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Art Photo Collector

"My art is the way I perceive and define life. It is sacred work, since what I make are my prayers. These works are the measure of my character, the transfiguration of love and desire, and, finally, the quality of my soul." Joel-Peter Witkin

Joel-Peter Witkin’s work goes where others dare not tread. Brooklyn-born in 1939 and a devoted photographer all of his life, Witkin has carved out a career creating work that reveals his obsessions while tapping into the psyche and the deepest recesses of our subconscious. I have found myself attracted and repulsed, engaged and put off, and consistently in awe of an artist who can make me feel this way about Beauty and Art.

His latest show, "Love and Other Reasons to Love," is on view at the Andrew Smith Gallery in Santa Fe, NM. Last year’s documentary An Objective Eye is also online for viewing. Consider both of these an invitation to ponder Witkin’s legacy. No artist is as acutely aware of his own mortality (and the corresponding market value of his art) than Witkin. Spend some time with his work and decide for yourself the measure of his character, and the quality of his soul. —Lane Nevares 

"Being generous of spirit is a wonderful way to live."—Pete Seeger

Music, Photography and Film: the understated artist John Cohen's multi-faceted career has fused all three. Cohen, who has known and documented some of this country's seminal Americans, including Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac and many others, is represented by L. Parker Stephenson Photographs, who was kind enough recently to educate me on this man, of whom I knew little, behind many of these iconic images.

John Cohen, now in his eighties, has led a remarkable career as a filmmaker, photographer and noted musician/musicologist. Despite his association with many famous artists (and his folk band The New City Lost Ramblers) he is not widely recognized to a contemporary audience. I suspect, though, that for a man whose archive and legacy is now housed at The Library of Congress and whose work is in the permanent collections of many major museums, these accomplishments are far more satisfying than the ephemera of fame.

Cohen is still going. You can catch him performing this weekend at the Brooklyn Folk Festival, if you’re feeling generous of spirit and in need of some down home music and fun. —Lane Nevares

"Nobody knows what art is, and it can’t be taught. It’s the mind and the talent of the eye of the individual, who is operating the machine, that produces what comes out of it."—Walker Evans

Some people can paint, others can’t. Some folks can sing, I cannot. And some individuals take great photographs, while others can only aspire. The Rome-based photographer, Giovanni Cocco, was unknown to me until last week. I stumbled upon his work online and in a moment, knew, this is a photographer with talent. Later, upon reviewing his portfolio online, my notion was duly confirmed.

Cocco’s work is diverse and strong. A quick survey of his portfolio and you’ll see, there’s a passionate eye behind the lens. Whether in color or black & white, shooting commercial or his own personal projects, this Italian photographer knows exactly what he’s doing with his machine. This selection from his “Burladies" series is but one distinct example of what he can do. Younger and ambitious photographers, in particular, should take note. This is how good you need to be—and it can’t be taught. —Lane Nevares

"The exercise of democracy begins as exercise, as walking around, becoming familiar with the streets, comfortable with strangers, able to imagine your own body as powerful and expressive rather than a pawn."—Rebecca Solnit

The photographer Richard Renaldi isn’t afraid to talk to people. For nearly seven years he has been approaching strangers throughout the United States and asking them to pose, along with another complete stranger, for his large format 8 x 10 camera. This ongoing series, “Touching Strangers,” is now a new monograph from Aperture, with an exhibit opening tomorrow night. 

In these images, body language reveals everything. We look at these folks looking at us and understand that we’re all sharing a moment. Once the shutter’s released, the magic is frozen. Yes, we know it will never happen again, these individuals will probably never again meet each other, but what remains is the touch. And most importantly, the idea that we are, despite the negative aspects of our culture to dictate otherwise, humanly connected. —Lane Nevares

“Throughout her life, she behaved as if she had never heard anyone suggest that a woman couldn’t do entirely as she pleased.”—Francine Prose

Motherhood. The Israeli-born photographer Elinor Carucci is no stranger to laying it on the line. In her latest monograph,”Mother”, Carucci takes us on an open journey into being a Mom. As with her other projects, “Mother,” is an affecting chapter of self-revelation. The images will please and upset, but there’s no getting around a search for the truth. 

Parenting, for men and women alike, is a transformative experience. For a photographer like Carucci, balancing the worlds of teaching, shooting commercial work, and staying true to one’s artistic aspirations, motherhood became her muse and her connection to all other mothers. Moms and Dads who view her work will feel it most.

Elinor Carucci’s show opens tomorrow night at Edwynn Houk here in New York, and will be up until the 3rd of May. Carucci will be in attendance and signing books. Looks like it’ll be a “Mother” of a show. —Lane Nevares

"What’s left after what ‘one isn’t’ is taken away—is what one is.”—Diane Arbus

If the “selfie" reflects the current zeitgeist, then hard-working artists like Austrian photographer, Flora P., show us beyond its possibilities. A professional model and self-taught photographer, Flora P. has amassed a considerable body of self-portraiture work (and media attention) exploring her body’s relationship with light, nature, and her camera.

What impresses me about Flora P. is her commitment to doing the work. It takes energy and fearlessness to create, to expose oneself and to put your efforts/art/passion out for public consumption. Say what you will about the quality of her photography—and I think it’s fair to critique—but in the end, I always agree with the writer Brendan Behan: "Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it’s done, they’ve seen it done everyday, but they are unable to do it themselves."—Lane Nevares 

"Why is Form beautiful? Because, I think, it helps us confront our worst fear: the suspicion that life may be chaos and that therefore our suffering is without meaning."—Robert Adams

Robert Adams, who is widely recognized and who has published more than forty monographs, is one our great, American photographers. His vision of the American West has forever shaped how artists (and indeed many of us) look at these vast spaces. His contemplative, quiet images from the past fifty years have become a new Americana. We can keep returning to his work and still find ourselves asking questions and seeking answers. 

Currently on view in Paris at the historic, Jeu de Paume, Adams’ classic series, “The Place We Live”, will be exhibited until 18 May. (PBS has also released a new video interviewing Adams.) Seeing his handmade prints, with their gracious attention to light and form, is an opportunity not to be missed, and perhaps, a chance to come in from the chaos.—Lane Nevares

"I was stunned and amazed, my childhood memories, slowly swirled past like the wind through the trees…"—Chrissie Hynde

The photographer Todd Hido's latest show, ”Excerpts from Silver Meadows,” opens tomorrow at Bruce Silverstein Gallery. The show coincides with his latest monograph of the same name published by the estimable publisher, Nazraeli Press.

Todd Hido grew up in Kent, Ohio, and as a Midwesterner brings a particular sensibility to his interpretation of suburban American culture. Excerpts from Silver Meadows, named after his old neighborhood, is a collection of memories and loose narratives that let us glimpse into the artist’s own psyche. In this video, Hido tells the tale, especially why creating a book is important to his work, and why he believes, as Lewis Baltz once remarked, that Photography uniquely occupies a profound space between Literature and Film.

Hido shoots analogue. He adores light and embraces its possibilities to convey mood and emotion—though dark and uncomfortable they may be. While his portrait work is even more impactful than his landscapes, Hido’s work transcends the ordinary, because let’s face it: in our world of image saturation, how many artists make work that is instantly recognizable as their own?  Way to go, Ohio. —Lane Nevares

"Ultimately, photography is subversive not when it frightens, repels, or even stigmatizes, but when it is pensive, when it thinks.”—Roland Barthes

Great institutions, like New York’s Museum of Modern Art, have the resources and talent to offer meaningful contributions to our cultural conversation. The recently opened, A World of Its Own: Photographic Practices in the Studio, draws from the museum’s formidable archives, as well as new acquisitions, to ask us to consider photography’s history of experimentation and development within the confines of the studio.

With the “studio” as theme, there is elasticity to include a diverse and significant selection of artists who have helped us to muse on what photography is and what images can do. Persons interested in the academic/intellectual history of photography will find the show most compelling; those looking for entertainment will not. I suspect that for anyone who takes photography seriously, MoMA’s latest photographic exploration will leave you thinking. —Lane Nevares

"I am constantly amazed at man’s inhumanity to man."—Primo Levi

The events of the late 1970’s in Cambodia are but another heartbreaking chapter in our shared global history. Many of you born later may not remember or know anything about the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror then. Artists like Binh Danh, who has spent a great deal of timing considering this history, help us to remember because, out of respect for life, we should not forget. 

These portraits of portraits, printed on leaves using a special technique Danh invented, have deep psychological and aesthetic undercurrents. They are beautiful, poignant and dignified. The work is subtle, potent and tied to nature. The individuals looking at us—numbered, documented and long gone—attest to the ephemeral nature of life and the cruelty of injustice. As we know, subsequent events in Rwanda, Bosnia- Herzegovina as well as the current crisis in Congo keep us, regrettably, constantly amazed. —Lane Nevares 

"My goal is to make images that are familiar and dreamlike, evocative of an almost unreachable memory."—Vanessa Marsh 

In photography, as in all forms of art, one must travel their own path. Seeing the work of Vanessa Marsh for the first time, I immediately sensed that this young, Oakland-based artist was following a particular vision. It’s refreshing to see images that ask us to slow down, look and ponder what we see.

Her work, which combines a variety of techniques including drawing, sculpture and photography, is layered and resonant with the subconscious. These landscapes, with their familiar elements and generic titles, maintain a silhouette quality to them, asking us to project our own thoughts and experiences onto what we see, and in effect, transforming them into our stories. 

Marsh discusses her process in this interview, revealing how the series came about and the specific techniques used in creating it. While her work lacks the confrontation and psychological prowess of a Kara Walker, Marsh is, nevertheless, graciously inviting us to enter her world to dream the dream. —Lane Nevares 

"One tree, so many leaves, one tree…one people." —R. Dobru

If you know where Suriname is, then you might know something of its history and connections to both the Netherlands and the African continent. The noted fashion photographer, Viviane Sassen, who was born in Amsterdam, but at the age of two spent three indelible years as a child in Kenya, understands the Dutch relationship to this small, South American nation.

Pikin Slee is a large village on the Upper Suriname River. Sassen’s experience among its inhabitants, who have none of the modern world’s conveniences (running water, electricity, paved roads), deeply affected her. These photographs, lush with light and color, tell her story—one of a skilled photographer interpreting a different world.

Viviane Sassen is represented by the Stevenson Gallery in Capetown, South Africa where her latest exhibition, Pikin Slee, is on view. In April, Prestel will release an eponymous monograph. Bridging the worlds of fashion and fine art photography, Sassen makes crossing the bridge look easy. —Lane Nevares

"Once we realize that imperfect understanding is the human condition, there is no shame in being wrong, only in failing to correct our mistakes."—George Soros

Since 1998 the Open Society Foundations’ commitment to documentary photography and its role in revealing wider global issues has been made manifest through its Moving Walls exhibition. The 21st installment opened last week in New York, and will continue later this year on to Washington, DC and London.

The five photographers represented in Moving Walls 21—Shannon Jensen, Mark Leong, Nikos Pilos, João Pina, and Diana Markosian—are a diverse lot, but their work shares a commonality of compassion and concern for people and their plights. Whether it’s Sudanese refugees, Hong Kongers under Chinese rule, the legacy of Operation Condor, the collapse of Greek industry, or the lives of young women in Chechnya, the commitment to sharing these stories is impressive.

These images of shoes from Shannon Jensen’s series Long Walk, while ostensibly simple, tell a difficult story of survival, migration, and human resilience. In this case, the captioning and stories behind the shoes are as poignant as the images themselves. Jensen’s photographs, as well as the others featured in Moving Walls 21, remind us to never forget that our capacity for understanding, no matter how imperfect, should never prevent us from caring. —Lane Nevares

"Those were the reasons and that was New York, we were running for the money and the flesh…"—Leonard Cohen

The Hotel Chelsea has a storied history. It has witnessed the comings and the goings of generations of men and women who have believed in the independence of their minds and their abilities to create.

The artist, Linda Troeller, knows the Chelsea. For twenty years she’s documented and lived in its interiors. Her most recent book, “Hotel Chelsea Atmosphere: An Artist’s Memoir,” takes us into the history and the inhabitants of the famed hotel, where we get to meet the denizens and, revealingly, read their “Dear Chelsea Hotel” letters.

Troeller’s photographic work is varied and rich, often exploring intimate and difficult themes. She pays wonderful attention to light and color, while maintaining an understated sensitivity that infuses her images. She is, “exploring the fragility and elegance of sustaining atmosphere.” 

Photographs from this series will go on exhibit in Baden-Baden, Germany at the State Kuntshalle’s upcoming show Room Service. For those who can’t make it, it’s worth taking the time to explore Troeller’s work online and, given what is slated for the future of the property, to “remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel.” —Lane Nevares

"Obey the principles without being bound by them."—Bruce Lee 

I came across the work of Michael Mapes quite by accident via the BBC. Seeing it for the first time online, however, I was struck with intense curiosity. How were these portraits constructed, and how much work went into creating them? On the off-chance, I sent Michael an email. We later spoke on the phone and arranged to meet in person to chat and to view his work.

Referencing Dutch Master portraiture, Michael Mapes,”specimens” deconstruct and painstakingly re-construct how our eyes interpret. It takes a particular artistic vision to manifest work that takes you somewhere new. Vials of hair, resin, sequins, thread, photos, jewelry and more—all (at the end of a pin) go into making these “dimensional collages.” The result is a portraiture unlike anything I’ve seen before. 

For now, Michael Mapes may be relatively unknown, but if his work continues to follow, and not be bound by, the principles of good art—authenticity, resonance, and a yearning for beauty— his work will not remain so. This guy is onto something. —Lane Nevares 

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