In my poking around on the web I recently came across the photography of Josef Sudek. Sudek was based in Prague and actively photographed until 1976 when he was 80. He had lost an arm to shrapnel in the First World War which makes his work produced with a large format camera all the more impressive.
Sudek is often referred to as the poet of Prague and I can understand that. I find his images to be quiet and contemplative. I get a sense of loneliness or melancholy from many of the images. Perhaps that’s just me. The images shot in and around his studio reminded of Saul Leiter’s photographs – largely because of shooting through the condensation on the windows.
“Process saves us from the poverty of our intentions.”
I am currently reading Seth Godin’s new book ‘The Practice’. More about that when I actually finish it. I was struck by the quote in the front of the book from Elizabeth King shown above and went on a hunt to find more about her. Frustratingly I couldn’t find the exact source of the quote but many people who attribute it to her but the journey was fun.
Elizabeth King is a sculptor who taught at Virginia Commonwealth University for 30 years before retiring to focus on her work. She is best known for her figurative sculpture that she combines with stop motion animation. Perhaps remarkably she was creating the articulated sculptures that were perfect for stop motion animation long before she had the idea for animating them.
I am always fascinated to watch artists at work, regardless of the medium that they work in. The behind the scenes look that you get in Olympia Stone’s documentary “Double Take’ is a real treat in this regard. It shows Elizabeth at work in her Church Hill studio as well as installing her work at various shows.
What is evident in the documentary is her attention to detail. She really cares about getting the sculpture right, capturing the imperfections in joints on the hands of her sculptures so that the fingers end up a little wonky. I thought she was describing my fingers as she described this detail in the documentary. She’s clearly looking and not just going through the motions and means that her sculpture stands up to the closest of scrutiny.
Of course her attention to detail doesn’t stop with the creation of the work. It’s interesting to see how much attention she puts into the installation to make sure that the pose of the sculpture is correct and that the lighting is just so to provide the correct emphasis to the face and hands. This is what separates masters from the journeymen.
I had a chance to look at some of Edward Hopper’s paintings of scenes from small town America over the Christmas break and couldn’t help but be reminded of the work of Gregory Crewdson. Like Hopper’s paintings, Crewdson’s photography shows scenes from small town America. They are vignettes that raise questions, that invite you in to wonder what happened before and what will happen next.
Many people will talk about their photographs being ‘cinematic’ but Crewdson’s images could really be stills from a movie. The work that goes into setting up each of the shots is not far from what you might expect for a cinematic production. You get a glimpse behind the scenes in the videos below. The second video is a trailer for the documentary ‘Brief Encounters‘ filmed over a 10 year period it gives not only an in depth look at what goes into the making of the work but also a sense of the events and experiences that shaped Crewdson the man.
I must say that I was glad that I did. His book covers both his personal and commercial work and gives what seems to me to be a pretty decent look behind the scenes at how he approaches shooting. Much more interesting to me were the videos that Cale Glendening produced of some of Joey’s trips to make the personal work. I was impressed with the time that Joey puts in to get to know his subjects and his willingness to go the extra mile to break down barriers and build relationships. Well worth a look. Look out for Cale getting a traditional Mentawai tattoo. Check out the videos below.
On my regular trawl looking for interviews of photographers talking about the creative process, the future of photography etc. I found an interview with Cary Wolinsky, a 30 year veteran of National Geographic and one of the founders of the Center for Digital Imaging Arts from the Press Pause Play Project. Check the interview out below. I’d be interested in your thoughts and comments about Cary’s view of where things are headed for today’s photographers.
Sally Mann has used a large format camera to photograph the deep south since the 1970’s producing bodies of work that cover portraiture, architecture, landscape and still life. Perhaps her most well known work was ‘Immediate Family’ which focused on her three children who were all under 12 at the time. It’s release was met with controversy, including accusations of child pornography – many of the photos were of her children playing and swimming naked at the families summer cottage.
Sally Mann has received many awards including being named ‘America’s Best Photographer’ by Time Magazine in 2001, she’s a Guggenheim fellow and three times a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship awardee.
Check out the 2006 documentary of Sally Mann, her work and her process ‘What Remains’ below.
I stumbled upon the documentary ‘Press Pause Play‘ this week. I’ve mentioned here a few times that this is an amazing time that we are living through in terms of the ability to create and get things out into the world and to do that on your on terms. Press Pause Play asks the question ‘Does democratized culture mean better art or is true talent instead drowned out?’ While heavily weighted towards the music industry I think that the comments from people like Moby and Seth Godin are relevant to anyone involved in the creative arts. Check out the full documentary below.