Posts by: Miss Rosen

69 Magnum Photographers Reveal Their Contact Sheets in New Book

Havana. Ministry of Industry.
Ernesto Guevara (Che), Argentinian politician,
Minister of industry (1961-1965) during an exclusive interview in his office.
© Rene Burri/Magnum Photos.

We would like to believe that photographs convey an element of truth, that in the fraction of a second recorded for posterity, we have captured something that lies beyond mere celluloid of digital technology – something we can gaze upon and discover verifiable facts, unearth an ineffable aspect of reality that lies beneath the surface.

Perhaps this is possible, in as much as we wish to believe it so, but when we consider that the single frame lies in a larger body of work can we be absolutely sure that we’re not being guided by the aesthetic power of the form. Are we not sentient beings whose powers and perceptions of sight heavily influenced by the perfection of the art?

It may be the best way to know is to consider the context, in as much as it is available to us: the circumstances of the moment, the players, the photographer themselves. And, if we are to consider the artist, where does this image fall, not only within their oeuvre but more specifically in project from which it is drawn? This is where the contact sheet comes in.

New Book Is a Road Map Through The Life of Photographer Roger Ballen

Mimicry, 2005

Roly Poly, USA, 1972

Stare, 2008

When Roger Ballen graduated from high school in 1968, his parents gave him a Nikon FTn camera. It was flown over from Hong Kong by a friend and lost in customs for several weeks before it finally arrived. The day that Ballen received it, he headed to the outskirts of Sing Sing prison to take photographs, a prescient moment to launch a journey in photography like no other before or since.

His name alone conjures up curious and disturbing visions of an uncanny world, one that recalls the spaces of the dreamscape, theaters of the unconscious. Here reality is a construction, but it is also something else: it is the space where our minds are released from rational sensibilities. To describe the work as unnerving would be polite. It is as though the non-linear spaces of the mind are given full flight.

“A shadow runs through my work,” Ballen observes in the magnificent new book, Ballenesque: A Retrospective (Thames & Hudson). “The shadow spreads, grows deeper as I move on, grow older. The shadow is no longer indistinguishable from the person they call Roger. I track my shadow (life) through these images.”

Martin Parr’s Evocative Ode to Scotland

Tomintoul Highland Games, Tomintoul, 2006.

The East Mainland Show, Orkney, 2007.

In the title of his newest book from Damiani, Martin Parr suggests: Think of Scotland – and what comes to mind? Perhaps it is the wail of bagpipes held by men donning rich plaid kilts or visions of medieval castles lay in ruins sitting nobly on distant isles. Maybe you see fields of heather spread across the moor, under blue grey skies from which featherlike rain softly falls. Or maybe you dream of Mary Queen of Scots, walking to her death, defiantly disrobing to reveal a velvet petticoat and sleeves in crimson-brown, the color of martyrdom.

Or perhaps Parr’s directive draws to mind the words of Irvine Welsh who penned the classic novel, Trainspotting, a story of modern Scotland, in which he writes, “Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that?”

It is here, in the space between these two realms, that Parr finds himself, a chronicler of the fabled land whose national animal is the unicorn. For more than 25 years Parr has traversed the country creating a body of work from the streets of Edinburgh to the markets of Glasgow, the Portree Games on the Isle of Skye to the agricultural shows in Orkney. The works, assembled here, have gone largely unpublished – until now. 

A Fresh Look at Gordon Parks’ Photo Essay “Harlem Gang Leader”

Gordon Parks: Red Jackson, Harlem, New York, 1948; gelatin silver print; 19 1/2 x 15
3/4 in.

Gordon Parks: Untitled, Harlem, New York, 1948; gelatin silver print with applied
pigment; 4 1/2 x 4 1/2 in.

1948 was a watershed year in the career of American photographer Gordon Parks. An established fashion photographer who had been working on assignment for LIFE magazine, Parks was also an accomplished author, publishing his second book, Camera Portraits, a collection of his work accompanied by professional observations about posing, lighting, and printing. At the same, time, Parks longed for something deeper and more essential to his soul.

“Photographing fashion was rewarding but for me somewhat rarefied,” he revealed in his memoir, Half Past Autumn. “Documentary urgings were still gnawing at me, still waiting for fulfillment.”

He met with his editors to make his very first pitch: the story of Leonard “Red” Jackson, the 17-year-old leader of the Midtowners, a Harlem gang that had been caught up in the turf warfare that had been plaguing the neighborhood throughout the decade. He showed them 21 pictured edited from a body of hundreds photographs made over a period of four weeks made shadowing Red as he went about his business. The work tells the story of survival in its most poignant form, caught in the space where poverty, oppression, and violence foment and froth.

Bonnie & Clyde: The Very First Exhibition of Historical Photographs

Anonymous, Bonnie & Clyde, Kissing & Embracing, 1933.

Anonymous, Clyde Barrow’s Criminal Record, 1934.

There is nothing more American than the anti-hero, the fearless, go-for-self radical who rejects all social norms, subverting the system in order to win by breaking the rules. They occupy a space that defies the paradigm of villainy, inspiring a legion of fans and followers to cheer them on to what is very often an unfortunate fate. Though they may be amoral, immoral, and unethical, they tap into the urges of the unchecked id. Let’s call it vicarious living at its most primal state – that which few would do themselves but would gladly enjoy via proxy.

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow embodied this to the fullest extent, adding the added touch of romance to the primordial death wish. During the “Public Enemy Era” of the 1930s, when the nation was reduced to tatters and desperate living, criminals became the new superstar, proudly flouting their ill-gotten. While high profile gangsters like John Dillinger and Al Capone kept the public mesmerized with high profile affairs, a couple of regular folks named Bonnie & Clyde quickly became household names.

They were barely out of their teen years when they met in 1930 in East Dallas. Clyde, already an ex-convict, was re-imprisoned for auto theft. Bonnie got on her game and smuggled a gun into prison so that Clyde could escape and be reunited with the one he loved. After being caught and sent back to jail, he was finally released in 1932 – and that’s where our story begins. 

A Quintessential Road Trip In Search of ‘America’

The United States is built on myth, dating back to the earliest days of the republic, when Thomas Jefferson wrote, “All men are created equal,” without any self-awareness. A slaveholder claiming equality — what kind of world could spawn such profoundly pathological cognitive dissonance?

It is “self-evident” as Jefferson would say: one that considered itself “enlightened” enough to use reason and logic to uphold irrational beliefs; to craft holidays like “Thanksgiving” that celebrated the wholesale slaughter of Native Americans and whitewash history; to name cities, towns, and counties after Christopher Columbus, the architect of the Transatlantic Slave Trade — to do all these things and play innocent.

The myth of “America” has appealed for hundreds of years. “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore” wrote poet Emma Lazarus, whose words were placed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in 1903. “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me.”

From Boy to Man: Samuel Fosso’s Journey Through Self-Portraits


Samuel Fosso 70s series, by Samuel Fosso, c. 1976/1977

Samuel Fosso 70s series, by Samuel Fosso, c. 1976/1977

Samuel Fosso 70s series, by Samuel Fosso, c. 1976/1977

At the tender age of 13, Samuel Fosso set up Studio Photo Nationale, and began his career as a photographer. The year was 1975, and Fosso was working in the city of Bangui, located just inside the border of Central African Republic.

“With Studio National, you will be beautiful, stylish, dainty and easy to recognize,” Fosso promised. Here he works taking passport, portrait, and wedding photographs for the community—but it was his self-portraits that brought the artist global acclaim.

“I started taking self-portraits simply to use up spare film; people wanted their photographs the next day, even if the roll wasn’t finished, and I didn’t like waste. The idea was to send some pictures to my mother in Nigeria, to show her I was all right.,” Fosso told The Guardian in 2011. “Then I saw the possibilities. I started trying different costumes, poses, backdrops. It began as a way of seeing myself grow up, and slowly it became a personal history – as well as art, I suppose.”

Marvin E. Newman’s Spellbinding “City of Lights”

Broadway, 1954.

Feast Of San Gennaro, Little Italy, New York, 1952.

Coney Island, 1953

Now in his 89th year, American photographer Marvin E. Newman is receiving his due as one of the finest street photographers of the twentieth century. His self-titled monograph, just released as a XXL Collector’s Edition from Taschen showcases his vibrant collection of cityscapes made in New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles—as well as in the Heartland of the nation and the outskirts of Alaska between the years 1950 and 1983.

Born in the Bronx in 1927, Newman studied photography and sculpture at Brooklyn College with Walter Rosenblum. He joined the Photo League in 1948 before moving to Chicago the following year to study with Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind at the Institute of Design. “They taught you to keep your mind open and go further, and always respond to what you are making,” Newman remembered.

Words & Pictures Collide in Teju Cole’s New Book

Teju Cole, Brienzersee, June 2014.
Archival pigment print, printed 2017.

I opened my eyes. What lay before me looked like the sound of the alphorn at the beginning of the final movement of Brahms’s First Symphony. This was the sound, this was the sound I saw.

Teju Cole, Zurich, November 2014.
Archival pigment print, printed 2017.

A length, a loop, a line. Faraway wave seen from the deck of the ship. I think the Annunciation must have happened on a day like this one. Stillness. In the interior, she reads with lowered eyes, unaware of what comes next. A presence made of absence, the crossbar, the cloth, the wound in his side.

The relationship between image and text is one of the most challenging pairings to exist. They demand complete attention and so one must choose: to look or to read—and in what order?

Perhaps it seems deceptively simple: one simply does as they are inclined. Yet regardless of preference, they inform each other, infinitely. When we read, we see the picture in our mind. When we look, we write the words ourselves. Now we are asked to forgo our imagination and focus on the given context.

Yet few can bridge the gap that exists between the linguistic and visual realms, the distinctive forms of intelligence that operate independently and interdependently at the same time. Most often, we simply opt out somewhere along the line, wanting to return to the freedom to imagine for ourselves rather than listen to what we are told.

Self Portraits by Senegalese Photographer Omar Victor Diop Recreate Historic Paintings

Omar Victor Diop, Don Miguel de Castro, Emissary of Congo (c. 1643-50)
From the series: Project Diaspora 2014
Pigment inkjet print on Harman Hahnemuhle paper 47 1/4 x 31 1/2 in. Edition of 8 + 2 APs
In 1643 or 1644, Don Miguel de Castro and two servants arrived as part of a delegation sent by the ruler of Sonho, a province of Congo, via Brazil to the Netherlands. One objective of the journey was to find a resolution to an internal conflict in Congo. Original painting attributed to Jaspar Beck or Albert Eckout.

Omar Victor Diop, A Moroccan man (1913)
From the series: Project Diaspora 2014
Pigment inkjet print on Harman Hahnemuhle paper 47 1/4 x 31 1/2 in. Edition of 8 + 2 APs
Jose Tapiro y Baro was a Catalan painter. One of his closest friends was the painter Maria? Fortuny with whom he shared an interest for Orientalism. He was a master of watercolor painting. Original Painting by Jose? Tapiro y Baro.

The great African proverb wisely observes, “Until the lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.”

The lion has arrived in the form of Omar Victor Diop, a rising star in the photography world. Born 1980, in Dakar, Senegal, Diop has inherited the great traditions of African studio photography and takes them to the next level in his new exhibition, Project Diaspora, currently on view at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film in Atlanta, GA, through August 18, 2017.

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