Category Archive: Music
Mishka Henner, a photographer we’ve written about before on dvafoto, has a new project out called Less Américains. It is a photo book of digitally manipulated Robert Frank photographs from the iconic The Americans, printed in an edition almost identical to the original book.
Less Américains is a remake of Robert Frank’s classic photobook, The Americans. Eighty-three new images have been created by digitally erasing most of the visual content from Frank’s photographs, leaving only solitary details from the originals. The sequencing remains faithful to Frank’s 2008 Steidl edition of the book whilst the design of the covers and title pages are influenced by the first Delpire edition printed in France in 1958.
I’m skeptical about this project, at least from seeing the book preview video, perhaps it is different to behold physically, maybe right next to the original. Many re-appropriation works (or musical remixes, which seem relevant) are interesting to me and build on the original or explore new territory; this at first glance just leaves me puzzled. But still it is a somewhat bold proposition: remixing one of the most iconic documentary photo books of all time and to print it as a companion volume. Further, even Robert Frank seems somewhat ambivalent about The Americans now and what the project “means” or “says” fifty years later. Much of Frank’s later work is some sort of deconstruction or re-layering of photographs or video. At least compared to the iconic “straight” documentary nature of the original Americans.
It might even be a trend in photography now (Brauer pointed out this print by Joe Webb as another example) of cutting solid shapes out of photographs while creating new works of art. I’m sure you can show us more examples, good and bad, of this sort of collage.
Henner and Liz Lock together are represented by Panos Pictures, and their work is solidly within the documentary tradition. Henner however has many recent projects that involve reinterpreting or appropriating existing photographs. In fact, the timing of this new work is interesting, as I’ve already been thinking about Henner this week. An interview I’m preparing touches on one of Henner’s projects from 2011, No Man’s Land, which is built on Google Street View images of presumed prostitution. More on that soon. You can purchase the book Less Américains from Henner directly at this link for £80 + shipping. I can’t wait to read a proper art critic’s take on this project, and what it might mean to abstract this type or era of photography with modern methods. I’ll admit, the more I think or look at this project the more interested I become.
“We had really clear concepts of what we wanted to do in our heads. We started with my photographs for ideas and then mimicked them in the sets. Most of the sets started with almost like a ‘Roger Ballen still life’ and then we might have added in a mouth or foot or hand and then we went into them cinematically.” -Roger Ballen, speaking with Phaidon about collaborating with Die Antwoord
Longtime dvafoto favorite Roger Ballen (previously, previouslier) has collaborated with Die Antwoord again for their video “I Fink You Freeky.” It’s not the first video of theirs to feature Ballen-like imagery; their earlier “Wat Pomp” video looks straight out of Ballen’s universe, though with less polish than “I Fink You Freeky.” I still don’t know what to make of the music, but I am disappointed that their show in Boston this weekend was sold out last week when I tried to buy tickets. Maybe you can catch them soon as they tour through the US and Australia in February and March.
Make sure to read this short interview at Phaidon with Ballen about the collaboration with the band. He says they’re working on another video for Die Antwoord’s next release. I can’t wait to see more….
And if you’re curious to see another music-inspired nightmare, Aphex Twin’s Come to Daddy is an excellent example from the golden age of music videos.
[ed: from Matt: you should also check out this article from The New York Times Magazine from January, which features a Ballen photograph and a story about the band on New Year's Eve: The Brilliant Weirdness of Die Antwoord: Johannesburg’s Most Wanted. I assume the photographer in the story is Ballen himself]
This is essentially a cross-post from my tumblr Only Unity, a side project where I play with b-side images from my Serbia project and muse about the music I’m often listening to.
A couple of months ago my friend Michael Bowring showed me the documentary film Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus, where I was introduced to the wonderful musician Jim White. I’ve grown mildly obsessed with the film and the music it includes, and I’m sure to discuss it in-depth with an upcoming Dvafoto Book Club discussion that I’m working on with past contributor John Malsbary. For a taste, here is one of my favorite clips and favorite songs from the documentary where White introduces us to a small town in the American South and plays his song “Alabama Chrome”.
I want to treat you all to this tremendous twenty minute performance by Jim White on NPR Music’s series of “Tiny Desk Concerts”. It offers a beautiful introduction to White’s personality and his music, and he has a lot to say for life and creativity. NPR’s Bob Boilen introduces White with the note that he is truly a storyteller at heart. Maybe this is why I appreciate him so much. Here and in “Wrong-Eyed Jesus”, he sweeps me away and gives me chills with both his music and allegorical stories.
Jim White is a storyteller first and a musician second. It’s a kind of storytelling rooted in his own unusual history: He grew up in Florida in a deeply Pentecostal community and fell in love with the white gospel music he heard. But from there, White took a surprising path to becoming a full-time musician. He was a professional surfer, a boxer, a fashion model in Milan and a cab driver in New York City. White’s travels recently took him to Washington, D.C., where he stopped by the offices of NPR Music for this live performance. - NPR’s introduction to the performance
And if you want more, you really need to listen to this live performance and interview Jim White did at Seattle’s great independent radio station KEXP in 2005. He plays some amazing music and tells stories from the production of “Wrong-Eyed Jesus”. There are also free songs of White’s to download from the always-worthwhile Daytrotter Sessions website. I’m also happy to report that White just funded his latest album “Where It Hits You” via a Kickstarter campaign, which had I known about I would have contributed to (especially with the terrific rewards). Watch his presentation, it is the best kickstarter I’ve seen yet.
Also, I’m entirely aware that the ”Book Club’ has become more of a culture-media club, but I don’t care, I like the name. And I want this to feel a bit like a friendly discussion at the table over a bottle of rakija. So what do you think of Jim White, had you heard of him before? And have you seen the film?
Just came across a new song that for obvious reasons I thought to post here (as part of our intermittent Book Club). The video features a cool vintage camera with fancy flash and cool vintage dancing people. Can’t really say what the song has to do with a ‘photojournalist’ because I can’t understand most of the lyrics. But really, it is kind of nice.
See the Pitchfork Review of Small Black’s new LP “New Chain” if you’re curious. It comes recommended by none other than KEXP’s head DJ John Richards, aka John in the Morning, who is one of my personal music gods.
(via KEXP’s Blog and their Song of the Day Podcast)
Auto-Tune the News #3 has just been released. While it’s not as good as #1 or #2 (above), it’s still worth a laugh. Best if you have an understanding, if not an appreciation, of the tropes of both contemporary pop music (especially Kanye West) and American television news and politics.
(I originally intended a mention of this to be part of a piece stewing on Creative Commons. “Auto-Tune the News” is the sort of creative reinterpretation that makes me understand and support the philosophy behind the Creative Commons movement. However, I don’t think CC will ever work for photography. It’s hard to imagine what a remixed photograph looks like…. That’ll have to wait a bit.)
I’m sure many people are already aware of the Very Short List website / service, though I was only introduced last week by a friend. (About VSL). There have been a couple of cool things that have come across but today there were two links that seemed worthy of seconding here.
Back when he was a crusading attorney general, Eliot Spitzer won a settlement against record companies and radio stations involved in pay-for-play arrangements. Fittingly enough, that money was used to set up the Free Music Archive.
Best is that all the files are licensed under Creative Commons which seems to me like it would be ripe for use in photo slideshows/podcasts/etc. So this seems like it will be a good resource for those of you doing this kind of work. Best, though, is that it is curated by the likes of Seattle’s legendary public radio station KEXP.
Two and a half years ago, three Burmese journalists risked their lives to document the massive demonstrations breaking out against military misrule in their country. Anders Østergaard’s new documentary, Burma VJ (in limited release May 20), uses the raw video they shot to maximum effect.
The subject line of that email was “Meet the world’s bravest journalists”, and I don’t think it is a stretch to say this. I’ll be very interested in seeing the completed film. Amongst much powerful and eye opening video, there is even a segment of the shooting death of Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai which I hadn’t seen previously. Judging from the trailer*, this will be a very powerful film that respectfully and appropriately approaches the troublesome divide of ‘a story about journalists’ versus the story the journalists are trying (very hard) to disseminate.
*I reserve the right to change this opinion with the full film, of course. This trailer though stands in contrast to a couple of other trailers I’ve seen recently from relatively similar documentaries that, as I’ll mention again in an upcoming post, do not always follow this respectful tone toward the people in “the story” (that is, not the journalists but their ‘subjects’).
Print media may be dying a slow death, but I’ve never known a time when magazines and newspapers ran huge edits of photography across multiple pages. Sure I’ve seen the odd spread or two, but those are outliers. My exposure to photography outside of the internet has generally been limited to edits of less than 5 images.
It’s hard to realize, but I think we’re in the middle of a golden age for visual culture. Never has more photography, of such high quality (and, of course, such low quality) been so readily available, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Newspapers and magazines are putting huge–often too huge–edits online, every photographer dead or alive has a portfolio website, blogs like this one or Conscientious or countless others sift through the cruft, and then there are the online magazines.
Visura does a lot right: pictures are big, but not too big; edits are long, but tight; diverse range of photographers and photography; great design (though flash and a page layout too wide for my screen are significant drawbacks). There seem to be a million of these online photography magazines popping up, and just as many have gone dormant over the past few years; hard to know which will survive, but it’s great to see a forest starting with so many saplings.
And speaking of the photographers above, be sure to check out “The True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adams’ Appalachia”, a documentary exploring the controversy over the photographer’s pictures, Amy Stein’s fantastic series “Domesticated”, now a book, which in my mind is what the world looks like just before the birth of the world described in the Talking Heads’ “(Nothing but) Flowers” (lyrics):
Click on the picture and see the other five pictures. While I think they’re all pretty damn swell at everything the do, at least they’re human enough to be plagued by fingerprints on negatives too … see the last picture. You should really subscribe to their rss feed … in addition to news and music recommendations (fascinating to see what these guys listen to .. look for the ‘office charts’) every so often they post pictures and they’re almost universally interesting .. both as pictures and a glimpse into their lives and vision. Such as this one from last October in Japan…
I’ve previously written about their pictures and blog here but it bears repeating. Go see the photo behind that link too..
S novom godom, dorogie druzia….
I was feeling in the mood for some holiday music and found some of my favorite Russian songs on youtube. They’re from the Soviet-era farce “Ironiya Sudby, ili S Legkim Parom” (literally, “The Irony of Fate, or Here’s to Your Easy Steam” but maybe better as “The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath”). The movie’s as ubiquitous and beloved in Russia as “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (Youtube 1, 2, 3) is in the US, though the movie focuses on the New Year holiday rather than Christmas.
The songs and movie are funny, poignant, whimsical, and just a bit subversive. The captions in the video are okay, but not great. Here’s a better translation of the first song, “Esli u vas netu teti,” which starts out “If you have no home/It won’t be set on fire.”
The main plot, an irreverent love story, is made possible only because Soviet development is so undramatic and ordinary as to render St. Petersburg and Moscow identical and interchangeable. A Muscovite man stumbles home drunk, not realizing he’d traveled from Moscow to St. Petersburg. He walks down what he thinks is his street, enters “his” apartment building, uses his key to open “his” apartment which has only slightly different layout furnishings, and is awoken from his stupor when the apartment’s female owner comes out to investigate the noise. Romantic comedy ensues. Here’s a small New York Times review and the IMDB entry. Watch out for the 2007 remake/sequel of the movie; I haven’t seen it but have heard it’s not very good. There’s a reason the original is played and replayed each year…