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A place to remember and to share articles, videos, and information about art and culture. My primary audience is students of the arts, with the purpose of expanding the discussion and encouraging research.

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Entries in Photography (33)


Angora Bunny Pics

I'm not sure what is more surreal, Andres Serrano making photographs of Angora bunnies or the photographs he made. About the shoot Serrano said, "The rabbits were good subjects....They didn't move much. They're professionals."  The photos are beautiful.

NYTIMES - with bonus slide show


Movie Night

Another cold and snowy night has me home-bound, so it is offically movie night at la casa. If you want to join me, here is a list of 40 Movies about Photography, with a comment section that rattles off a bunch more. Enjoy.


Fibonacci Spiral in Action

This image went viral a couple of days ago, and is a excellent example of how to utilize the Fibonacci Spiral in a composition. (Also referred to as the Golden Ratio). The Guardian referred to it as the "Accidental Renaissance," and the article does a great job of explaining this compositional device.



When I lived in the metroplex my students used to break into the Baker Hotel all the time, it was like a rite of passage. This story is about getting busted. I love this line.

“It’s like a play-by-play brought to you by the suspect via Twitter,” Sullivan said.

Some of the pictures are really beautiful... why do artists love the beauty of destruction?

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2014/04/28/5774134/photographer-busted-in-the-baker.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy



Juxtaposition of Bees

Recently, I led a conversation on contemporary photography at the Amarillo Museum of Art, I divided the talk into trends and then juxtaposed two images for each topic. This post is about one of the pairings, and I am adding a music video that takes a similar device and turns it in a new direction.

The image above is by Richard Avedon from his series In the American West. This was a documentary project funded by the Amon Carter Museum. It was juxtaposed with the image below by Maggie Taylor, entitled, "Girl in a Bee Dress." The purpose of this juxtaposition was to talk about real/surreal, documentary/digital, and the age old notion of photographic truth. I like the added bonus that both images relied on bees as a visual element.

As I mentioned before the Avedon image is from a documentary project, and so there is an embedded veracity. The image by Taylor is clearly constructed, painterly, and a beautiful fantasy. Yet, it still holds some semblance of truth because the main image is a photograph.

However, the Avedon image is as constructed as Taylor's digital composite.

The subject of the Avedon photograph, Ron Fischer of rural Orion, Illinois, got the gig by responding to an ad in a beekeeper magazine looking for a person willing to be photographed with bees by a world-famous photographer. Since the project was a series of portraits from the western United States, the team decided to fly Mr. Fischer out to California for the shoot. This was supposed to make the image more truthful. Here is how they created the photograph.

To get the bees to land on Fischer, a university entomologist he was acquainted with patted queen bee pheromone (an attractant for other bees) onto several spots on Fischer’s head and chest.

Then, about 200 feet away, packages of bees were opened on the ground. The bees detected the pheromone and began to move.

Fischer still remembers watching the swarm of bees heading his way.

“They started forming a cloud over my head,” he says.

He wasn’t exactly scared, but he wasn’t sure what to expect, either, because he’d “never done anything like this before.

 “Then they started landing on my head and chest. What was really something is that each bee has six legs. If you multiply that by thousands of bees, it sort of tickles over your bare skin.”

He was stung twice, but to no ill effect. Fischer posed for an hour-and-a-half the first day and a half-hour a second day.

When Avedon was finished, Fischer gently brushed off the bees, put on a shirt and got into a car.

The description of creating this photograph makes clear it is entirely a fictional construct, and yet it resides, and is one of the most iconic images, in this documentary project.

Maggie Taylor does not ask her viewers to believe the images are real; she creates fantasies, places for the imagination to play. She could create these images without any photographs, but all of her composites contain at least one photograph of a person. For me, this heightens the imaginary space; the photograph adds a veracity that lingers in the images. The photograph makes the viewer want to believe.

By the time Avedon makes his photograph, the battle over whether photography is objective or subjective is dead. Throughout the project he relies on the repetition of the white backdrop, diffused light and large format camera, to lull the viewer into believing all of the photos in the project are equally honest. Digital technology has renewed the debate on photographic truth; because it is so easy to manipulate photographs, we must view them with a skeptic's eye. In reality, photographers have always known how to bend the truth to serve their purpose.

During the conversation at the museum, a surprising aspect of this pair of images was that some people did not think Maggie Taylor should even be included because "she is not a photographer." It is true, she does not use a camera, and instead uses a flatbed scanner to create her composites. Still she uses the language of photography to make images, so while she may not be a photographer, she is at least a photographic artist. The practice of using photographs dates back to at least Dada and photomontage, which tracks to the proliferation of images in magazine due to the invention of halftone printing. Once the photograph ceases to be a precious object, artists start using it as a found object in their work.

Now add this video by Blind Melon featuring another bee girl. Here the bee suit is used as a metaphor for the awkwardness of adolescence, staying true to the muse, and searching for acceptance. It seems like a fun place to end.

Photo Credits:

Top Image - Richard Avedon, "Ronald Fischer, Beekeeper" 1981

Second Image - Maggie Taylor, "Girl in a Bee Dress" 2004


Vanishing Bodies 

For a while now, I have been interested in things that go viral and how they relate to the history of art and/or photography. So this is my first post on the subject.

Russian photographer Alexander Khokhlov has showed up on several social network aggregation services for his collaboration with makeup artist Valeriya Kutsan. They are painting faces into optical illusions, famous paintings, and other pop culture references. The above image is a favorite, and to anyone knowledgeable in art history, it is immediately recognizable as a homage to Roy Lichtenstein's work.

Khokhlov & Kutsan's photographs are all quite remarkable and it is fun to try to connect each one to the source of inspiration. But for me, when I look at this work, there is another collaboration project that immediately comes to mind.

In the 1960's, Veruschka, was one of the highest paid fashion models in the industry. She was on the cover of Vogue 13 times, and photographed by the likes of Avedon and Irving Penn. Her first body painting may have been in 1963, when she posed as a living sculpture for Salvador Dali and he covered her body with shaving cream.

After leaving the fashion industry in the early '70's, she teamed up with Holger Trulzsch a prominent painter and photographer and they began to work on a collaboration called "Transfigurations." At first, they were painting her naked body, as if it were clothed, in campy ways to look like gangsters and Hollywood starlets. But as the project evolves, they begin to paint her body blending into with the walls of decaying factories, or rocks in a field.

Susan Sontag said this about the project:

The desire to be stripped down, to be naked, to be concealed, to disappear, to be only ones skin, to mortify the skin, to petrify the body, to become fixed, to become dematerialized, a ghost, to become matter only, inorganic matter, to stop, to die.

Verushka, perhaps the most photographed girl in the world at that time, takes control of the photograph, she is naked and vulnerable, and she makes herself disappear - a ghost. This has always seemed such a perfect resolution to her career. To be seen, and then no longer seen.

When "Transfigurations" was published Frieze magazine said the images were an “exploration of visibility and disappearance, a near-perfect but uncomfortable analogy for [her] own life.”

Juxtapose the image above from "Transfigurations," with this You Tube clip of her legendary 5 minutes in the 1966 cult film Blow Up by Michelangelo Antonioni.

On being a model, Verushka said, “Fashion isn’t about being beautiful. It’s about never being forgotten once a photographer has seen you." Her uncanny knowledge of her own physical power in front of the lens results in truly unforgettable images.

I have no idea whether Alexander Khokhlov and Valeriya Kutsan even know about the collaboration between Veruschka and Holger Trulzsch, my purpose in this post is simply to further the discussion about this type of art for people "liking" these images.

Photo Credits:
Top Image - Alexander Khokhlov and Valeriya Kutsan
Second Image - Horst P. Horst, Salvador Dali and Veruschka, 1966
Third Image - Veruschka and Holger Trulzsch, from the series Transfigurations


Faculty Excellence Award Winners Announced

I just figured out why this is floating around Facebook this morning. In August, I recieved a Faculty Excellence Award for Community and Workforce Innovation. This was for a variety of different projects, all of which required lots of help from photography students, other faculty, and the Student Government Association at Amarillo College. From the article on the AC Website:

Excellence in Community and Workforce Innovation—René West, assistant professor of photography

For her community outreach projects with the Worldwide Pinhole Day, Meyerowitz Exhibition, and Photo Club work with San Jacinto Elementary School.

René West, co-sponsor or AC’s Photo Club, oversees a bi-weekly community outreach project for fourth- and fifth-graders at San Jacinto through which club members encourage and teach photography. She also spearheads Worldwide Pinhole Day, an annual community photography workshop at which a diverse group of attendees receives instruction in this eclectic way of making images, while her students learn how to conduct a public event. West not only served last year on the Dust Bowl Committee, she gave multiple lectures focused on photographs of the Dust Bowl. Additionally, she served in 2011 as liaison between AC’s Student Government and the Museum of Art to help bring documentary photographer Joel Meyerowitz and his Aftermath: Images from Ground Zero to AC.

For their role in the Meyerowitz exhibition, the Student Government Association, won the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce's prestigious Golden Nail Award for making the greatest contribution to fine arts in the Amarillo area in 2011.

That same year, the Photo Club (ACPC) received the Student Government Association's Award for Best Student Organization.

Of the six awards in faculty excellence, the Art Dept. received two of them. I am proud to share this honor with my colleague, Stephanie Jung. Please read about her accomplishments, and the other Faculty Excellence winners, they are all so inspiring. Go Team ;-)



Student photos

A few years ago, I created a photojournalism assignment in my fundamentals class. Basically the students shoot 4 different categories, and feed photos to the student run newspaper use online and print. I just stumbled onto this article, and all the images were shot by my first semester students. Feeling proud.

Photo Credit: AC Student, Darla Fish


Documentary Films about Photography

I just wanted to add this link to the blog for posterity.


No Princesses

I get kind of frustrated sometimes with how little progress the women's movement has made. I know, I know, we've come a long ways, but sometimes it seems that for every step forward, there are two steps back. For example all the Disney movies about princesses, and the fact that most little girls that I know, when asked, say they want to be a princess when they grow up. i.e. they want a rich man, born of royality, to take care of them. This happened once in the last century - Grace Kelly. Talk about a long shot.

So I love this project by Austin photographer, Jaime Moore. Instead of the standard Princess in a Box party, for Emma's 5th birthday, Ms. Moore chose to dress up her daughter as influential women from history. This is such a fantastic idea, and has the added bonus of built-in dreams that are attainable. Love it.

This image is an anomaly in the set (since there has yet to be a female president), the other images are mimicking actual photos. Go check out the rest of them - they are really wonderful.

And two other articles of interest on the topic of modern feminists.  

Feminism has Come a Long Way - or Has It, by Ruth Rosen (an overview of the last 40+ years of the Women's Movement).

And this amazing rant: Why Society Still Needs Feminism, by Caitlin O’Donnell, that opens with - Because to men, a key is a device to open something. For women, it’s a weapon we hold between our fingers when we’re walking alone at night.

There is still much work to do, and yet most women nowadays do not identify themselves as feminist and actually act like it is a bad word. Of course, they all want equal pay for equal work... like it will magically happen some day. In 1970, a woman earned on average 59% of a man's wage for the same job. Today we are at 77%, with that kind of progress we should reach parity in 100 or so years. And this is just one issue, there are so many many more.

Photo Credits: Jaime Moore