Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas at Gantry Plaza

Mum and Dad came down for Christmas again this year and we decided to take everything nice and slow. We have done all the touristy stuff in the past: see the tree at Rockefeller Center, watched people ice skate, walked around Central Park, etc. On Christmas Day, we decided to take the train over to Court Square and walk around down by the water at Gantry Plaza State Park.

The park has been suggested to me a few times since I've lived in Queens but I've never found a reason to make the trek down there. The weather was gorgeous, and I finally got to see what all the fuss is about: striking views of the Manhattan skyline, an architecturally intriguing boardwalk, new construction on Central Boulevard, and the Long Island City ferry port, currently closed for the season.

I haven't been shooting much lately due to the frigid temperatures, but in the fifty-degree weather yesterday, with my iPhone and brand new Instax Wide camera, I was making photos left and right. It felt great to be #roaming again. I've made plans with my friend Dan for next week to go out shooting in the city, but I might suggest we change our locale to the area around Gantry since there's so much more to see.

Chelsea Pathiakis Gantry Plaza Boardwalk, 2016

Monday, November 28, 2016

Julia Hetta

Another photographer whose work I discovered via brief involvement with Art + Commerce is Julia Hetta. Working almost exclusively with natural light and long exposures, I find her work to be highly surreal; in some cases in the style of some Surrealist artists from the 1920s, namely Man Ray and Salvador Dali. Her use of rich, deep tones and occasionally eerie portraiture finds me intensely captivated.

My favorite of her photo sets was published in AnOther Magazine in September of 2015, entitled Cushion Volume Down Constrict. I find this set to be one of the most surreal, and almost haunting. 

Cushion Volume Down Constrict, September 2015

Cushion Volume Down Constrict, September 2015
The last two photographs scream Man Ray and Dali, respectively.

Between gorgeous compositions paired with such striking natural light, if ever I was to go down the path of fashion photography, Julia Hetta's work would top my list of inspirational sources.

Where No One Stands Alone, Another Man, Autumn/Winter 2016

Friday, November 25, 2016

William Abranowicz & Henry Miller

At the beginning of October I was briefly involved with the artist agency Art + Commerce, which lead to the discovery of a few photographers whose work I've come to deeply admire. I had first been introduced to the agency as a fashion photography intern, doing aesthetic research for upcoming shoots. The agency represents some of the most prolific and renowned image makers of the age, and also holds licenses for the estates of artists who have passed on. Stephen Shore, Patrick Demarchelier, Craig McDean, and Steven Meisel are among the artists with whose work I was already familiar; William Abranowicz had been on my radar since my internship.

My attention was first caught by William Abranowicz's The Greek File as I was fresh from a trip to the mythic land myself, and easily captivated by anything Greece-related. Already galvanized by the work of Herbert List (see earlier posts), I was hit with another wave of inspiration upon seeing another monograph dedicated to the place that changed me, not only as a photographer but as a person.

The Greek File: Santorini, 1991
The Greek File: Santorini, 1998

Abranowicz captures the essence of Greece in much the same way that I attempted when I was there. It's so easy to be caught up by the the things you're supposed to see when visiting a new place, but he made an effort to see past the attractions to the stripped-down core of Greek culture. There are no cliched portraits of monuments.

The beginning of the monograph has a beautifully written introduction by Edmund Keeley, followed by an excerpt from The Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller. So enchanted was I by Miller's words, that I found a copy of the book, and have been reading it slowly over the past few weeks. The way he describes his time in Greece, the interactions he had with people, the places he visited, especially the overwhelming sense of peace and calm he experienced upon visiting Epidaurus, has continually brought my own experiences flooding back each time I pick up the book. 

"At Epidaurus, in the stillness, in the great peace that came over me, I heard the heart of the world beat. I know what the cure is: it is to give up, to relinquish, to surrender, so that our little hearts may beat in unison with the great heart of the world."

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Autumn & Jaques Henri Lartigue

Summer is officially over today, and I'm feeling nostalgic for autumn in New Hampshire. The leaves begin to change, the air is crisp, and it's time to throw on a light jacket while out apple picking or attending a state fair. Autumn in New York is not quite as picturesque, as the heat lingers too long, and there is significantly less foliage.

The light is different in New Hampshire.

I remember first hearing of Jaques Henri Lartigue in college, probably mentioned during my history of photography class. Not immediately intrigued by his (more famous) black and white photographs, he fell into the great pool of photo knowledge sloshing around in the back of my mind. A few months ago, I picked up Lartigue: Life in Color, and I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the French and Italian countrysides and his varied female companions, and by the quality of light he captured, whether in the dead of winter or the last days of summer.

One pairing of images in particular found me unable to turn the page:

Left: Piozzo, September 1956  /  Right: Florette, Piozzo, September 1956
With autumn creeping in, these two photographs seem incredibly relevant. September light, corn being husked and hung; harvest season.

I'm hoping to a make a trip north in the next month or so to be able to capture some of that golden light myself, before we descend quickly into winter. Why is it that this gorgeous, cozy season seems to pass so much faster than the others? I think I'd be happy living in perpetual fall.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Duane Michals and the State of Photography

The GROUND #05

Duane Michals has been on my radar for some time. I wouldn't call him a direct influence, as my work is neither sequential nor typically in black and white, but there's something about his many small series that instill in me a strange sense of nostalgia. 

Nearly a year ago, I was in Manhattan searching for international fashion magazines for my boss and I came across the fifth volume of a hardcover periodical called The GROUND. Michals' image of Andy Warhol was on the cover, and having personally spent [way too much] time researching and writing about the pop artist in college, I picked up the magazine immediately. Michals was interviewed about his place in the world of photography, and the quote in the image above struck a chord with me:

"Photography will end up being a cul-de-sac unless it expands the definition of what a photograph is."

I read a lot of photography criticism, though mostly written by those who are long dead, in dusty, out of print books, so it was refreshing to hear a living photographer's point of view. And he's absolutely correct; while I do believe that the boundaries of photography are always being pushed, at some point everything will have been attempted and we photographers will need to take a step back and reevaluate what it is we're creating. 

Michals goes on:

"All photography will end up being selfies. Because there is no other dimension than the reflection of the ego. I never understood why. I am having trouble with photography, most photography … as long as photography remains describing exterior events… as long as photography is telling me what I already know, I do not care about it."

In a world saturated by images, thanks to the likes of Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media, it's hard to see the value of a photograph. We're bombarded at every turn with imagery, a sad truth for those of us who spent time and money to be professionally trained in the medium, only to graduate into an industry where a proper degree doesn't seem to matter. In the end, what does it take to stand out?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Roosevelt Island

For the last few weeks, I've been riding my bicycle around Astoria to explore new territory I would never make it to on foot. I've been living here for almost two years and there is still so much I haven't seen.

On June 6th, and again this past Friday, the 17th, I traveled on two wheels to Roosevelt Island. The tiny island sits on the East River underneath the 59th St. Bridge that connects Queens and Manhattan. I'd come across the bridge to the island off Vernon Boulevard some months ago but hadn't the urge to explore until now. The island feels like a tiny European town: it is shockingly well maintained and clean, and has its own inclusive community with schools, churches, and a hospital. Most of the buildings are residential, and I recently learned that Cornell houses many of its doctors and scientists there as well. I was most surprised by the number of green spaces the island maintains; little parks and gardens are dotted all along on both the East and West sides.

The most impressive space, however, is the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park at the south tip of the island. The architecture is completely constructed with white granite, and there was a palpable sense of calm in the area.

After my first trip, I'd heard about the ruins of the Smallpox Hospital, also on the South tip, and I knew I needed to see it this time. The Gothic Revival structure was designed by architect James Renwick, Jr. in the 1850's and opened to the public in 1956. Renwick also designed Grace Church and St. Patrick's Cathedral in NY and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. After spending so much time around ruined structures in Greece, the shell of the tiny hospital somehow felt familiar to me.

While it seems I've covered all the ground on the island, I'm sure I will be traveling there again soon to experience that sense of calm this quirky little strip of land brings me.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Revisiting Herbert List

Prior to my trip to Greece, I found unexpected inspiration at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in the form of a print by Herbert List. I made a post about it here, mentioning that I found myself pouring over a monograph I'd checked out from the library [at my college]. Recently, I've obtained my own copy of The Essential Herbert List: Photographs 1930-1972, and I'm reliving my past inspiration. His work makes me feel as though transported to another place and time, a mark of the best travel photography.

The introduction by Bruce Weber and the following two pieces of analysis by Ulrich Pohlmann and GΓΌnter Metken that I've read so far have my mind buzzing. I have always highly valued the history of photography knowledge that I've retained, and reading about some of the most influential masters brought up in relation to Herbert List's work, as well as mention of photo movements, feels like waking up: Henri Cartier-Bresson's decisive moments; Rene Magritte's pictorial mysteries; Breton, Cocteau, and Man Ray, the Paris Surrealists. Bruce Weber mentioned a Swiss cultural journal called Du that published List's work several times, and I'm working on finding a copy.

Through this reading I've also been introduced to a few new artists whose work I plan to investigate: Florence Henri (New Vision, mirrors), Otto Steinert (subjective photography), Edmund Kesting (Ruins: "Untitled (montage)" & "Dresden, 1945"), and George Hoyningen-Huene (fashion photography).

Man and Dog, Portofino, 1936
House and Statue of Kleopatra, Delos, 1937

Further investigations and findings on the work of Herbert List and Jaques Henri Lartigue, writings on photography, photo criticism, and personal travel journals to come.