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Posts by: Miss Rosen

A Journey Through ‘The Windows of My Studio’

3:57pm November 27, 2011 – Port of Spain, Trinidad

2:20pm October 9, 2011 – Jacmel, Haiti

1:50pm November 26, 2011 – Port of Spain, Trinidad

“Wherever you go, there you are,” Confucius observed, explaining one of the inherent paradoxes of life. The nature of the human mind is one of an eternal quest, a seeking for answers – or maybe even the questions themselves.

We come to this earth without words, able to communicate through gesture, facial expression, guttural sounds and tones. It is enough to keep up going during our earliest, most vulnerable period of life but soon we are compelled to go beyond this visceral state. We are given words, words, and more words and shown how and when to use them: how to ask, how to answer – and, ultimately, how to think.

Life then becomes a process of accumulation until it reaches the tipping point and we discover that we are trapped inside losing paradigms made by lesser minds. It is then that our search takes a powerful turn, as we are forced to unwire our programming in the search for truth, undergoing the pain of stripping away lies that have shaped our identity in the most intimate and profound of ways.

Portraits Recall Harlem in the 1980’s

In 2018, you might find your mind casting back, reminiscing on the way things were when Harlem was black – long before the cultural imperialists crossed the Hudson River and took to these shores, bringing with them a culture that systematically displaced natives and erased their legacy in its promotion of all things beige.

You might find yourself thinking of Harlem of yore, when it was abandoned and left for dead under the systemic plagues of “benign neglect,” crack, and AIDS: when the landscape was littered with the rubble of decimated buildings and abandoned lots, when buildings were taken over by drug dealers as crackhouses, when every day was “Night of the Living Dead.”

When the murder rate reached an all time high and suddenly the violence of the 1970s seemed eerily innocent.

Discreet Portraits of People on The New York City Subway in the 70’s

Helen Levitt was an extremely private person and preferred to let her photographs speak for her – and if you listen very carefully, you might just hear the Bensonhurst accent coming through. “Dawling,” a photograph might intone with intimate familiarity, suggesting we come closer to get the gossip or a bite to eat. “Fuhgeddaboudit,” another might insist, making it clear the window for opportunity is firmly shut.

The Brooklyn soul of Levitt is firmly entrenched in her perfectly composed portraits of daily life in New York. Once upon a time before gentrification took hold, New Yorkers were everything America aspired to be. They came from all walks of life, frequently crossing paths, having the good sense not to gawk or to stare because that would be gauche. They came to expect the unexpected and took it in stride, spouting Cindy Adams catchphrase, “Only in New York, kids,” with pride.

Harry Gruyaert’s Photos Take Us On a Colorful Journey from Vegas to the USSR

 

Las Vegas downtown motel, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States, 1982.
© Harry Gruyaert Magnum Photos

Moscow, Russia, 1989.
© Harry Gruyaert Magnum Photos

“Higher emotions cannot be communicated in color,” American photographer Paul Strand claimed – revealing the power of irrational beliefs to take root in the mind and spread like a virus through those who fear to question ideology in search of the truth.

The decision to invite Belgian photographer Harry Gruyaert (b. 1941) to join Magnum Photos in 1982 caused dissent among the ranks. At that time Gruyaert had been working in color for two decades, but the powers that be “didn’t see color,” so to speak. Photography was still a fledgling medium in the art world, and those who were desperate to join the ranks revealed a powerful insecurity that fed simple-minded biases and false hierarchies designed to exclude innovative thinkers who worked outside the narrow frame of the status quo.

Gruyaert, however, was undeterred. His commitment remained consistent throughout his remarkable career. In 1981, Geo photo editor Alice Rose George commissioned Gruyaert to photograph Las Vegas. Rather than provide his take on the tired tropes of the Strip, Gruyaert ventured off the beaten path ton the Vegas where residents lived. The result was entirely too realistic; Vegas was not the place of fantasies and spectacle – it was a world where people eked out their existence on the margins.

A Fascinating Glimpse at Life in the Old City of Beijing

Demolition of Shanghai´s last old quarter, destroyed to make space for new high-rise buildings.

Mother and son at dinner in their little grocery.

A dream of one’s own home is all that is left.

Progress is an illusion of the most persistent kind. We would like to believe that moving forward is inherently “good,” even though evidence to the contrary frequently betrays this belief. Nevertheless, human nature is not inclined to simply allow things to be; it is compelled to transform the present into something new, something it envisions as an ideal “for the greater good.”

Progress is not inherently “bad,” either. It simply cuts both ways. For every loss, there is an equal and opposite gain—and vice versa. But rarely do we reflect on what is disappearing, until it is too late.

Ukrainian photographer Alina Fedorenko traveled to China in 2014, with a project in mind but as she wandered through the Old City of Beijing, she saw something remarkable that captured her imagination. The historic landscape was being razed and in its place came something extraordinary: skyscrapers that towered high above, effective erasing the community and the traditions of street life that flourished for centuries. 

Mesmerizing Gifs of Traditional Nigerian Women’s Hair Styles

In 2015, Francois Beaurain traveled to Lagos Photo, where he met Medina Dugger. Inspired by the work of late photographer J.D. Okhai Ojeikere and Nigerian hair color trends, they launched Chromatin, an on-going collaboration that transforms Dugger’s photographs of traditional Nigerian women’s hair styles into a series of mesmerizing gifs that are rooted in fractals, the very heart of African design and art.

Fractals are a curve or geometric figure where each part has the same statistical character as the whole, creating a never-ending pattern on an on-going feedback loop. While the West came to understand and name this phenomenon in 1975, fractals have been an integral part of African culture daring back to ancient Egyptian times, and can be seen in cultures in Sub-Saharan Africa writ large.

With the invasion of the continent by Euorpean imperialists for centuries, a great deal of the traditional cultures were destroyed and erased — with the exception of hair braiding. “African hair designs are among the last remaining remnants of an ancient African cultural pillar that has been almost completely annihilated by centuries of colonization and cultural domination,” Beaurain and Dugger note. 

Andres Serrano’s Unnerving Photography Series, ‘Torture’

“Fatima”, was Imprisoned and Tortured in Sudan, 2015. 60 x 50 inches.

Scold’s Bridle IV, Hever Castle, Kent, UK, 2015. 60 x 50 inches.

Last August, the unthinkable occurred. Just as the very first civil case involving CIA torture was about to go to trial, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced a settlement in the lawsuit against two psychologists, James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen, who designed and implemented the agency’s brutal program.

The ACLU brought the lawsuit on behalf of Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and the family of Gul Rahman, who froze to death in a secret CIA prison. The three men were tortured and experimented on using methods developed by Mitchell and Jessen. Although the full terms of the settlement agreement are confidential, the outcome shows that those who engage in torture on behalf of the United States government can and will be held responsible.

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. 

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