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Art Photo Collector

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"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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 

"Being a father is by far the hardest thing I ever did. I used to think it was hard being an artist. Forget it. It’s duck soup." —Danny Lyon 

If you live in the NYC area and want to meet one of the greats in American photography, Danny Lyon will be on hand at Edwynn Houk gallery this Saturday the 11th for a reception with the artist honoring his latest show: Murals and Montages.

The exhibition opens earlier on the 9th and will feature for the first time thirteen large-scale, 30 x 40 inch gelatin silver prints produced from the original negatives and in conjunction with his master printer and fellow teacher, Chuck Kelton. The photographs will span Lyon’s 50+ year career and be an opportunity for collectors to purchase iconic images in a new size and edition.

My admiration for Danny Lyon’s work is infused with his mission for social justice and equity in society. His writings and personal history reveal this passion clearly. The man behind the viewfinder is more than just a bad-ass photographer, he’s “reaching out to others in the darkness.” —Lane Nevares 

"It only takes a second for an impression to become a vision."—Bill Viola

Like you, I am fascinated by artists who help us see things differently. Beautiful, engaging work is always easy on the eyes, but sometimes a bit of guile and deception can take you somewhere new. 

Danish artist, Asger Carlsen’s, manipulated images contort and distort bodies, while Roger Ballen’s drawings and cut-outs touch the psyche in a disarmingly simple and unsettling way. Last July, as part of their annual photography issue, Vice magazine commissioned these artists. The result, Place of the Inside Out, is a potent collaboration—albeit separated by continents—of one artist riffing on the work of another. This video tells the tale. For my part, I like not knowing if I like it. —Lane Nevares

"There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the infinite passion of life." —Federico Fellini 

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of being introduced to Marjorie Salvaterra and her work at the wonderful Palm Springs Photo Festival. There is an exuberance and fearlessness in her images that I find appealing. Ms. Salvaterra isn’t afraid to take chances. In her series, “Her”, she turns the mirror on herself and her own tangled feelings of what it means, in a universal sense, to be a woman and a mother.

Using the absurd and the surreal as her muses, she stages photographs that poke at us, prodding us to project our own emotions and interpretations onto what is happening. Salvaterra styles the models, directs the scenes, and takes us into this personal world. She’s in control of the images, but lets us interpret what it all means. This openness and uncertainty, I embrace. —Lane Nevares

"Everything shifts as you move, and different things come into focus at different points of your life, and you try to articulate that."—Chris Steele-Perkins 

Few photographers understand their compatriots as well as British photographer, Chris Steele-Perkins. Born in Burma in 1947 to an English father and Burmese mother, two years later he moved with his family to England where he would grow up and later embark upon a career as a photojournalist. In 1979, at the age of 32, he joined Magnum Photos and his first book, The Teds, was published.

Teddy Boy culture developed in the London of the 1950’s. This new alchemy of teen culture fused Edwardian fashion, rock ‘n’ roll, drinking, dancing and, at times, collective violence into an original youth subculture. And like everything in Britain, social stratification and class played their customary roles. The Teds, for their part, were decidedly working class.

While Chris Steele-Perkins has enjoyed a long, storied career as a social documentary photographer covering a wide variety of issues, “The Teds” is something special. I pulled the book off my shelf yesterday, and as I smiled poring over the stories and images, I was reminded again why, thirty-four years later, “The Teds” remains a classic. —Lane Nevares

“The nature of creation is that you have to go inside and dig out. The very nature of creation is not a performing glory on the outside, it’s a painful, difficult search within.” —Louise Nevelson

There is power in abstraction. The latest exhibit, Remnants, at the Bruce Silverstein Gallery in New York combines the considerable talents of Louise Nevelson and Aaron Siskind into a show that is both contemplative and refreshing. These two major 20th Century artists, while contemporaries, have never been shown together. Yet, we see clearly in “Remnants,” that these two artists spoke a common visual language borne out of Modernism, Abstract Expressionism and the tumultuous events of their time.

Primarily using found objects and paying keen attention to form in space, Nevelson’s sculptures and Siskind’s photographs create an atmosphere that is ripe with metaphor and aesthetically potent. This unique pairing of sculpture and photography works beautifully to take us somewhere deeper and new. This feeling is, perhaps, what truly remains.—Lane Nevares

To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live or are latent in all things.”—Ansel Adams

The photogravure process, when done well, can yield magnificent results. The photographer Fritz Liedtke’s series and book “Astra Velum” (Veil of Stars) embraces this vintage technique. These penetrating portraits of freckled and scarred faces are wonderful to behold online, however, to actually hold them, is to truly appreciate the craftsmanship, the tonalities, and the tactile luxury of the Japanese paper.

Liedtke’s work is currently on view in Miami as part of the group show, “Historical Process/Contemporary Vision,” at the Dina Mitrani Gallery. While his explorations of skin and freckled faces represent a straightforward portraiture, these portraits also offer emotional resonance and beauty. If the eyes are our “windows to the soul,” then these images ask us to look inside beyond the “veil of stars.” —Lane Nevares

"The desire to discover, the desire to move, to capture the flavor—three concepts that describe the art of photography."—Helmut Newton

Helmut Newton’s work is familiar to us because he’s had such an indelible impact on photography. His images have stretched our cultural psyche to accept, even embrace, the possibilities for fashion photography and portraiture. He has influenced many photographers and has shaped our ideas of how far an artist can push the boundaries and still get paid.

Paying tribute to his legacy, The Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles is now exhibiting, until early September, work from Newton’s first three books: White Women, Sleepless Nights and Big Nudes. It is not often we get to see Newton’s work on such a grand scale. With over 125 prints (some as large as 6 feet) on display, it is a perfect opportunity to discover for yourself why Newton still matters. —Lane Nevares

"Photography is one of the channels through which the present penetrates into the future, just as the art of the past got inside us. For me photography is a means to express systems of opinions and values, the author’s ideology."—Nikolay Bakharev 

The Siberian-born photographer, Nikolay Bakharev, isn’t particularly well-known in the States, but the Julie Saul Gallery and Dashwood Books in New York want to change that. Reared in an orphanage and largely self-taught, Bakharev began taking photographs in the early 1970’s and through the final days of the former Soviet Union. At at time when the State controlled everything, it was actually illegal to photograph the nude, much less engage in private commercial enterprise creating and selling one’s photographs. These photographs, therefore, were never meant for public consumption. They were intimate (even illicit) private photographic sessions between sitter and artist.

Bakharev’s single-minded approach to his work differed greatly from his clients’ expectations of their portrait session. While the sitters hoped for photographs that made them look beautiful or special, Bakharev states, "From my point of view, I expose the nature which people do not want to admit to, if it does not fit their notions of themselves." This tension between Bakharev and his clients is what makes these images simmer.

Dashwood Books has recently published a soft cover monograph of his work, Amateurs & Lovers, (here’s a video preview), and on the 10th, the Julie Saul Gallery will open Bakharev’s first US solo show also titled, “Amateurs & Lovers.” It will be interesting to see how an American 21st Century audience, with disparate recollections of the Soviet Union and its legacy, responds to this work—Lane Nevares

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