Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Photographic Possibilities by Robert Hirsch

I got my copy of Robert Hirsch's Photographic Possibilites yesterday. It's a beautiful book with a lot of great information for making images using a very wide range of photographic methods. Here's the book's description from Focal Press:

Focal Press proudly announces the publication of Photographic Possibilities, Third Edition, a marvelously updated resource of innovative and traditional photographic processes that imagemakers have come to trust and depend on to enhance their technical knowledge, create astonishing pictures, and raise their visual consciousness.

This concise and reliable handbook provides professional and advanced photography students with practical pathways of utilizing diverse photographic methods to produce engaging, expressive pictures from an informed aesthetic and conceptual position.

This update, in full color for this first time, offers new links between analog and digital photography by featuring clear, up-to-date, step-by-step instructions on topics ranging from making ambrotypes and digital negatives to pre-picturemaking activities that utilize a thinking system to visually realize what is in your mind's eye in an effective and safe manner.

This edition vividly showcases the thought-provoking work of over 150 international artists including Peter Beard, Dan Burkholder, Carl Chiarenza, Michael Kenna, Dinh Q. LĂȘ, Joe Mills, Andrea Modica, Bea Nettles, France Scully and Mark Osterman, Robert & Shana ParkeHarrison, Holly Roberts, Martha Rosler, Mike and Doug Starn, John Sexton, Brian Taylor, Jerry Uelsmann, and Joel Peter Witkin as well as other major and emerging talents. Image captions explain how each artist technically realized their vision and concept.

I'm delighted to be included in the book. One of my books, "A Mime of the Times", is reproduced in full. It's got a page to itself, directly facing the Table of Contents, so I couldn't be happier about that! It's a real honor to have my work included with this group of distinguished artists.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Morphine Makes Me Maudlin

Subscribers to the FIMP Book of the Month Club will be receiving "Morphine Makes Me Maudlin" in their mailboxes any time now. I spent a few days in the hospital last month with a messed-up hand, and thought I would report back on the experience.

Nothing as dramatic as this happened during my stay, but it was exciting enough for me. Exciting in an uncomfortable, tedious, when do I get to go home kind of way.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fuzzy Dan

I think we can safely say that in 1951 the Whitman Publishing Company's Tell-A-Tales Fuzzy Wuzzy Series jumped the shark with "Fuzzy Dan". Previous Fuzzy Wuzzy titles included "Christopher John's Fuzzy Blanket" and "That Puppy", which really are more promising themes around which to build a book that includes bright pink flocking on every page. Fuzzy Dan's claim to fame is that he had "the fanciest vest, And the brightest, fuzziest chaps in the West".

A real prize from my collection of strange little children's books.

This Land.

Pete Seeger's one of my favorites, and it's so great to see this.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Litho Press for Sale - The Death of Printmaking - Art and Craft

Over the past few days there has been an interesting exchange of emails that has arrived in my inbox by way of the listserv of one of the larger printmaking associations. In greatly simplified form, the discussion went something like this. A university was selling its litho press, as lithography was being dropped from their printmaking curriculum. A flurry of emails followed, with people expressing their regrets that lithography was no longer going to be taught at this university. These were followed by folks saying that the university should teach printmaking any way they see fit, and if litho isn't a part of it, what's the big deal?

As the rhetoric escalated a bit, the "hate to see litho go" side put forth the argument that those who were expanding definitions of printmaking to include, well, just about anything (digital processes being one of the main culprits here) were responsible for the deterioration of printmaking, the death of a discipline. Removing lithography from a university's printmaking program was a hostile act towards printmaking in general.

The "where's the tragedy, get over it" crowd argued that printmakers should teach those methods that excite them and their students, building a program based on their strengths.

So this "for sale" sign had turned into a pretty interesting debate. My feeling was that it revealed a pretty basic dividing line in teaching philosophy concerning printmaking. Do you teach printmaking primarily as a craft or as an art? I say this as someone with great respect for both, and who feels that both are a necessary component of successful teaching.

Craft concerns itself with preserving and maintaining culture. If you see your role in teaching printmaking as someone who is providing students with access to a body of knowledge, you're probably very interested in the craft of printmaking. Successful teaching of relief, intaglio, lithography, and serigraphy should produce students who have mastered the various techniques associated with those four pillars of print. The university may be the only place where the next generation of artists can be exposed to these techniques, and teaching them will keep them alive.

Art is less concerned about preservation and more interested in engagement with contemporary culture, being a part of the cultural dialogue of the moment. If your goals as a teacher focus on your students' engagement with contemporary art, printmaking may be more about the use of process to convey meaning, the meaning of multiples, indirect versus direct methods of making images, the combination of digital and traditional methods, and similar "conceptual" aspects of printmaking. The "meaning" of the image, including the meaning of the medium used to make it, might be more important than the mastery of a defined set of skills.

Now, I'm guessing that most people would argue for a healthy mix of both. But the passions stirred by the "for sale" sign hint at some strong leanings in one direction or the other, with assumptions being made about the "correct" way to approach this strange mix of craft and art. Those assumptions might benefit from a thorough examination before next semester's syllabi are written.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

21st Century Photography

Robert Hirsch, World in a Jar

One of FIMP's favorite photographers, Robert Hirsch, is part of an upcoming symposium and exhibition that sounds really exciting. Here's the information:

f295 Seminar on 21st Century Photography Hosted by B&H Photo

January 18 from 10:30am - 4:30pm at B&H Photo Event Space in New York City

21st Century Photography is a phrase meant to describe the type of photography in which many artists are presently engaged. A 21st century photographic approach includes the use of historic methods, alternative processes, and adaptive techniques. The decision regarding which methods to employ in a project is driven by the artistic vision of the photographer rather than the technical limitation or possibility of the equipment. Terms such as alternative, historic, hand-wrought, DIY (do-it-yourself), and antiquarian have been used to describe this type of work and while those terms can be accurate they are mostly not. The use of any one term greatly simplifies the complexities, combinations, and adaptations which are taking place while at the same time weighing the discussion with preconceptionand bias. Recognizing that photographic technology has become so sophisticated that, for the most part, it is irrelevant and, in an effort to create something new, many artists are freely inventing and combining techniques and processes from the history of photography to create a new 21st Century Photography.

F295: 21st Century Photography Exhibition at Camera Club of New York!

F295 is pleased to announce that the Camera Club of New York will be hosting an exhibition entitled F295: 21st Century Photography from January 16 - 20, 2009. This show coincides with the F295 Seminar at B&H Photo on January 18 and features work from a selection of artists who have been involved with the various F295 events over the past 2 1/2 years.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Printeresting: Since 2008, the thinking person's favorite online resource for interesting printmaking miscellany.

I just wish I'd thought of that name.

Thanks for the plug for the Book of the Month Club, Printeresting!

Thursday, January 01, 2009