Less Américains by Mishka Henner

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 Americains from Mishka Henner on Vimeo.

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.

Worth a look: Roger Ballen’s video for Die Antwoord

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]

Book Club: Jim White’s Tiny Desk Concert

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?