Robert Gardner, Human Documents: Eight Photographers

This handsome, modestly (and conveniently!) book was put together with a light, subtle hand, artists’ hands, and the reader will be immediately seduced by the striking photographic work which is its primary raison d’être, but Human Documents: Eight Photographers was founded on a precise argument, which Robert Gardner makes quite clear with his spare, patrician prose in the introductory essay. Eliott Weinberger introduces variations on it (as well as further points of view of his own) in his supplementary essay, “Photography and Anthropology (a Contact Sheet).” The book is intended to bear witness to the connections between photography and anthropology, and both Gardner and Weinberger discuss the historical background to this inevitable, but not always easy relationship.

The Hudson River Valley Photographed, Two Views: Greg Miller and Stan Lichens

You will find absolutely no scarcity of books about the Hudson River these days: guide books, history books, ecological books, picture books. My purpose here is to discuss two examples of the last category, Scenic Hudson’s panoramic Rizzoli volume with photographs by Greg Miller and Stanley Lichens’ intimate book of hand-colored black and white photographs. These are by no means the only photographic collections of the Hudson on the market, but they have come to my attention in their own ways, and they illustrate two radically different modes of seeing this familiar, but, as Henry James said, “perpetually interesting” river—especially interesting today, as its hard-won cleanup progresses, restoring somewhat the Hudson that James, and even earlier, proto-industrial visitors knew, if still a far cry from the Hudson of Washington Irving.

Aboard the Queen Mary 2: a Reminiscence with Photographs

The Queen Mary 2 is a floating retirement home, but if you need a break from your frenzied life ashore the Isle of Manhattan, retiring for a week isn’t such a bad idea. The QM2 is no ordinary cruise ship. Cunard, the same company that built the Titanic, constantly makes the distinction that the QM2 is a voyager, a cruise ship is something else entirely. She is not only the greenest, most technologically savvy ship on the sea, she is also the sexiest ship ever built.

Edward Weston, Portrait of Charis Wilson. Gelatin silver print. Edward Weston Archive. Collection Center for Creative Photography. ©1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

Meeting Charis

I met Charis Wilson last summer at her friend Don’s house in Northern California. Charis, 94, wore black pants and a purple sweater and sat sprightly in a wheelchair. Her short hair was straight, smart, and delicate. She wore a purple headband and two bright blue hair combs. I immediately recognized her luminous face from Edward Weston’s photographs, taken over 70 years ago.

Nude and Naked a photography exhibition at the Brill Gallery, Eclipse Mill, North Adams

One of the most absorbing and challenging exhibitions in the Northern Berkshires this year has been Nude & Naked at the Brill Gallery in the Eclipse Mill in North Adams. Densely hung in a dynamic arrangement, the prints, of many different sizes, ranging from Roy Volkmann’s enormous “Seraph” (41 x 45 in.) to Lucien Clergue’s intimate abstractions, which at 8 x 10 in. seem like miniatures, do more than present a series of beautiful or provocative examples of this classic genre, it poses an extended visual argument about how the ten photographers in the exhibition see the nude and about how we see it, that is, anyone who makes the decision to enter the Brill Gallery and spend an hour or so with these images. (Looking at oneself in the mirror in another thing altogether). Some are beautiful; some are ugly. I have my own ideas about which are which, but I doubt many people would agree with me. Every visitor will have his or her own opinion, and this is most definitely a show to arouse discussion—which is the best kind, in my opinion.

Almost Utopia: The Residents and Radicals of Pikes Falls, Vermont, 1950, Photographs by Rebecca Lepkoff, Exhibition at the Vermont Center for Photography

In posterity Scott Nearing (1883-1983) has led a double life of sorts. In the rural areas of southern Vermont and coastal Maine, where he spent the second half of his century, a virtual cult surrounds his memory and that of his wife Helen, as pioneers of the Back-to-the-Land Movement, which was decisively influenced by their book, Living the Good Life, and its sequels. These remain popular with even the most suburban-minded second home buyers as guides to country living. While the movement flourished most purely and most intensely in the 1960’s and 1970’s, it continues today, focused around the environmental movement, and exerts a significant influence on at least certain aspects of how many of us live, even in places like Cambridge, Park Slope, or here in Williamstown. The Nearings’ teachings about simple, self-sufficient living in rural surroundings and their ideals are perpetuated by The Good Life Center at Forest Farm in Harborside, Maine, their last home.

Don’t Smile for the Camera, at the Memorial Hall Museum, Deerfield

The exhibition will be on view daily from 11 am to 5 pm through November 2, 2008. At the Old Deerfield Summer Craft Fair on June 21 and 22, tintype photographer John Bernaski will demonstrate his craft for the public. Admission to the nineteen exhibition rooms on art, history, and culture in Memorial Hall Museum, 8 Memorial Street, Deerfield, MA, is $6 for adults, and $3 for youth and students 6-21. For more information call 413-774-3768 x 10 or visit the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association’s website. Click here for a gallery of highlights from the exhibition.

Paul Taylor, Themes and Variations, and Susan kae Grant, Night Journey at The Hallmark Museum of Contemporary Photography

The Hallmark Museum of Contemporary Photography has expanded. It now boasts two state-of-the-art galleries, each in separate buildings, which it is now using to host two one-person shows, one a retrospective of Paul Taylor’simpressive photographic work, and the other a specific project by Texas photographer Susan kae Grant. Both exhibitions were inaugurated by slide lectures by the artists, making for a full and extremely stimulating evening. These were held at the equally impressive Hallmark Institute of Photography, which specializes in commercial photography and the business of photography, but, as this evening showed, it provides students with a constant flow of inspiration from the very best fine art photography. The present exhibitions are particularly sophisticated examples of this. As Paul Turnbull, the executive director and curator of the HMCP, pointedly asked the students at several points in the evening, “Are you making photographs, or are you taking pictures?” hence the lectures contained more technical considerations than those addressed to the general public. All the better.

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