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Discussions Concerning Contemporary Photographic Art

Posts from — April 2010

2010 – 2011 Selections!

SRO is pleased to announce our selections for the 2010 – 2011 academic year.  We received over 130 submissions and this was a difficult task.  While we did have to pass over many outstanding works, we are excited about the eight artists we will be working with:

Natalie Cheung (Falls Church, VA)
Tony Chirinos (Miami, FL)
Neal Cox (Nacogdoches, TX)
Meggan Gould (Brunswick, ME)
Lori Hepner (Pittsburgh, PA)
Bill McCullough (Austin, TX)
Travis Shaffer (Nicholasville, KY)
Terri Warpinski (Eugene, OR)

Join us in welcoming them!

April 30, 2010   2 Comments

Thank you!

Thank you to all of you that entered our annual call for entries.  We are currently busy sorting through the over 130 entries we received… and hope to announce our selections in the next few weeks.  It will be a difficult decision for our committee, as we have never before received so many high quality entries.

Stay tuned…

April 16, 2010   No Comments

Interview with Elisabeth Tonnard

The Man of the Crowd, detail

Elizabeth Tonnard is a Dutch artist working both in the Netherlands and the US. Her exhibition of her unbound book, The Man of the Crowd, is currently showing in the SRO Photo Gallery until April 17, 2010. We are delighted to be showing this work and recently asked Elisabeth a few questions:

“The Man of the Crowd” is an unbound book displayed on hand-made paper shelves. How do you choose what book form to use for each project and what does choosing to work with the book offer you that other forms of production do not? And beyond that, how do you choose between making a more conventionally bound book and unbound one, such as the one we have on display?

What attracts me visually is not so much the unique, but repetitions with small variations. The physical form of the book is itself set up as a repetitious event, with its pages similar but different. The great thing about it is that you can move the pages and experience the variations within the repetition. Chris Burnett, who has written about several of my works, has recently called my books “bioscopic”. Flipping through the pages you get a sense of a twitching or stuttering of variations that have a similarity but are different. In my codex books I also use the spread as a combination of one (the one spread) and two (the two pages). For instance, Contemplation uses found portraits of one and the same man that are folded in such a way that he is looking at himself (from one page to the next in the spread) throughout the book. In this way the still of the portraits is set into motion by the structure of the book. In Two of Us the text of a Baudelaire poem is broken apart into separate words, set, and rotated progressively at an angle on each page. Flipping the pages causes the words to pirouette as the poem reads sequentially from front-to-back on the recto and, on the verso, from back-to-front. This whole procedure also causes accidental word combinations to appear on the level of the spread. So the conventionally bound book is a fantastic mechanism for both sequential movement and juxtaposition.

The Man of the Crowd was made to be exhibited on shelves, so that the sense of a horizontal street could be evoked (images of a street play a big role in the project). The viewer walks past the work, which makes sense because it is all about flânerie and the act of looking in the streets. I also love to use the natural white of the page in books. I’ve created several books based on a whiteout procedure, in which the white of the page becomes part of the image. In The Man of the Crowd there is a text section too in which Edgar Allen Poe’s story is processed so that his 100 most frequently used words are written in white while the rest of the text is still legible – this evokes the image of a crowded street but also the sense of things that are left unknown, invisible to the eye.

The Man of the Crowd, displayed unbound book pages

“The Man of the Crowd” is based upon a short story by Edgar Allen Poe. How do you choose texts by others to work with, and how important are such materials to your work?

When I see something I will often see it in the light of a literary event. What happened in the case of this specific project was that I was in Paris and sitting at a sidewalk café when I saw this very old man pass me by. He was in between alone and not alone; in between real and unreal. He was wearing the oddest jacket in the oddest shade of blue. He had something ghostlike about him and I was reminded of Poe’s The Man of the Crowd, in which the observer is also sitting in a bar when he sees an old man with a remarkable appearance pass by. I felt the only difference was that Poe’s observer was in London and I was in Paris. It was the same man of the crowd, come back to the streets of the 21st century. Anyways I immediately started photographing the man and the street, till the old man had passed out of sight. So I can’t really say I “chose” a text; it just materialized in front of me.

Another example maybe. When I was looking through a huge archive of street vendor photography I noticed that in a section of photos taken at night, there was a larger percentage of people walking alone in the streets than in the daytime sections. These people also had a certain look on their faces as if their eyes were seeing something else than their actual surroundings. This alienation made me think of them as souls lost in the dark woods of the city, all speaking the words of Dante’s first lines in the Inferno. So I made In this Dark Wood, pairing images of people walking alone in nighttime city streets with 90 different English translations I collected of the first lines of Dante’sInferno. The layout of the book stresses repetition and interchangeability. The images are re-expressions of each other, and so are the texts.

Found texts are important overall in my work, because I often try to make something new from what is already there. The same goes for found images that I recontextualize. I should probably add here that I’m also a poet, and studied literature. The texts I use are often quite banal too, like texts from newspapers, dictionaries, emails and ads. My next book will be a dialogue created from found “conversational phrases”, and with the Belgian publisher Johan Velter. I’m also working on a book of autosummaries of literary works.

Who are some of the artists you consider influential for your work?

My influences are mostly literary. In the case of The Man of the Crowd I see some influence for instance from Beckett, especially his Film, but also from literary theories about intertextuality. When it comes to other artists, I’ve learned a lot from Dutch conceptual artist and philosopher Willem Buijs (†2007) who was my uncle and introduced me to many works in literature and art and in general to looking at the world in a philosophical way. (I recently saw there is a youtube video showing some of his work). A few years ago I was lucky enough to meet Chris Burnett who is a wonderful artist, person, and educator. He was at that time director of Visual Studies Workshop, and both his own work and his courses on topics such as photography as writing were very important in the development of my work. We’ve been collaborating on several projects, for instance co-editing Image Process Literature, a book that will showcase new directions in visual literature, with some thirty artists and writers participating.

Many thanks to Elisabeth for taking the time to answer our questions. Be sure to stop by the SRO Photo Gallery before April 17, 2010 to see the show.

April 5, 2010   No Comments

SPE Call for Proposals

The Society for Photographic Education National Conference: Science, Poetry, and the Photographic Image will be taking place in Atlanta, Georgia – March 10-13, 2011.  I’ve written previously about my experiences with SPE and cannot stress enough how useful the attendance of the Regional and National Conferences has been to my development as a photographer and educator.

Submissions of proposals for the National Conference in Atlanta are due June 1, 2010, for these presentation formats: Lecture, Imagemaker, Panel, Demonstration, Graduate Student, and Academic Practicum Workshop. More details may be found here.

Please look over the Call for Proposals and consider the ways in which you would be able to add to this rich experience (and pass it on to others).  I hope to see you in Atlanta.

April 1, 2010   No Comments