 2009

This month, we’re featuring TWO LINKS about Bruce Davidson and his exhibitions in New York, TWO QUOTES about poetry and photography, and a celebratory TWO VIEWS. –– Alex and Rebecca
Bruce Davidson. Sicily, 1961

Bruce Davidson, Sicily, 1961

TWO LINKS: BRUCE DAVIDSON

I first encountered Bruce Davidson’s work in an issue of Popular Photograph’s Annual in the late 1960’s, an issue that my father, a serious amateur (and occasionally professional) photographer urged on me. My recollection is that the magazine published some of Bruce’s England and Wales project.  Whether it ran one of my favorites of Bruce’s photographs from Sicily (above), a wonderfully spontaneous and lyrical photograph, I don’t recall.

Having been captivated by the Davidson of immediacy, of spontaneity, of grain and occasional blur, I was startled, some years later, to experience the stillness of his East 100th Street work: large format portraits.  I didn’t get it right away.  As the years have passed, however, I’ve come to appreciate the rich and varied poetry of Bruce’s expansive body of work.  He is a photographer’s photographer, in love with the medium itself: a master of grain, of the moment, and of those impeccable textures that only the larger format can give.  He seems to have worked seamlessly in all formats: equally comfortable with the immediacy of the street and the still confrontation of the portrait.

He has two exhibitions up right now in NY that reflect his remarkable photographic range, one at the Howard Greenberg Gallery, one at the Bruce Wolkowitz Gallery.  Here are two links to articles about Bruce and his work, one by Randy Kennedy in The New York Times, and the other by Philip Gefter in The Daily Beast, author of Photography After Frank.––Alex Webb

Link to The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/08/arts/design/08kenn.html

Link to The Daily Beast: http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-11-05/bruce-davidsons-true-grit/

BD.poetry

Bruce Davidson, Selma, Alabama, 1965

TWO QUOTES: THE POETIC IMAGE

The photographer and writer Wright Morris once wrote,  “I do not give up the camera eye when writing –– merely the camera.”  Originally a poet and now a photographer, I would say the reverse is also true: “I do not give up the poetic eye with photographing –– merely the pen.”

To see the close relationship between these two sister arts, one only has to look at the root of the word “photography,” which literally means “writing with light.”  Both photography and poetry share a preoccupation with light and time and the elusive moment, so fleeting that one of the few ways to try to grasp it is to hold a book of poetry or photography in one’s hands.

What do people mean when they talk about “the poetic image” in photography?  The two Bruce Davidson photographs above (the first one, one of Alex’s favorites, the second, one of mine) certainly come to mind.

Well, to start to answer this complicated question, one that I will probably revisit from time to time on this blog, I thought I should turn to two poets:  Charles Wright and Charles Simic, former poet laureate of the U.S, who originally was a painter.  Their definitions of poetry rely on two distinct images that are resonant and multiplicitous and evocative –– yet another definition of the poetic image.––Rebecca Norris Webb

Poetry: three mismatched shoes at the entrance of a dark alley. –– Charles Simic

Poetry is the shadow of the dog –– the dog is out there ever on the move. ––Charles Wright

TWO VIEWS: TENTH ANNIVERSARY

When Rebecca and I decided to get married in 1999, we opted for hand-made wedding invitations.  When I looked through my work for the right photograph, this one sprang to mind, and Rebecca agreed wholeheartedly, since it’s also one of her favorites.  Now, ten years later, I still associate this image with our wedding day, the best day of my life.––Alex Webb

Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, 1996

Alex Webb, Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, 1996

 

Sometimes a poem arrives whole.  This poem is one of those rare birds. It was sparked by an event Alex and I witnessed walking home late one evening from a movie through our Brooklyn neighborhood.  We saw a stranger sitting on his stoop, and he said in a quiet voice, barely above a whisper, as if he were sharing a secret: “Do you want to see Saturn?”

Alex and I quickly exchanged glances, and before we knew it, we were both kneeling on the sidewalk peering through this stranger’s telescope.  Neither of us, we realized, had ever actually seen the sixth and largest planet.  Alex, always the gentleman, let me look first. The next morning, I wrote down what happened.  This poem is for Alex, in honor of our 10th wedding anniversary.––Rebecca Norris Webb

MATRIMONY

for Alex

One night I see Saturn ––

between Ninth and Tenth Street ––

naked and luminous

through the glass.

You look, too:

white orb, the ring

of your laughter.

Floating home, you pull me

into your chest.

I’m light, mercury vapor,

almost yours,

until the mortal woman returns,

all curves and memory,

your arm ringing my waist.

A gift, this distance

we’ve traveled so far.

––Rebecca Norris Webb