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Art Photo Collector

"The question is not what you look at, but what you see."— Henry David Thoreau

When I was a kid, someone once told me that,”the difference between something and nothing is everything.” Of course, they were just teasing an eight-year old boy with a zen-like statement, but since then I’ve often considered the philosophical impact of that assertion. Somewhere between what we see and what we don’t see—lie the possibilities.

The Munich-based photographer, Robert Voit, series “New Trees” plays with these possibilities and asks us to consider what’s real, unreal, and an everyday part of our lives. Voit, who studied at the prestigious Arts Academy in Dusseldorf, Germany, knows all about the “Becher School” of photography. His photographs, however, play with typologies rather than being boxed-in as such. Voit is merely asking us to look closely, pay attention, and smile along the way. Our world has changed and these “new trees” reflect the landscape of our 21st Century planet.

Voit’s exhibition, “New Trees” and “The Alphabet of New Plants,” opens tomorrow at Clamp Art here in NYC. His monograph, “New Trees,” is now available from Steidl. I look forward to attending the show and seeing the possibilites.—Lane Nevares

"…once the needle goes in, it never comes out."—Larry Clark 

A lot has changed in American culture since the publication in 1971 of Larry Clark’s classic photobook, Tulsa. Today, these images, while still unsettling, have gone completely mainstream. In the world of 2014, one can see the entire series now on display, along with “Celebrating Smokey the Bear,” at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, VA. I’m sure Mr. Clark would be pleased.

For over 40 years Tulsa has been a touchstone for aspiring photographers and documentarians. It will stand the test of time because the depiction of the truth will always connect with each generation exploring photography and storytelling. Critical acclaim and analyses will come and go as fashions and ideas change, but Tulsa will continue to remind us that the human capacity for sharing self-destruction and excess never goes away. Each generation lives and learns its own lessons.—Lane Nevares

"Any photographer who says he’s not a voyeur is either stupid or a liar."—Helmut Newton

The artist Miroslav Tichý, who passed away in May 2011, was born in 1926 in what is now the Czech Republic. Although trained as a painter at The Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, Tichy’s life took an altogether different direction after the Communist takeover in 1948. Tichy had a problem with authority and rather than acquiesce to the new demands of the State, chose a marginal lifestyle in his hometown of Kyjov.

With handmade cameras fashioned from bits and pieces of old cardboard tubes, cigarette boxes, plexiglas and other ephemera, Tichy would wander around his hometown taking surreptitious photos of individuals, generally young women, at the local pool, markets, or walking around town. Most of his subjects weren’t (in many cases) aware that his cameras were actually real, choosing to believe instead that the unkempt eccentric standing in front of them was harmless. He allowed himself three rolls of film a day. These recorded images would then be brought to his home where he processed, developed and printed them for himself.

Through the strange alchemy of his vision and the eroticized intensity of his photographs, Tichy’s work garnered attention late in life. He was internationally “discovered” in 2004 during the Seville Biennial. Since then he has gone on to have solo shows at such premier venues as the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris and his first American show at the International Center of Photography. Today, his work is widely collected, exhibited and for sale by dealers like myself.

Although his photography and artistry break all the rules in terms of focusing, exposure, poor printing, and careless handling, none of this mattered to Tichy who once told an interviewer, “A mistake. That’s what makes the poetry.” —Lane Nevares

"When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw."—Madiba 
Happy 96th birthday Mr. Mandela. What an inspiration you continue to be.

"When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw."—Madiba 

Happy 96th birthday Mr. Mandela. What an inspiration you continue to be.

"What appears in the pictures was the subject’s decision, not mine. I took what they presented—delicate moments—unadorned and unglamorous, yet tender and exquisite. —Ray Metzker 

Belgium isn’t a land of sunshine and smiles, but there is a no-nonsense, hardworking attitude that I’ve always respected. It’s this commonsensical approach to life that I see in the work of Belgian photographer, Jacques Sonck, who is currently on exhibit at L. Parker Stephenson Photographs here in NYC. Sonck, who trained as a photographer, did the practical thing in life: he got a job shooting images at the Culture Department of the Province of Antwerp. For 35 years he photographed their exhibition catalogs and earned a living, while doing his own personal work on the side. 

Looking at his images, we can conjure the influences of Arbus and Penn, but Sonck’s images are not derivative. He is straightforward and unapologetic about what he’s doing. He’s a skilled photographer who has no personal interest, at all, in the lives of his sitters. Indeed, he often doesn’t even know their names. What he’s after is the transcendence found in any great portrait. That is, the notion that through the alchemy of photographer and subject, the photograph, itself, elevates their brief experience into something greater that we can engage and project ourselves onto. They are looking at us, we are looking at them, and we are all looking at each other. —Lane Nevares

"Who controls the media—the images—controls the culture."—Allen Ginsberg

The artist Tim Parchikov, whose work is currently on exhibit in Cologne, Germany at the Priska Pasquer Gallery, has a quality to his images that is hard to define, yet easy to sense. Based in Paris and Moscow, Parchikov is part of a younger generation of Russian artists whose broader outlook reflects new approaches to political and cultural questions.

While he’s particularly attentive to beautiful light and composition, there’s a wry attitude behind his work. It speaks of someone who isn’t afraid to question, someone who understands that political and cultural meanings are up for grabs. Parchikov’s video work is similarly charged. In an age where the public is fighting for net neutrality, we should all question who controls the flow. --Lane Nevares

"If I have anything to say, it may be found in my images." —Josef Koudelka

This weekend the Art Institute of Chicago opens a significant exhibition, Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful. The Czech-born, French nationalized photographer isn’t the settling down type. Since vacating his country in 1970 for greater political freedom in England, where he joined the photo agency Magnum, Koudelka has led a life, at the age of 76, of wander and wonder.

This new show will exhibit the complete surviving 22 photographs of the début presentation of his famed 1967 Gypsies, along with original photobooks and ephemera. While the exhibition, sadly, will not be coming to NYC, it later travels to the J. Paul Getty Museum (LA) and the Fundación MAPFRE (ES). 

What makes Koudelka’s work exceptional? It’s his intangible ability to suffuse images with the poignancy of loss, emptiness, and a feeling that above it all, life is a fascinating mystery in all its pathos and beauty. I often find myself coming back to his work again and again. It’s poetry for the eyes.—Lane Nevares

“Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”—Franz Kafka

Mark Cohen, born in 1943, is a native of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. To a 21st Century audience, he’s perhaps not as well known, but for over 40 years he’s been documenting his local community and building a foundation from which many photographers (consciously or not) have tread upon. As early as 1973, John Szarkowski recognized his talent and showed his work for the first time at MoMA. Now, in 2014, the Danziger Gallery in New York is representing his work and giving him a new solo show that opened last week.

Cohen’s flair for using strong off-camera flash, a wide angle lens, and avoiding the viewfinder (while shooting with the camera away from his body) bring an immediacy to his images. Like Bruce Gilden, who’s no stranger to the close, flash-in-your-face approach, Cohen’s surrealistic style is reflective of his personality. This video shows him in action, moving, shooting, talking and constantly on alert for the next frame.

Now in his 70’s, Mark Cohen has kept his ability to see beauty and to remain young. Any photographer who creates work this good (not to mention his superb color work), merits all the attention he receives. The show is up until June 20th and a must-see. Never grow old. —Lane Nevares

"The walls are the publishers of the poor."—Eduardo Galeano

You may not know the names Leticia and Stanislas Poniatowski, but these collectors own the most important private collection of Latin American Photography in the world. Major works from their collection will be part of the ICP’s new exhibition, Urbes Mutantes (Mutant Cities), opening on Saturday here in New York.

This show, featuring over 200 images, draws from photographers across the continent, exploring the city as nexus between society’s cultural and political forces. Curator Alexis Fabry writes, "As the 20th century progressed, amidst struggles for social justice and in defense of democracy and freedom, the city became a setting for uprisings and revolutions. Images became as important as the stories covering the events that shaped these Latin American nations.” 

My ignorance of Latin American photography makes me keen to discover more about this significant photographic history. We often read or hear about the events, but we don’t always get the chance to appreciate the artists behind these struggles, to learn who they are and what their contributions mean. Too often it is through the prism of American image makers that we see the world. “Urbes Mutantes” is of the people and for the people, and like a city, may change how we see ourselves. —Lane Nevares 

"Fall in love. Every day. With everything. With life. If you can fall in love, you can be a photographer. I think that is absolutely essential."—Ruth Bernhard 

The Parisienne photographer, Lara Kiosses's, series Romantic Collection isn’t breaking any new ground, or charting any new territory. Using multiple exposures is nothing new, and using female models and flowers has a long, established history. Nevertheless, the results Kiosses achieves using these common elements are impressive. The richness and the romance shine through. The images are exactly what they’re supposed to be: beautiful, meditative, and romantic.

Kiosses, like many working photographers, has a diverse portfolio. She’s talented, and I can sense through her work, passionate about what she does. Her work reminds me how many wonderful photographers—many of whom I’ll never discover—are out there falling in love.—Lane Nevares

"A lot of the time you keep looking for beauty, but it’s already there. And if you look with a little bit more intention, you see it." Vik Muniz 

San Francisco-based artist Caren Alpert cares about the food we eat. A commercial food photographer by trade, Alpert’s series “terra cibus” aspires to "transform our food obsession into a newfound closeness with what nourishes us." Using a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), Alpert is able to take incredibly sharp and detailed images of common food items revealing colors and details that express the wonder of nature.

The idea is simple and the execution is exquisite. I find these super-duper-macro images not only captivate, but they transform banal subjects into something quite extraordinary. The colors, textures, and form remind us that beauty, not always obvious, is already there.—Lane Nevares 

"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

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