Week 3 Course Update: Guten Tag! Ni Hao!

Week three of school has come and gone. I think I’m finally getting used to following a schedule and wearing pants everyday…ahhh, the life of a freelance photographer.

Monday was digital imaging day. We’re starting off with the basics and by basic, I mean sizing and file formats. While I knew when to use a TIFF vs a JPEG, I never knew why I was doing it. I never really considered what compression was doing and I never gave any thought to binary, bits or bytes.

After three hours of digital imaging, I jumped right into a two hour scanning workshop about how to use the imacon scanners at school. I’ve used them before, but it’s always nice to learn how to do something the right way (except for learning that yes, I am the reason so many of my old scans look crappy)

The rest of my monday was spent reading for Criticism & Theory. I particularly enjoyed the Baudelaire readings. Chuck was not a fan of photography at all. He felt art was about the soul and photography, with its “true” representation of nature, left no room for the soul. The “idolatrous mob” had confused truth with beauty. Photography was “…the refuge of every would-be painter, every painter too ill-endowed or too lazy to complete his studies…” So, why did I enjoy the Baudelaire readings if he did nothing but deem as evil that which I oh so dearly love? In The Painter of Modern Life, Baudelaire writes about a Monsieur C.G., a French artist. Baudelaire, describing Guys, writes:

“The crowd is his domain, just as the air is the bird’s, and water that of the fish. His passion and his profession is to merge with the crowd. For the perfect idler, for the passionate observer it becomes an immense source of enjoyment to establish his dwelling in the throng, in the ebb and flow, the bustle, the fleeting and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel at home anywhere; to see the world, to be at the very centre of the world, and yet to be unseen of the world, such are some of the minor pleasures of those independent, intense and impartial spirits, who do not lend themselves easily to linguistic definitions. The observer is a prince enjoying his incognito wherever he goes. The lover of life makes the whole world into his family, just as the lover of the fair sex creates his from all the lovely women he has found, from those that could be found, and those who arc impossible to find, just as the picture-lover lives in an enchanted world of dreams painted on canvas. Thus the lover of universal life moves into the crowd as though into an enormous reservoir of electricity. He, the lover of life, may also be compared to a mirror as vast as this crowd: to a kaleidoscope endowed with consciousness, which with every one of its movements presents a pattern of life, in all its multiplicity, and the flowing grace of all the elements that go to compose life.”

You know what that makes me think of?? Photographers (some photographers).

Baudelaire continues:

“But evening comes. The witching hour, the uncertain light, when the sky draws its curtains and the city lights go on. The gaslight stands out on the purple background of the setting sun. Honest men or crooked customers, wise or irresponsible, all are saying to themselves: ‘The day is gone at last!’ Good men and bad turn their thoughts to pleasure, and each hurries to his favourite haunt to drink the cup of oblivion. M G. will be the last to leave any place where the departing glories of daylight linger, where poetry echoes, life pulsates, music sounds; any place where a human passion offers a subject to his eye where natural man and conventional man reveal themselves in strange beauty, where the rays of the dying sun pay on the fleeting pleasure of the ‘depraved animal!'”

Jonas Bendiksen
Jonas Bendiksen
Cario. Denis Dailleux
Denis Dailleux
Ambroise Tezenas
Ambroise Tezenas
James Pomerantz  aphotostudent  burlesque
James Pomerantz

Wednesday morning began with lighting. Still using a single bulb, we began to see how we could create different effects and moods using various found reflectors and diffusers.

We had our first wednesday lecturer come in too. Shelly Silver came and shared some of her work with us. She showed us three examples. The first was a straight-forward documentary that was an interview of three generations of Japanese women. The second video was quite a change of pace. Silver shared a fictional piece about a filmmaker who is planning on committing suicide. I haven’t seen a lot of video art and I don’t have a frame of reference, but I found “Suicide” very powerful. The third piece was made in Lower Manhattan during a residency. Called “What I’m Looking For,” the piece combines traditional street photographs with images made of people she met through an online dating service. The stills are combined with a voice over and the result is pretty interesting.

Suicide Excerpt. Shelly Silver.

What I’m Looking For Excerpt. Shelly Silver.

Thinks wrapped up on Wednesday with Past Tense, Present Tense. After a little bit of digression (the first three-quarters of class), we focused back in on photo communities. This time we took a quick look at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf. People of note we quickly looked at: The Bechers, Gerhard Richter, Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Thomas Ruff and Thomas Struth.

Gas Tanks. Bernd & Hilla Becher
Gas Tanks. Bernd & Hilla Becher
House Number 7, 1983. Thomas Ruff
House Number 7, 1983. Thomas Ruff
Masonic Temple, Philadelphia I, 2007. Candida Hofer
Masonic Temple, Philadelphia I, 2007. Candida Höfer
The Rothko Chapel, Houston 2007. Thomas Struth
The Rothko Chapel, Houston 2007. Thomas Struth

After a quick discussion of the work, we began to look at The Stars Group of Artists and The East Village in China, particularly Rong Rong and Zhang Huan. We didn’t really have time to discuss, but will continue next week.

To Raise The Water Level In A Fishpond, 1997. Zhang Huan
To Raise The Water Level In A Fishpond, 1997. Performance by Zhang Huan
East Village, Beijing, No. 20, 1994. Rong Rong
East Village, Beijing, No. 20, 1994. Rong Rong

About the image from ICP:

“This photo work documents a celebrated performance by Beijing artist Zhang Huan. Trained as a painter at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Zhang Huan won recognition as a performance artist by subjecting himself to violent sensory assaults. In Twelve Square Meters, whose title refers to the size of the squalid public toilet in the artist’s impoverished neighborhood, Zhang Huan coated himself with honey and spent an hour in the foul-smelling toilet, with flies slowly covering his body. At the end of the period he walked into the water of a nearby pond. The performance enabled him, he said, to imagine his “essential existence” reduced to the level of waste. Rong Rong’s photograph creates an unforgettable symbol for maintaining one’s composure in a hellish environment.”

Homework Assignment: For next week, I have to curate a show. It can have as many pieces as I want, it can be anywhere within reason (not on Mars), I have to give a 15 minute presentation and be able to justify my decisions. I have an idea. What would you do? I’ll post my virtual exhibit next week after class.

So…it was a good week. Penelope Umbrico is back next week, so we’ll have our critique. Printing workshop on Monday.

This weekend: More shooting, more reading and planning a wedding!

posted by james pomerantz
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One Response to Week 3 Course Update: Guten Tag! Ni Hao!

  1. Gary Winogrand looks like Al Franken.

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