Response to Todd Hido’s Between the Two

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Response to Todd Hido’s Between the Two

By Zoë Gleitsman and Akari Stimler

 

Hido’s Between The Two, is a beautiful collection of color and black and white photographs. His images are very quiet and subdued; there isn’t any action in the photos, and all the subjects appear to be completely still and seemingly posed. From looking at all the photographs, we realized how stylized all the shots are. Everything in the frame seems to be very purposeful, and there isn’t any distraction from the main subject matter. The subject matter ranges from outdoor scenes of typical looking suburban homes to mostly nude women gazing at the camera from a bed. Maybe this contrast is related to the title of the book, Between The Two.

Most of the photographs are warm color photographs but there are a few black and white ones included as well. Hido does a good job setting a tone while using both color and black and white images. The colors in his photographs are extremely beautiful; the interesting tones in his streetscape photos and portraits makes the collection all around more intriguing and unique.

There’s a peculiar level of mystery to these very subdued shots. Part of this comes from Hido’s creative use of lighting and shadows. Every image has a light and/or shadow that adds to the overall composition. This series is definitely one of the most interesting and cohesive collection of photographs we’ve ever come across.

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Response to An Imaginary Spaniard by Cristobal Hara

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Response to An Imaginary Spaniard by Cristobal Hara

By: Akari Stimler and Zoë Gleitsman

 

Cristobal Hara’s book, An Imaginary Spaniard, consists of beautifully composed color photographs taken in Spain. The title seems to perfectly describe the photographs; many of the images have a very surreal and almost fantastical atmosphere. Another element of the book that adds to this is the fact that none of the photographs contain captions. The only information given on the collection of photos is that they were all taken in Spain between the years 1985-2002. Because there is no context to these images, the viewer is given the opportunity to imagine their own context for each situation.

The layout of the book is also well thought out. The large photos, which take up an entire spread, are composed in a way that makes each page look like its own image but at the same time, both pages create one whole scene. The spreads that have individual images on each page are well composed diptychs. The images either contrast each other perfectly or are similar in composition and/or subject.

There is a very central theme of death and religion to this book. Many of the photographs display religious iconography that is very common in Spain. A lot of the photographs also display this iconography along with a symbol of death, whether it be a wooden coffin with a cross or a statue of a bloodied Jesus on a cross in a store display window. These very serious themes are displayed in a peculiar way because of the color in these photographs. All the images are very highly saturated with deep shadows. This adds a level of intensity to the whole collection of photographs. When first looking at the book, we were thrown off by the contrast of the deep saturation of the images and the very dark subject matter.

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A New Edition to the Library Reader Resources Series

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The ICP Library has several reader resources that guests can come and use to find photography books on a particular subject. Some in the past have been female photographers or wartime photography. The newest edition to this series is “Photography of adolescence.”  This new resource will provide readers with a general selection about the photography of youth. We will feature some examples of books on this post, and we hope that everyone will come check this resource out!

-Zoë Gleitsman and Akari Stimler

Bibliography:

Greenfield, Lauren. Fast Forward: Growing up in the shadow of Hollywood. New York: Belcher Media Inc., 1997.

Levitt, Danielle. We are Experienced. New York: powerHouse Books, 2008.

McBride, Will. Coming of Age. New York: Aperture Foundation, 1999.

Meene, Hellen van. New Work. Amsterdam: Museum Folkwang Essen, 2006.

Reed, Rita. Growing up Gay: The Sorrows and Joys of Gay and Lesbian Adolescence. New York: Norton and Company Inc., 1997.

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“Whoa, what’s THAT book?” by Kent Sargent

“Whoa, what’s THAT book?” by Kent Sargent

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I was a bit taken aback…it looked like a 3rd grade “reader”, straight out of the 1950’s! The cover of the small  6×9 book was illustrated, not with a photograph, but with a color drawing.

Looking more closely, it was in fact a ‘reader’, for children ages 3-4, titled Margaret Bourke-White.  It’s written by Catherine A. Welch, illustrated by Jennifer Hagerman and published by Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing, an educational children’s book publisher.

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What was odd was that it’s a book about a photographer, and it’s illustrated throughout with color drawings, and not photographs!  Why, and why do we have it?

The latter first… many times authors will use the ICP library while researching their subject and in turn send us a copy of their publication.  If it fits within our collection development policy, then we’ll keep it.  In addition, the library is interested in the history of the pedagogy of photography, retaining ‘how-to’ books, manuals and biographies for a wide range of readers.

To ‘ why is a biography of a photographer illustrated with 4-color drawings and not photographs’  is more curious. You’d think that a photograph would be more engaging to a child’s imagination; say, Bourke-White teetering on the edge  of a gargoyle, 800 feet up on the Chrysler building and wielding a view camera.

Yes, but it all depends on age.

At ages 3-4 children are beginning to learn to read, but most likely they are being read to as opposed to reading on their own. They’re hearing words pronounced, they’re seeing them in written text; they’re associating the aural with the written word.  They’re learning the meaning of those words and creating their own interpretations of them.

More specifically to the strength of drawn over photographic illustration, they relate more strongly to the drawn because it’s exactly those kinds of images that they are learning to create and give meaning to.  They’re learning to draw, to make lines, shapes and add colors to create images and stories that help them understand and interpret the world around them.  [1]

Pictures, any illustration, are included in a text to reinforce the ideas being expressed.  They bring additional detail that supports, defines and develops text, characters and plot.  Illustrations provide alternative as well as additional points of view. They reinforce each other enhancing the meaning of each. [2]

In those early years, Illustrations serve as aids to education, aids for “reading to learn”, which includes perception, understanding, memory, creativity and interpretation.  They help stretch the child’s, indeed anyone’s,

Imagination for that matter. [3]

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There’s no written word to accompany the images, one literal, one figurative, but none are needed to let the imagination enjoy the interplay  between them.

The use of illustration over, or in addition to, photographs has always been with us; to wit:  Robert Frank, Ed Ruscha, Duane Michals, Gerhart Richter.

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Closer to home, take a look at the Teen Academy book project (Monsters and Madonnas,  January 11, 1916).  Livvy Ferrari’s  book project shown below has incorporated drawings of nature to work in tandem with her hypnotic photographs of light streaming through the leaves and branches of the trees she’s photographed.

[1]   Russel N. Carney and Joel R. Levin, “Pictorial Illustrations Still Improve

Students’ Learning from Text”, Educational Psycholodgy Review, Vol. 14,

No. 1, March 2002 (©2002)

[2]   “Learning to Write and Draw”,  Zero to Three: National Center for Infants,

Toddlers and Families, © 2014, http://www.zerotothree.org/reprints

[3]   “Helping Your Child Learn to Read” (© 1999 American Adademy of

Pediatrics), http://www.healthychildren.org

 

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Response to Zanele Muholi’s Only Half the Picture

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This blog post is written in honor of Zanele Muholi who won the ICP Infinity award for documentary photography and photojournalism earlier this month. Her book, Only Half the Picture is a photo series about Black lesbians. The book contains intimate photos of different women who are all gay. The images are stylistically very diverse. There’s a mix of color and black and white photographs, and each image is very unique. Muholi explores concepts through her photography that are commonly considered extremely taboo in our society. In almost all of the photos, the subjects are nude and are shown in a very intimate and personal setting. The human form is presented in a very natural and realistic way. The bodies have hair in natural places and Muholi photographed the female body in a way that isn’t commonly shown. Menstruation is a big theme in this book, and many of the images of period blood would be deemed very graphic by our society’s standards. Even though periods are one of the most natural occurrences, people treat the topic as highly inappropriate. Muholi not only explores issues of sexuality and women but she also explores issues of race. Nude lesbian women in media are usually white, highly sexualized, and fit society’s standard of beauty. Muholi’s subjects are Black, natural, and not over sexualized. She shows the hardships of being queer and Black in today’s society through her images.

Each image speaks so much for itself. The various moments captured by Muholi are quiet yet highly intimate. It is obvious that in most of the photographs she has asked her model(s) to pose in a certain way to evoke an even more powerful message. For example, she has a model suck on a used tampon, or she has three women spoon each other on the floor.  The intent of each image can be inferred, but Muholi does a good job of not being overly explicit with what she’s trying to say. Aesthetically, the images are astonishingly beautiful. The lighting in each photo causes the subject matter to appear even more natural. The deep shadows in many of the black and white film photos adds to the seriousness of the concepts Muholi is exploring. Muholi is positioned in very close proximity to most of the women photographed, which gives the whole collection a feeling of deep intimacy. Overall, Muholi has done an immensely good job of exploring issues and concepts that have been largely ignored and untouched through her incredible photography.

Zoë Gleitsman and Akari Stimler

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Response to Hokkaido 1971–1976 by Eiji Sakurai

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By: Akari Stimler

 

Hokkaido is an island in Japan, and it is also the island where my mother grew up. Hokkaido is located at the north tip of Japan and is close to Russia. I always thought of Hokkaido as different from the rest of Japan because of its open spaces, farming culture and nature compared to the compact cities and small spaces on the main island (Honshu). Eiji Sakurai captures the mining culture of Hokkaido during the 1970’s with highly contrasted black and white photographs. Sakurai’s work explores each corner of daily life in Hokkaido. The various scenes seem to be moments that would be deemed as mundane or ordinary to the subjects. The children playing in their backyard on swings makes me wonder if my mother, who grew up during the 1970’s in Hokkaido, had a similar experience to the children in the image.

The most powerful images to me are the portraits of the miners. They are printed with many blacks, accentuating the “roughness” of each photograph. The composition of each portrait is fairly traditional; the subject is aware of the camera and is the focal point of the picture. The overall series seems to be a collection of candid images from the lives of the native Hokkaido people. It is as though they live on farms but work in mines, balancing the two. Every photograph looks composed and printed well. Sakurai’s use of contrast and blacks is clearly intentional and fits well with the work.

Japan is not known for its mining, so Sakurai’s work has taught me something about a place that I have called my second home.

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Response to High School by Jona Frank

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By Zoë Gleitsman

Jona Frank’s book High School is a very thorough collection of beautiful color film photographs which encompasses all different sides of the classic suburban teenager. The typical American high school is usually thought of in terms of social group and standing: the geeks, the athletes, the freaks, the cheerleaders etc. Frank effectively shows members of every group one could possibly think of that is typically used to divide and classify kids of that age. The interesting thing about the way Frank shot these portraits, however, was how she managed to show the innate similarities among every kid in this age group, no matter their group or social standing. Each subject is shot in the same exact way. Frank uses a traditional portraiture approach, capturing each subject within a vertical frame, centering the subject, and making sure to include their whole body down to their knees. This is how almost every student is photographed, although some images include the subject’s feet. Because all the kids photographed are viewed from the same angle and from approximately the same distance, it is easier for the viewer to identify the very specific similarities among all the teenagers photographed.

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Each subject has an obvious individual idea of how they want to be viewed by the world. In my experience of being a teenager, almost all kids my age like wearing their personalities. One clear example of this is shown by the photograph of the young girl wearing a shirt saying “BOYS ARE GREAT: EVERY GIRL SHOULD OWN ONE.” Because this is a very unique slogan for a t-shirt, it would make sense that every other aspect of the girl’s appearance is in someway unique and different, down to the pentagram necklace and the moon on her cheek. Even though every aspect of this look is very individual and different, the girl still seems to be seeking to fit into a certain mold. This want, or almost need, to fit in and be a part of a certain group is shown by every student Frank photographed. It’s very powerful that she managed to show this similarity through photographing kids whose appearances vary drastically.

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This type of teenager and high school environment is familiar to almost all American teenagers. I was never exposed to the typical suburban high school experience, as I attended high school at a small, alternative, public high school in lower Manhattan. I think this is why this book was so intriguing to me. The kids shown in this book fit into their molds and social groups a lot more than the kids I’m surrounded by. I think this is because suburban high schools tend to contain more of a strict hierarchy with more definite differences between social group. Even so, there’s still that need and want to at the same time fit in and be an individual that’s within every high school age kid.

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