Friday, July 27, 2007

What's next Boston?

Sign the petition before August 3rd if you disagree with the following:

From "The NY Times reports that the city’s tentative rules include requiring any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a single public location for more than a half hour (including setup and breakdown time) to get a city permit and $1 million in liability insurance. The regulation would also apply to any group of five or more people who would be using a tripod for more than ten minutes, including setup and breakdown time."

This is includes everyone from the amateur to the professional and most that use large format photography and just about every class or group of students that desire to experience NYC on film, not to mention it is
a challenge to a historical legacy. Being with a photographer, I understand the hassle that can go along with an 8 x 10 camera even without such a measure.

Sign the petition here:

UPDATE: In response to the now over 20,000 signatures and other outcries, NYC is revisiting and redrafting their proposed rules. Even though this is a minor win, let's not have this fall off of the radar. Be on the lookout for another public 30-day response period. More information here:

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Non-rectangle, Non-square, and Oval photographs

Over on the Soth blog, it's circle time. It started here with George Eastman and Emmet Gowin, then went to photographs captured on a rabbit's eyeball, and continued today with more sure to follow. Good stuff! The non-quadrilateral photograph is a topic I have been thinking about for some time. More specifically, I am particularly interested in the oval or shaped photograph, such as seen in Julia Margaret Cameron's or Lewis Carroll's work, and the oval "view," as seen in the pre-photographic device, the Claude Glass.

William Gilpin was one of the 18th century writers who promoted the oval as the most picturesque shape, being that it closely resembled the purview of the human eye. The plates in his numerous books were almost all oval and washed in a continuous tone. Gilpin and others advocated the use of the Claude Glass, a shaped and tinted convex mirror. (Not all Claude Glasses were oval, some were rectangle or circular, but I'd venture to say that the majority were.) The Claude Glass was named in honor of the French painter Claude Lorrain. Further popularized by the poet Thomas Gray with his set viewing "stations" in the English countryside (think Kodak Picture Spots, but with no camera), the Claude Glass was used by British and American tourists from the early 18th century to well into the late 19th century. Oddly, its even shows up in conjunction with tourist photography! I wrote a graduate seminar paper on this device in the late 1990s for Garden History and Picturesque Aesthetics and this MIT book came out in 2004, but there is much more to be done. They rarely pop up on ebay, but I hope to acquire one for myself someday and continue writing/thinking about this fascinating object.

1ST IMAGE (below): Although not an antique Claude Glass and not with black or tinted glass, this image shows how one would be used: a tourist would find a scene to "compose" or "take" and turn their back to admire it! From

2ND IMAGE (below): A Claude Glass, Manufactured in England, 18th century
3RD IMAGE (below): The Reverend William Gilpin (1724-1804), View from the bank of a river, watercolour.

4TH IMAGE (below): Julia Margaret Cameron, Mrs. Herbert Duckworth, 1867

Monday, July 16, 2007

Soft opening for my humble website

My new website was born this weekend out of procrastination. I had been meaning to do it, but finally the act of avoiding writing for work pushed me over the edge. So, I bought and downloaded a simple piece of visual software, Coffeecup, and went to bluehost for hosting. Even though I have a basic knowledge of these things (I taught myself some html way back in 1997 and can update things in Dreamweaver), WYSI (definitely not) WY (always) G. I've tried loading it on every kind of computer/browser I can find (they all look different) and the statcounter is still stuck at 1. Blogging is so much simpler! I am glad that the simple "retro" html look has seemingly come back, and thus I can get away with my attempt at graphic design and organization. Most all of the information is here, so I figure the bells and whistles are not really needed...that is, until it is reborn again.

So, I push the little guy out into the world while at the same time *promising* myself that I will stop tweaking it. So, without further ado, is now online.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

PRC on Flak Photo!

Thanks to the inventive and kind Andy Adams, the PRC juried show lives on in cyberspace! From July 10-25 or so (does that make 16?), one image per day from the artists of the PRC's recently closed Exposure: The 12th Annual PRC Juried Exhibition juried by Jen Bekman will be posted online at Flak Photo and emailed to those who subscribe. Check back too, our NEO series of emerging photographers will also be highlighted in recommended reading. Explore the whole site, there are lots of great photos and projects to be seen!


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

John Szarkowski story number #1

As promised, I share the first of two personal stories about John Szarkowski. As Jen Bekman has pointed out, his death as reverberated across the blog-o-sphere. I read a great email anecdote today courtesy of Karl Baden, which I wish was online. Wait, it a comment on Alec Soth's blog along with several other great ones too. I might not have as much history behind me or as powerful a pen, such as seen in this great post by Mark Feeney, but I do hope you enjoy it.

What I liked about Karl's remembrance of Szarkowski was that it was personal. He told the story of when he dropped off his portfolio at MoMA and was called back to chat. At first he thought Szarkowski wasn't talking about his images; then he walked out with a check. There is no denying that he and others such as Edward Steichen and Beaumont Newhall had a profound effect on the creation of a canon--both good and bad--that has become the history of photography we know today. He was instrumental in promoting photography as a fine art, a fact that seems lost on younger students born in the late 1980s after the battle had been essentially won, and had a poet's pen. There will be many dissertations on the effect of Szarkowski on photography and photohistory, but there is something about meeting such greats in person no matter what has been said about them in your graduate art history seminar.

During College Art Association (CAA) in Boston a year or so ago, we attended a special session about and with John Szarkowski. Peter Galassi and a few others were also on the panel. When John got up, he shook it all up by saying "I am going to talk about what you do, while showing you images I made." Then he proceeded to critique the art teaching establishment by saying that they are coddling students and graduating too many MFAs. He was especially critical of the practice of encouraging students who are not good, but are told that they are and not dissuaded so as to keep money in the coffers. This is especially prescient given the recent Art in America 'Art School Symposium' that I am still reading. If this collection of essays is any measure, Szarkwoski was not the only one thinking about these issues and even in in his 80s, knew how and when to talk about things that need to be addressed.

After the lecture, there was a special reception and we were all invited to stay. Everyone made a beeline for the food and drink, but oddly, no one approached Szarkowski to chat or shake his hand. Was everyone in shock from the talk, or simply too scared to talk to or meet him? Our crew headed on over and Lisa Kessler and Terri Smith struck up a conversation with him (the latter more of a full-blown Leo than myself). Lisa actually found his misplaced slides and was immediately hailed as his savior. We bantered about and he was incredibly funny (not to mention fond of the ladies) and above all, human. I share these 2 photos taken by Bruce with you. You can tell how much fun we had with Mr. Szarkowski from the photos. I think he had fun with us too.

Next up: Bruce's story about having dinner with John Szarkwoski after his talk at Colorado College with Robert Adams, Stuart Klipper, Frank Golhke. Hint -it was a heated discussion about panoramas.

TOP: Szarkwoski and Terri; BOTTOM: Lisa and Szarkowski

Monday, July 9, 2007

John Szarkowski (December 18, 1925 – July 7, 2007)

I was out on a studio visit to NH and VT most of today, so I didn't hear until now that John Szarkowski had passed away due to complications of a stroke here in Massachusetts. I guess it was apt that I was doing photo-type things rather than at my computer. In my next post/s, I will share a couple of stories about Mr. Szarkowski--one from the College Art Association (CAA) in Boston and one from Bruce when he lived in Colorado--and some pics from CAA.

You can read the New York Times obituary here.