Friday Inspiration: Kenro Izu

We’re still in various shades of lock down here in Connecticut. I certainly won’t be traveling beyond the local area until at least the second half of the year which leaves me wondering what to do to scratch the photography itch. I’m spending time making plans for photography trips and also filling the well by looking at a lot of photography on line and in my ‘library’ of photography monographs.

I’ve been exploring the idea of doing a still life project, something that I’ve thought about over the years and even made some tentative attempts. In thinking about still life projects I came across the work of Kenro Izu and got his book Still Life (it’s out of print so you’ll have to hunt a bit) to explore more.

Kenro was born in Japan and moved to New York City in 1970. After a short period of time working as an assistant he established his own studio. I have struggled to find a comprehensive biography of Kenro – as one might expect each one I’ve read presents a slice of his life that is relevant to the project that is being exhibited or presented. I came to Kenro’s work through his still life portfolio but this is very much one facet of his art life. He has travelled widely to explore the spirituality of Buddhist and Hindu sacred spaces – creating bodies of work in places such as Angkor, Bhutan and Fuzhou.

As I understand it many of these projects were completed using a large format camera that produces 14×20 negatives. What a hulking beast of a camera! The negatives are processed using platinum palladium printing process. Platinum palladium is an interesting process, it results in images with a distinct brown to off white look. The chemistry is UV sensitive which means as long as you stay clear of UV light you don’t need to work in a dark room. Watch Kenro developing a print in the video above.

I understand that Kenro used a medium format digital camera for his project ‘Requiem’. It’s possible to make digital negatives by printing onto Waterproof Silk Screen Positive Film and then developing these in the normal way. An interesting option for those of us that are committed to digital but want to explore more traditional printing techniques.

Check out the interview with Kenro in the videos below and see more of his work on his website here.

Friday Inspiration: Thomas Joshua Cooper – The World’s Edge

“Looking towards the Old Lands.” Thomas Joshua Cooper

I’m currently thinking about projects that I can engage with while travel is restricted and we are locked down. I feel like a good photography project, one that will keep you engaged for a while, is one that is multi-dimensional, one that engages multiple areas of your interest.

Thomas Joshua Cooper certainly found this with his Atlantic Basin Project. The ambition of this project was to chart the Atlantic Basin from the extremity of land north, south, east, and west. An enormous undertaking and one he has been engaged with since the end of the ‘80s. Longer than he’s been married and a project older than his kids!

The work recently reached completion with the publication of ‘The World’s Edge‘ and the exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

I find the work absolutely captivating, although I struggle to put my finger on what it is about his photographs that draws me in. The subject matter appeals to me. I enjoy being at the coast, I’m awed by the power of the ocean and can’t help but feel that the transition from land to water is a place of great possibility.

The images of Thomas Joshua Cooper for this project are abstractions with no real sense of place, not grand vistas but truly what it would feel like if you were stood at the edge of the land looking out to the sea. Often they appear to be long exposures, giving movement to the water which really gives you a sense of dynamics. There are images that provide visual breaks – the images taken during white out conditions on Antarctica or those taken during the winter solstice at the North Pole.

If you only get one book from this project get ‘The World’s Edge‘ if you want to dig deeper you could explore The Point of No Return, Eye of the Water Ojo De Agua, or True that represent images from major sections of the work. Watch the video below to hear Professor Cooper provide an entertaining and engaging description of his Atlantic Basin Project.

Friday Inspiration: Tokihiro Sato

When I first came across Tokihiro’s photographs I was fascinated. A representative image is above – points of light or strings of light in the landscape. He calls these photographs ‘breath-graphs’ or photo-respiration with the points of light or lines representing his movement through the landscape.

From a technical perspective how did he do it? He uses a large format film camera to make long exposures – while the shutter is open Tokihiro uses a small mirror to shine a point of light on the lens and then moves and repeats the process. The videos below give some additional insight to the technique that Tokihiro uses.

Friday Inspiration: Joni Sternbach

I am filled with admiration for people like Joni Sternbach, who not only take a large format camera into the field but because she is using a wet-plate collodion process the photographic plates must be prepared and developed on location too.

The project that I’m most familiar with is – Surfland. It’s a project that was started ten years ago and has taken her to local surf spots on both coasts of the US, to Hawaii, Uruguay, Australia, France and England. It is a fascinating exploration of surf culture across the globe and well worth a deeper look.

Check out the Surfland project on Sternbach’s website here. There are also a couple of books associated with the project that can be found on her website here or from amazon.

Check out the short videos of Sternbach below.

Friday Inspiration: Barbara Bosworth – The Heavens

I had been looking at some Michael Kenna images over the last weekend and in looking at his moonrise image came across Barbara Bosworth’s image from her new book ‘The Heavens’. I was intrigued enough to dig a little deeper.

Heavens is a photographic celebration of the not just the night sky but the moon, the heavens (stars) and sun. I enjoyed looking at the pictures of the moon and stars. They reminded me of looking at the stars with my dad on the walk home from my grans house as a child. I’m always interested in how photography can show us things that we wouldn’t otherwise see or allow us to experience in a different way. The image above is one example, there are others in the book including photographs of sun spots which I found fascinating. The

I am always keen to seen behind the curtain to get a sense of the creative process and I was not disappointed in this regard either. The appendix includes ephemera that went into supporting the project – books, a planisphere and copies of Barbara’s darkroom notebook pages relevant to her work on images that went into the book.

The Heavens portfolio can be found on her website here and you can find out more about Barbara here.

Listen to Barbara discuss one of her earlier projects ‘Birds and other Angels’ below.


Friday Inspiration: Victoria Sambunaris

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After running through a string a contemporary landscape photographers in recent weeks I could help but recognize that all of these were guys which made me wonder who were the women active in this genre. It was then that I remembered the fabulous book by Victoria Sambunaris, ‘Taxonomy of a Landscape‘ that I had recently came across. The book documents a decade long exploration of the American landscape and our place in it. In fact it’s two books, the companion volume collects the associated research materials and other bits and pieces that Sambunaris accumulated during the course of the project. A fascinating behind the scenes look into her process.

For more information on Sambunaris and her projects check out the video here and the embeded video below.

Victoria Sambunaris lecture, February 7, 2013 from MoCP, Columbia College Chicago on Vimeo.

Friday Inspiration: Alec Soth

Soth

In my stumble through contemporary landscape photographers I recently found Alec Soth, and particularly his recent photo book ‘Songbook‘ in which he is exploring physical social interactions in a world of social media.

I’m still digging into the rich world of Alec Soth, there’s lots to go at! His self published book ‘Sleeping by the Mississippi‘ caught the attention of the curators of the Whitney Biennial in 2004 and his inclusion in the exhibition launched him on a larger stage. The image above from his ‘Sleeping by the Mississippi’ project was used for the poster for the exhibit. He became a nominee of the Magnum Photos agency in 2004 and a full member in 2008. Since his first book in 2004 he has produced over 20 others, including Songbook, and a number in collaboration with writer Brad Zellar. He founded the publishing company Little Brown Mushroom in 2008 to publish his own books and those of others interested in a similar narrative approach to telling visual stories. A very busy guy!

See Alec talk more about his work in the videos below.

Alec Soth et Roe Ethridge (April 28, 2013) from Paris Photo on Vimeo.

Friday Inspiration: Richard Misrach

misrach

I am continuing to enjoy hopscotching through ‘contemporary’ photographers, spending some time in the last week looking at the work of Richard Misrach. Until recently my exposure to Misrach’s work had been the image above and few others in this series. This series of images are striking but I didn’t dig deeper into the origins of this work something which Misrach gets into in the video below.

I have yet to deeply explore the work that Misrach is perhaps most well know for – his on-going project called ‘Desert Cantos’, photographs of the deserts of the american west – spending more time looking at his work associated with hurricane Katrina and of what he calls ‘cancer alley’. These two projects resulted in the books ‘Destroy this memory‘ and ‘Petrochemical America‘.

While it could be argued that all of his work deals with man’s rather complex relationship with the environment the Petrochemical America project really struck home for me. Will we ever put long term sustainability before short term gains? I’m going to continue digging into Misrach’s work. For now watch Richard Misrach talk about his work in the videos below.

Friday Inspiration: Nobuyuki Kobayashi

Screenshot 2015-01-28 14.10.19

In continuing my exploration of Japanese photographers I recently came across Nobuyuki Kobayashi. Kobayashi may be most well known for his work in magazines as a portrait photographer or for his humanitarian work but what caught my attention were his black and white landscapes. Landscape might be the wrong word, since for many it evokes the grand view and Kobayashi’s work offers a much subtler take on the land. He feels that he is taking portraits of the Gods and this delicate approach certainly comes through in the work of his that I’ve seen so far.

I find his process intriguing – use of an 8×10 large format camera, film and printing on traditional Japanese paper, washi. I’ve tried printing on washi in the past and found that the heavy intrinsic texture works against many subjects but Kobayashi seems to be making it work. It rails against the increasingly small format, mirrorless digital cameras and yet his choice of materials that should last for hundreds of years supports his goal of using photography as a tool to preserve the beauty of the natural world.

I’m hoping to see more in the book that accompanies this body of work ‘Myriads of Gods’.

Listen to Kobayashi describe this project in the short interview below and watch the longer documentary for a behind the scenes look at his process of platinum palladium printing on washi.

(English sub)Portrait of Nature – Myriads of Gods on Platinum Palladium Prints – from augment5 Inc. on Vimeo.

Friday Inspiration: Hiroshi Sugimoto

9 SUGIMOTO

Over the last week or so I’ve been making a list of my top 12 influences, visual artists and their work that influence and inspire me. Consistently over the years Hiroshi Sugimoto has made this list. Born in Japan, Sugimoto moved to the US to study in the mid-70’s eventually settling in New York. While he’s returned to a number of subjects repeatedly over the years, including ‘American Theatres’ in which he photographs old movie theaters and drive ins using long exposures in an attempt to show time in his photographs; ‘Dioramas’ which are beautifully executed photographs of exhibitions in natural history museums and more recently of wax-work figures; ‘Architecture’ in which he photographs structures slightly out of focus which gives a sense of the form that the architect had in mind without you getting lost in the details and my personal favorite ‘Seascapes’. His seascapes, such as the one above, give a real sense of the vastness of the ocean that particularly appeals to me.

Check out the documentary below for more about Sugimoto’s life and work.