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Art Photo Collector

Posts tagged portraits:

"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

"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

"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 

"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 

"I dream of an Africa which is in peace with itself."—Madiba

Jackie Nickerson’s solo exhibition, Terrain, opens tomorrow at the Jack Shainman Gallery here in NYC and will run until the 15th of February. Nickerson is a skilled commercial photographer who, in 1996, accepted an invitation to visit Zimbabwe. Like many others, she was captivated; three weeks turned into four years and a life-long connection with the country and the continent.

I am new to Nickerson’s photographs, but immediately sense the integrity, and the yearning for beauty. These portraits, which like any good work, are collaborative and emotive, have a soft-spoken and quiet richness that reveals itself subtly. For anyone who has had the good fortune to travel in southern Africa, Nickerson’s lovely attention to the land and the light will make you smile. Her subjects are everyday people, and so are we. —Lane Nevares

"For however dutifully we record what we see around us, the common denominator of all we see is always, transparently, shamelessly, the implacable ‘I’."—Joan Didion

I have recently discovered the work of Finnish portrait photographer, Perttu Saksa. It’s not often that I come across work that, aside from being beautifully executed, scares and disturbs me. Saksa’s series, “A Kind of You,” gives us arresting portraits of monkeys, trained as street performers in Indonesia, that reveal the dark side of animal exploitation.

These manacled macaque monkeys, trained by “monkey masters” and used for roles in “street theater,” are rented out to beggars collecting money from performances. Behind the child-like masks, these animals are suffering. This practice has now been banned, but these images are a vivid reminder that despite an attempt to entertain us, we should never ignore the anguish among us. —Lane Nevares

“I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.” —Rumi

The Tehran-based photographer, Newsha Tavakolian’s, conceptual series “Listen” and “The Day I Became a Woman” are now on exhibit at LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This series focuses on Iranian professional female singers who have been unable to perform solo or to produce their own music since the revolution in 1979. Tavakolian brought these singers to a private studio, and filmed/photographed them performing in front of a chintzy ‘70’s-era backdrop to an imaginary audience. The power of the series lies in the absence, the silence of their passionate performances. In “The Day I Became a Woman,” Tavakolian explores the rite of passage for young muslim girls, who at age 9, transition into women in the faith.

In addition to the portraits of singers, Tavakolian also created these fictional CD covers (which metaphorically remain empty) that portray her own interpretation of Iranian society. Tavakolian writes, “For me a woman’s voice represents a power that if you silence it, imbalances society and makes everything deformed. The project ‘Listen’ echoes the voice of these silenced women. I let Iranian women singers perform through my camera while the world has never heard them.” For anyone interested in hearing more from Tavakolian, here is a brief video interview.

Like Shadi Ghadirian and other contemporaries, female Iranian photographers prove that despite the odds, contradictions, constraints, and milieu in which they work, there is always hope for art. Sometimes what is not said is the most important thing to hear. —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

“I think of my work as documentations of transformation and performance. While gender is undoubtedly always a question in my work, I don’t see it as a boundary.” --Martín Gutierrez

As we know, things aren’t always what they seem. The artist, Martín Gutierrez, explores this ambiguity and the Real Doll phenomenon by casting himself into domestic scenes that float somewhere between suburban bliss and the Stepford Wives.

I am always inspired by artists who challenge convention, and in the case of Gutierrez, completely own their work. While these images may, on first glance, appear superficial and banal, there is far more going on. Gutierrez is responsible for everything in his images/videos: producing, directing, writing, casting, posing, styling, original music, and shooting the scenes. For this series, he casts himself as a “Real Doll”, and in doing so, creates a world that both disturbs and allures.

His first solo show, Martin(e), opens on the 11th at Ryan Lee Gallery in Chelsea. I am curious to see whether these small 8 x 12 inch images command attention, or whether they beg for a large-scale experience. —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

“Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life.” Oscar Wilde

I suppose that an exhibit of contemporary nude photography curated by an artist well known for her work with the nude, can’t really go wrong. Tomorrow, the Flowers Gallery here in New York will open a show curated by the Brazilian-born photographer Mona Kuhn. The list of artists selected by Kuhn is an eclectic gathering of some major players along with some up-and-comings on the contemporary scene.

The show is an exploration, based on Kuhn’s own scholarly research and photographic ambitions, of our relationship to the canon of the nude in fine art. With our 21st Century attention spans and an unending stream of imagery put before us, I think the conversation is worth having. As we adapt, so do our ideas.

“Under my Skin: Nudes in Contemporary Photography” will be on exhibit at the Flowers Gallery until August 24th. —Lane Nevares

“There is nothing nobler or more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.”—Homer

Like others before and those to follow, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein would only become well known posthumously. Acknowledged primarily for eroticized and surrealistic photographs of his beloved wife and muse, Marie, he also painted, sculpted, collected plants and fancied himself to be an architect and philosopher too.

Although ambition fueled Von Bruenchenhein’s artistic drive, alas, during his lifetime, he never made it as an artist. His work never found an audience, he was never featured in a gallery, and he never sold a piece. He worked in a bakery, retired early because of health problems, and scraped by on Social Security at $220 a month. And yet, he never stopped creating.

I urge you to explore the work and life of Eugene Von Bruenchenhein. There will always be hipsters, poseurs, and wannabes seeking attention for their art, but it is those who dig deep and fearlessly whose work will eventually find its way.—Lane Nevares

"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."—Edgar Degas

The exhibit, About Face, opened last May at Pier 24 Photography in San Francisco. The sheer breadth of the show, focusing on portraiture and featuring more than one-thousand photographs from the Pilara Foundation and other collections, is astonishing.  And, after eleven and half months on display, will sadly end next week.

For anyone in the Bay area or passing through, mark your calendars and treat yourselves to an exceptional experience before it ends. Pier 24 Photography is a place to view and think about photography. Unlike other venues, one must first schedule a free appointment online. This controls the volume of visitors and allows everyone to have the time and space to quietly contemplate the work on view. There are no labels on the walls and the lighting is perfect. Every consideration is made to present the work at its best.

"About Face" broadly embraces the history and possibilities of portrait photography in its myriad forms. From the mid-nineteenth century to today, this wide-ranging, extensive and important collection offers a superlative opportunity to see master works, contemporary marvels and everything in between in one of photography’s finest institutions. Remarkable. —Lane Nevares

"A portrait! What could be more simple and more complex, more obvious and more profound." —Charles Baudelaire 

The 33rd edition of the New York AIPAD Photography Show kicks off on April 4th. For collectors and enthusiasts, this is a superlative opportunity to see the finest work going on in photography. More than 80 galleries and dealers worldwide are represented, including Brooklyn-based gallery, Klompching, who will be exhibiting for the first time. Their current show “Conflict and Costume,” by photographer Jim Naughten, features striking portraits of members from the Herero tribe of Namibia. Against the backdrop of the southwestern African landscape, we see Herero history carefully revealed through a conflation of fashion. Naughten’s use of strong flash lighting under a bright sun gives the portraits an added boost—colors burst and skin shines. 

The AIPAD show, events and talks continue through April 7th. Mark your calendars and treat yourself to one of the best chances of the year to see (and buy) an impressive array of work from all over the world, from historical to contemporary and everything in between. See you there. Lane Nevares 

"Beauty is a term that is always in development, it’s not a fixed thing and is very much subjective, so to me, it’s a perception." Erwin Olaf   

"It all begins with a dream," Erwin Olaf told a group of us last Saturday. His latest show, Berlin, currently on view in NYC at Hasted Kraeutler and in London at Hamiltons Gallery is true to form for Olaf: sumptuous images layered with narrative, rich with details, and perfectly executed.

Using his dreams as surrealistic launching points, Olaf described his process of finding themes, unifying them, and working with his design team to bring them to fruition. This latest series, Berlin, took him outside of his Amsterdam studio and into a city steeped in history, where he could shoot his tableaux inside noted buildings, some of which have notorious histories. (Indeed, the stairs Olaf climbs in his self-portrait are the same that Hitler mounted into the Olympic Stadium.) These particular interiors, and the tales they contain, become part of the new story. Olaf’s Berlin series takes us into an enigmatic world where no one is telling us what to believe, but rather engaging us to conjure these stories ourselves. —Lane Nevares 

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