Tag Archive: eugene richards
The more you said, in some ways, the more you took away” -Eugene Richards on the lack of text in The Blue Room
Foto8 has just published a short slideshow and accompanying artist’s lecture featuring Eugene Richards‘ latest book, “The Blue Room” (previously). This is the largest selection from the book that I’ve seen online. There’s sparse information about the talk on the Foto8 website, but I think it’s likely a recording from this event.
update: Here’s foto8′s official page for the slideshow.
WTJ pointed me toward the beautiful and moving site Days With My Father produced by Phillip Toledano. He documented, with touching pictures and words, the last years of his father’s life. This past week his father Edward passed away at the age of 99.
A lot of people have documented their families, even in end times, and I think it is hard to get that balance of producing something that matters to the family and photographer as well as has worth to the outside world. Some photographers that come to mind are Eugene Richards, who photographed his parents (included in the book The Fat Baby) and his first wife’s passing (in Exploding into Life), Sally Mann on another plane, and Larry Towell’s book The World from My Front Porch documenting his family’s life on their farm in Canada.
These are just projects that have stuck in my mind, I know I’ve seen many others. Some of which are great, others that should just be kept in family photo albums. The ones I linked to are beautiful and important in their own right, but Toledano’s work has jumped out on a different level for me. What about for you all? Are there other projects you have seen, in this vein, that have affected you?
It is comforting to hear that the Toledanos reached this end on their terms: “I feel lucky to have had these last three years. To have left nothing unsaid.” That’s tremendous. I lost my father at the age of 10 to cancer, and we did have a time to say goodbye. I wish we could have known enough about that moment to say more, to know more, about what he meant to me and how he would influence my life. Not being able to share that, and not being able to capture those feelings in pictures – one of my most important ways of understanding the world – is a regret that I can do nothing about. It wasn’t time yet. I don’t think I even took a picture of my dad. Maybe that is why this project hits me so hard; it is a project I wish I could have done in a very real way. So thank you to Phillip for taking these pictures, recording these words and then sharing it so eloquently on this website. It means a lot.
I’ve had a quiet week here in Belgrade waiting for housing and jobs to come through, will actually hear about both on Tuesday. So I’ve had the chance to spend some quality time looking at imagery on the interweb (as you saw in my last post about Oculi), here is some of what I’ve been looking at.
Firstly, as I discovered while entering my own work, there is a trove of wonderful, unusual and otherwise unknown-to-me projects available on the Oskar Barnack Award website from Leica. Beyond 20 some years of winning projects, they are posting all of the entries from this year in their entirety. Direct links here: Oskar Barnack Award Entries 2009 and the brand new Newcomers Award 2009, which I entered (lookie). You can even search by country or by name. I’m sure to be spending many hours in the coming days combing through .. I’ve already found some great projects from people (and places!) I’ve never heard of. Unfortunately my connection and/or the site is really slow so I can’t easily pull up many examples for you. Just go digging, you’ll enjoy yourself.
Amy Stein’s blog brought the work of Jen Davis to my attention. Really interesting stuff. Outside my normal purview, but I love it. Really good personal photography, and pretty different than I have seen before.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Jason Eskenazi’s Wonderland is an incredible, moving book. And he is a great guy too (helped so much with editing my portfolio six weeks ago). So many congratulations to him for winning POYi’s Best Photography Book award last week. Unfortunately, there still isn’t an ideal place to look at the pictures. Oddly, the best may be this page at NPR which has a terrific little segment from Eskenazi and Gene Richards talking about the project.
And also from POYi, I see that Eugene Richards won special recognition for his project and book A Procession of Them. It is a touching, utterly humanistic body of work about mental illness and its (lack of humane) treatment around the world. A similar project, which I also admire from the depths of my soul, by Kevin German has been updated with a third installment. As I’ve told him before, this is special work. And beyond his contributions with pictures, German recently solicited donations from his blog readers to help support the people at the institution he was photographing. Incredible, hat’s off to you sir.
I don’t know how new this is or how I came across it in the first place, but the indomitable Chien-Chi Chang has a new project with National Geographic about North Korean refugees. Oddly from Chien-Chi, I’m not loving the pictures on a visual level, but the story (and story telling) is great and important.
Lastly, PDN has just announced the honorees of their special PDN 30 under 30 issue for 2009. I haven’t had a chance to look through yet, but there usually is some good stuff in there. I’ve known Dominic Nahr’s work for awhile, so congrats to him (and the others who I’m not familiar with .. this ‘win’ surely will bring some eyes, including mine).
One of my major weaknesses is photography books, to the point where my mother won’t let me store any more at her house. Mostly they’re not rare, and plenty were off bargain racks from used stores. Sometimes I seek them out, more on this in a second, other times I just stumble upon gems. My first real photography book was Black Star: Sixty Years of Photojournalism… and it eventually led to an internship at the agency Black Star.
So it was with conflicting emotion earlier this week when I was at the half-price book store in Seattle, thumbing through the mix-and-match photo section, when I came across a little christmas miracle. Certainly, its rare to find photojournalism books on shelves like these, much less really good ones. Of course.. if a books is really good or rare it surely isn’t going to be on a marked-down shelf. But here was a less-than-pristine copy of a book I hadn’t ever seen in person, and I had to have it. Jean Gaumy’s masterpiece Men at Sea was $8.
Especially since I’m about to leave Seattle for an extended time, indefinitely really, it really makes no sense for me to buy any more big books for myself. I still haven’t figured out how to bring my library with me, or if that is even a smart idea. So I was wandering the store trying to figure out an excuse to take the book home. Then it hit me: I should give the book to my brother, a young fisherman, for Christmas.
Both he, and a dear family friend who has worked on boats his entire life, adore the book. Beyond terrific pictures the story, the design, the accompanying documents and illustrations create an amazing piece. The friend, Bob, was especially impressed with the photographer’s understanding of life on the boats. A good compliment.
It has got me (and Scott, when we discussed this) about the ‘cross-over’ quality of certain photographers and projects .. that get non-photographers and photography fans excited. Maybe this is an exaggeration, but it seems that most of the photography that is popular with a wider public is incredibly cliche, cutesy or photoshopped. It makes me so happy to see something like this work making people excited.
As Scott told me: ‘I was just going to mention that Heidi’s cousin (not a photographer) has that book. I don’t often see really good photo books in non-photographers’ collections, but I’ve seen that one in a few places.’
And it has me obsessed anew with Gaumy, especially with this work. Incredible dedication and vision. And what a visual signature.
Oh, how about some of those books that I haven’t found yet. These would be in the category of searching out in every store I go to (looking for that deal) or on site like bookfinder.com. Beaufort West by Mikhael Subotzky, Belgrade Belongs To Me by Boogie, Off Broadway soon to be released by some Magnum fellows, No Man’s Land by Larry Towell, Americans We by Eugene Richards (oh this is a dream) and of course some Telex Iran and Farewell to Bosnia by Gilles Peress. Someday. (I swear I enjoy books from photographers outside of Magnum! these are just the dream ones off the top of my head..). The holy grail though might be Insomnia from Antoine D’Agata.
If you’re into books too, there are a couple of great places to read reviews and see what’s coming out … firstly 5b4 and then Buffet by Andrew Phelps (who himself is a photographer, I’ve got to look more at his work). And don’t forget Dashwood Books in New York. Mecca. When I finally self publish I See A Darkness, I’m headed there first.
Have you found any good photo books for gifts? Or any suggestions on things I should be lusting over?
I strongly believe that one is not ‘better’ than the other. They are different. And I think most photographers should use both, and it should depend on what kind of project they are working on and what they are trying to say. I switch between the two all of the time .. my Kosovo work is shot digitally and my long-running projects on Homelessness and New York City are shot on good old Tri-X film, all in 35mm format.
So, the question is, Which am I going to use for this project?
As I mentioned in this interview with Rachel Hulin for Nerve.com, I try hard to think about which medium I want to work in when starting a new project. To quote from the interview,
“When I shoot black and white things are dark and gritty, very much intentionally, and they compliment and draw things out of the subject matter. As I move forward I am approaching new stories that don’t have this feel to begin with, and it wouldn’t be natural to cloud it under an arbitrary choice of color vs. black and white. I want everything to compliment each other – tones, composition, and everything else. For me, longer and slower stories are ripe for the way I work with film but the faster pieces almost demand we shoot digital. And, for me, digital means color these days, as I’m still trying to get something that looks ‘right’ for me in grayscale (back to that feel that compliments), something that matches or surpasses what I get shooting black and white.”
I was referring there more to the choice between color and black and white, but this more or less amounts to the choice between film and digital for me. I think I’ll always have the mantra hammered into me as an intern at Black Star back in 2005… to paraphrase, ‘If you want it black and white, shoot it black and white!’. Meaning, of course, shooting it ‘right’ the first time, on black and white film. This applies to so much in photography (I also was smacked then in to learning to not crop pictures .. get it right when you click the shutter .. and this has stuck with me remarkably well except for extremely rare circumstances when I break from my rule .. like below on this post!): get it right the first time and don’t rely and get dependent on photoshop ‘fixes’.
As I mentioned rather furtively earlier on DVA, I’m starting work on a new project called ‘Graceland’, about America today and the stories we’re missing or ignoring due to the election cycle and wars. My original thought was that this project had to be shot on film, in color, and in a new format for me, 6×7.
A lot of things went in to this decision … I wanted something that looked new, and stood out from, the work I have done before. I’ve been shooting the color digital (Kosovo) and gritty black and white film (Homeless, I See A Darkness) for awhile, and wanted something that stood out from that work both in ‘feel’ and ‘impact’. I felt a larger negative, in a new perspective and format, would accomplish that. I also was interested in exploring how medium format (which I haven’t shot since ’05) would change my approach to photographing, and how that would impact how the pictures looked, and were interpreted. I’ve been looking a lot at art-editorial shooters lately (hard to define or give examples off.. think Ziyah Gafic, Mikhael Subotzky, Simon Norfolk, Alec Soth and Alessandra Sanguinetti, amongst so many more) and I wanted to explore. So, I started shooting test rolls on a rented Mamiya 7 and eventually took one to my first real shoots of the project, the Boeing Strike and Lt. Madrazo’s funeral.
Partly as a backup, partly for ‘deadline’ sake (I was thinking of immediate turnaround for news publications), I also shot digital at these events, and it has turned out to be a lucky blessing. After getting my 220 film back and spending time and money getting it scanned, I was rather underwhelmed. Maybe I wasn’t giving it enough time to push myself with a new piece of equipment requiring a different method, but my first few rolls did not have that feel that I was looking for.. that new thing that would really distinguish this project from my other work. There wasn’t hardly anything different between the film and digital except for the format (35mm vs. 6×7). The color, perspective, depth and much more importantly how I was working with the scene were not changed from everything I had done before. Why is that? I can’t really say.
There is more backstory to getting this Graceland project, which I hope to get to at some point, but suffice now to say that it has been a struggle to find funding and outlet for the work. To date, wholly unsuccessful. So when it came time last week to get ready for a shoot in Eastern Washington at an apple orchard I had to decide whether or not it was worth it to continue shooting film (at $35/day rental for the camera, $10/roll (20 pictures) for film plus $11 per roll developing, and 15min per frame to scan) on an unfunded project. Given my apprehension about whether or not this new format was impacting the final product, it was a clearer decision to go strictly with digital. In many ways, I felt I had to: the investment, in time and money, in shooting film was not paying off. An experiment that failed my assumptions, but I must still go forward, as I believe in the story (as M. Scott said after reading a draft of this, he thinks of these debates are concerning ‘packaging, rather than substance’. of course, but the packaging must be considered and utilized to its fullest extent. I quote, paraphrasing again, Paolo at the Oslo Magnum workshop, “We’re photographers. Aesthetics are all we have got”, meaning, I think, that we’re working in visual medium and have to grab our audience in the most efficient and important ways, and that will be done visually)
So, I might have to toss, or crop (something I do only as a final, regrettable resort), some of the medium format frames to fit in to the new edit, but I’ll be able to work more cheaply and certainly quicker. I wish I could have pushed the 6×7 further, and I hope to try it (or square! can’t wait to work with it again) again soon.. probably when I get some funding behind me.
So when I headed out last week to photograph the apple farm and its migrant workers, I only had my digital camera with me, shooting in my ‘normal’ way. “Graceland” will now be some extension of the method of my Kosovo work, for better or worse. We’ll have to wait for a while longer to see how it all looks together. For another post is that crazy process of conception to individual days and shoots to the final production of a story. I’m always amazed at how it works out.
(maybe you could guess, this last picture is a loving nod to my favorite Eugene Richards book, “Americans We”. The best link is to go to his webpage, go to ‘Books’ and click to see the spreads. I hope I can one day accomplish something as important as this book, in the same way that Richards dedicates his book to Robert Frank)
I first met Eric Kayne here in Seattle in the summer of 2007 while was interning at the Seattle Times, and we’ve been staying in touch ever since. He’s currently a contract photographer in Houston, Texas at the Chronicle. As most know, there was a big storm – Hurricane Ike – that rolled through and devastated parts of Houston a few weeks ago. I was keeping in contact, as best I could, with Eric in the run up and aftermath of the storm and I thought he would be a terrific person to bring on for a DVA interview, to tell you a little bit about his amazing story and his work as a newspaper photographer in Texas. He has had a very different path through photography than either of us here at DVA and probably more winding than most of our readers. Without adieu..
(This is a long one, but Eric has a lot of wonderful history and stories to tell, so I’ve left it as-is. be sure to continue after the jump!)
Tell me about your life as a photographer. Where did you start, how did you get to where you are now?
It wasn’t a straight line from there to here. I started making pictures when I was 13. It was a combination of experiences. I took a black-and-white photography class in sixth grade and loved it. I also wanted to have an excuse to hang out with my older brother and all his skater friends. Photography from then on was an on-again, off-again experience. I actually got kicked out of a photo class in high school because I couldn’t stop making jokes. Later, the teacher entered one of my photos in a contest without asking me and it won. Go figure.
I got back into it after high school. I was living in San Francisco and was having a chat with an uncle. Not having much direction in my life at that time, he asked me to make a list of the things I was interested in. The only two things to make the list were playing drums and photography. I enrolled at the Academy of Art College (I think its called something else now).
The level of work and the seriousness of the students was something new for this provincial Texas boy and really opened my eyes. I was exposed to Winogrand, Weston, Friedlander, and many others through the curriculum. I had no idea one could do such things with a photograph. I lasted a semester until the money ran out and I had to go back to Texas.
I jumped around through two different state universities, one art school and two community colleges before transferring to the University of Texas at Austin. The plan was to get a degree in something practical like computer science so I could graduate and pay my own way through art school. Long story short, I’m the world’s worst computer programmer and I ended up earning a BA in studio art.
I had no plans after school. I moved to New York City without a clue. When I got to my new home at a fourth-floor walk-up in Spanish Harlem, situated right next to a burned-out building, I knew if I didn’t find something I could only do in New York, I would last two weeks, tops. I literally opened the phone book to “photo agencies” and saw the word “Magnum.” They happened to be interviewing for interns and I made the cut somehow. A couple of memories: Bruce Gilden coming in and always having little packages of M&M’s to hand out to everyone, especially the interns, and James Nachtwey walking in with a copy of Inferno hot off the presses. Myself, a couple of editors and his assistant at the time and now amazing photojournalist Samantha Appleton watched as he turned each page. I was stunned by the images. James talked about how pleased he was with the printing.
After that, I spent the summer of 2000 at the Maine Photographic Workshops working as the “E-6 Process Manager.” Quite a fancy title, but mostly I spent my time dropping in on all the photo classes. Pretty sweet summer. By that time, however, I had started to notice the deficiencies in my education. I knew how to print and tone an image in a darkroom, but I knew nothing about Photoshop.
I moved back to my hometown, got a jobby-job at a photo lab and started asking around at San Antonio College, the local community college, about Photoshop classes. The photo advisor, Tricia Buchhorn, said she’d teach me Photoshop if I would work at the school’s newspaper, The Ranger. Long story short, I loved it.
I pretty much haven’t looked back since. I parlayed a year and a half at the The Ranger into a part-time staff job at the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung, situated just outside San Antonio. Its a small 6,000 circulation paper that actually used to publish in German up until the 1950′s. A few months into it, we had national news when persistent rains topped the spillway at a local dam. Major flooding ensued. I remember traipsing through mud up to my knees, looking across the street and seeing AP photographer Eric Gay. I felt like I was in my element.
That job turned into a full-time staff job at a sister paper 50 miles south of Houston in Clute, Texas at The Facts. After ten months there, the siren’s song from California called me back. I lived on a beach at the mouth of Tomales Bay for two years in a village called Dillon Beach. I freelanced intermittently for the Marin Independent Journal, but my main source of income was from delivering milk for an organic creamery. I stayed involved with the local photography community there, which is very strong. I began to realize major deficiencies in my work, especially after a life-changing meeting with Jim Merithew, who was a picture editor at the San Francisco Chronicle (I think he’s a picture editor at Wired magazine now.) I had no visual voice and my work looked like every other guy or gal’s on the wire. Most important, I had no stories. I had the standard news, features, etc., but unlike what I had learned at the community college where I cut my teeth, the basics won’t cut it anymore if I wanted to work at the places where my ambition was pointing me.
I decided to go to grad school to help fill in the gaps. I chose the School of Visual Communication at Ohio University for a number of reasons, but most of all, it was the work that students in that program had created while there, and the success that followed once they left school.
It must have worked since two years later, I have three internships under my belt (San Antonio Express-News, The Seattle Times and The Dallas Morning News) and am employed as a contract staff photographer at the Houston Chronicle.
How is life as a newspaper photojournalist. What is great, what would you prefer was different?
You know, its really hard to complain when I make pictures for a living. Everyday I get to go out and practice my craft and put a window on the community I live in. Houston is such an interesting, diverse and lively city, I love the people and all the different communities I get to explore. That and the fact that Houston is such a newsy town. At the time I asked him, our director of photography, Steve Gonzales, who used to be the director of photography in Kansas City, said he would have been lucky to have just one of the five or six stories we’ve had in the last month and a half in a six month period in Kansas City.
If there was something I preferred was different, I would have to say long-term documentary story-telling. I’ve only been there since February, but it seems that it’s not something that’s part of the culture at the Houston Chronicle. I’m not saying it can’t be in the future, but photographs happen on their own time. There’s just so much news here, though, and I guess that trumps all other matters. Nonetheless, I’m just as happy shooting dailies as I am long-term stories. However, there are stories that aren’t being told because of this.
Why are you a photographer?
Because retail sucks. That’s both a joke and the truth. I’ve had just about every jobby-job you can think of, and I have to say nothing brings me satisfaction like making a picture that tells a story, is well-seen and is printed in the paper the next day. It never gets old.
(More Pictures and words after the jump)
Read on »
An appreciation of Eugene Richards‘ work is tautological. It’s like saying “I like the Beatles.” In the foreword to the Richards’ Phaidon 55 book (beautiful series, by the way, sort of a Norton Anthology of World Literature for photography), the author talks about how every photographer has their “Eugene Richards” picture; he’s been incredibly influential and his work will no doubt stand in history as some of the greatest documentary photography produced.
That’s why I got excited when I noticed on Rachel Hulin’s blog that Richards has a new book, The Blue Room, coming out soon. It’s in color, and it might seem like a departure from his usual gritty, intimate, intensely personal photography. And while the people may be gone from a lot of the pictures, and color’s been introduced, it’s just part of the same story (oooh…used copy for $20) he’s been photographing his entire career from Dorchester Days and the Arkansas work to the recent essays on American soldiers for the Nation (which just started up again in June and September).
Some of the pictures which I imagine are part of the project have been published by National Geographic and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Richards is no stranger to controversy, and even these pictures of abandoned buildings and the communities that once supported them have drawn the ire of at least some neighbors in North Dakota, including the state’s governor. “The guy`s got to be an idiot,” said a former mayor of Mott, ND, to a local news outlet. At least that means people are paying attention to the photos. I can’t wait to see the book.