In the Window: Mary Ellen Marks Revisited

Man and Beast

Mary Ellen Mark had a long, beautiful, and illustrious career. From Europe, to India, to Ethiopia, to Seattle, she always brought her honest photographer’s eye. She captured what was important to her, and tried to show it through the least critical eye possible. She wanted subjects to be comfortable in front of her, to have relationships with her. And she did form relationships with her most iconic subjects, like Tiny from Streetwise. Her work shows how her subjects gave her full access into their lives, experiences, and emotions. The end results are frank and honest portraits that invite the viewer to learn more, and see more of the subjects. We, in the library, wanted to show our appreciation for Mary Ellen Mark and her work that has inspired so many photographers and image makers. In the window we have a collection of her books that we have in our possession. This curation is in tandem with an exhibit on Governor’s Island, Picture This: New Orleans, which was the last project that Mark was working on at the time of her death. We invite you to peruse, get some inspiration, and encourage you to visit the exhibit on Governor’s Island!

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This selection of books was curated for the adjacent window by Sadie Hope-Gund. Sadie has been the Library Intern at ICP this summer. She just completed her first year at Brown University, and has been a fantastic asset to the Library.

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Bijan Roghanchi’s Thoughts on The Photobook Tehran

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Whenever and wherever I attend an event featuring Iranian art I go in skeptical. My lens in skewed by an awkward mix of nationalism and emotion, patriotism and ideology. I am American and I am Iranian. As galvanized as I am by the identity of one, I am indoctrinated by the other. I am turned off by a highly fetishized vision of Iran and the misguided idea that sharing art will free the Iranian, an oppressed individual, from despotism and dictatorship. I am offended by the self loathing aristocracy of northern Tehran that control much of the gallery scene, the longings and yearnings of post colonialism/imperialism.

In Photobook, an exchange of photography books between the Sazman-e-Ab foundation in Tehran and the International Center of Photography in New York City was decidedly neither of these as evidenced by an intriguing selection of photobooks that spanned generations and genres. Nima Behravan and Matthew Carson curated the exchange which boasted many titles including several newly self published books.

The collection touched on several parts of the history of Iranian photography without dwelling unnecessarily on any single one. The most prominent name among the list of photographers was Abbas Kiarostami. His work Snow White was featured on the bottom a shelf facing out into the hallway of the ICP library. Its’ size and design were bold, but images were disappointing.

Many of the books were written simultaneously in English and Farsi and it was interesting to see how designers dealt with the direction changes; English reads left to right, Farsi is the opposite. The same was true for cover design evident even in the placement of ISBN numbers and barcodes. Unfortunately the quality of some of the translations were poor, confusing and ultimately did distract from the quality of the images and their stories.

To be sure some of the books didn’t make it. Too many photographs, too little editing. Too much focus on layout design and translation, not enough focus on technique and context. But these too added a needed sense of originality to the exchange as a whole. They created a feeling of rawness. First look. Welcomed experimentation.

A self published work by Farshid Arzang, The Book of Amnesia, suffered from a combination of translation and design. The off-sized book featured dual covers, English on the left, Farsi on the right. I was confused as to which direction I should read the book. Some photographs were titled seemingly simultaneously in both languages while an adjacent photo was fully captioned only in Farsi. Had the English titles been removed all together I would probably have only focused on the image.

The highlight of the collection for me were The Hard Time, a book on Sarajevo during the Bosnian conflict by Mohsen Rastani. Although English translations throughout the book were weak there was a decisive direction to the work. The book only opens one way and the text layout works well with English and Farsi reflecting each other. The photographs are ones I’ve seen before though not through Rastani’s lense. They are reminiscent of dozens of images I have seen from the Balkans: A boy laid out on a makeshift hospital bed, empty sniper lined streets, and bombed out buildings. They were good photographs, some even great. As part of the collection it made an important statement; “these are photobooks from Iran, not Iranian photobooks.”

In all Carson and Behravan should be congratulated. They brought new work into our world where as photographers we are desperate for a new way of seeing. They did so with a graceful eye for image and place, but left cliche for another time.

Bijan Roghanchi is a photographer and writer based out of Hoboken, New Jersey. He holds a B.A. in Photography from New Jersey City University as well as certificates in languages from universities in Spain, France and Iran. His most recent work Becoming Iranian, due out late 2015 explores themes of identity, culture and society in contemporary Iran.

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Library Reader Resources for Fashion Books!

While fashion itself is always consumed by what is current, cool, and trending at one particular moment, fashion photography is fairly eternal. An image from the seventies of a stylish woman is somehow still cool in the twenty first century. Part of the allure must come from the attitude of a truly stylish person–the constant confidence that can be so clearly captured in an image. A person who is well-dressed in the fifties must feel the same as a person well-dressed today, right? Fashion, beyond the basic level of protection, is about putting part of yourself on the outside, for everyone to see. Well, not exactly your entire self, a part of yourself. The part that you want the world to see.

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It is very telling to see what people wear, and see what they are most comfortable in. And it is a great experience to feel as though you have found an outfit that truly reflects how you want to be perceived by the world, and what you feel is most enjoyable to wear. (There is a certain happiness that can come from clothing). I don’t think the feeling of wearing a perfectly suited outfit have changed in the last 50 years. The other attraction of iconic fashion photography is that the pictures and styles are constantly being referenced by current fashion, so they are never truly out of style. It’s hard to exactly pinpoint what is completely original current fashion that has not been done before, or is not based on earlier decades. I guess that is to say that if it was at one time stylish, it will forever be stylish, especially if captured and commemorated by a fashion magazine or photographer.
Enjoy these additions to the Library Reader Resources for Fashion Books!

Camilla Nickerson, Fashion in the Nineties (D.A.P, 1998) [TR679.F37 1998]

Arthur Elgort, Personal Fashion Pictures (A. Elgort, 1983) [TR679.E43 1983]

Susan Bright, Face of Fashion (National Portrait Gallery London, 2007) [TR680.B75 2007]

Stefano Tonchi, The First Forty Years: W (Abrams, 2012) [TR679.W25 2012]

Glenda Bailey, Harper’s Bazaar Greatest Hits (Abrams, 2011) [TR679.B35 2011]

Richard Avedon, Avedon Fashion 1944-2000 (Abrams, 2009) [TR679.A94 2009]

Sadie Hope-Gund is the Library Intern at ICP this summer for two months. She just completed her first year at Brown University, and is looking forward to writing for Monsters & Madonnas more in the coming weeks!

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Library Reader Resources Series #4: Photojournalism/Documentary Photography (Additions)

MyBrothersKeeper

Photojournalism is all about the story, and how to give it the most justice through the use of photography as a medium. There is both a simplicity and a complexity with how photojournalism accurately and emotionally tells a story to the viewer. On one hand, a photo can appear to be simple–simply composed, and a simple context that is assumed by the viewer. On the other hand, there is the complex story of how the photographer came to frame that exact moment in time, how they composed it, and what the real story is behind the subject or scene.

It’s eye opening to find how beautiful images are made; how the photographer approached the subject, how the subject may have initially reacted, and what their relationship was after the picture was taken or the project was finished. I find that I always learn more about the different ways to engage with a subject than I do about the technical aspects of photography, which I find more informative than a purely technical answer. There may only be a few things to change a single photograph technically or compositionally, but the way that a photographer interacts with their subject can completely alter their entire project. A photographer needs to engage with a subject to gain enough access to tell a compelling and accurate story.

The books that I chose to add to the list of Library Reader Resources show different parts of the photojournalistic process–from the finished project, behind the scenes, and the ideology behind photography as a human rights issue.

Enjoy!

Stacia Spragg-Braude, To Walk in Beauty: A Navajo Family’s Journey Home. (Museum of New Mexico Press, 2009) [TR820.5.U6.S66 2009]

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Kathleen Laraia McLaughlin, The Color of Hay: The Peasants of Maramures. (www.colorofhay.com, 2010) [TR820.5.R6.M354 2010]

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Jacob Holdt, Faith, Hope, & Love. (Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2009) [TR820.5.U6.H654 2009]

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Pierre Crocquet, On Africa Time. (Bell-Roberts, 2003) [TR820.5.S6.C76 2003]

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David Taylor, Working the Line. (Radius Books, 2010) [TR820.5.M58 .T391 2010]

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Steve McCurry, Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs. (Phaidon Press, 2013) [TR820.5.M337 2013]

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Alessandra Mauro, My Brother’s Keeper: Documentary Photography and Human Rights. (Contrasto, 2007) [TR820.5.M93 2007]

Sadie Hope-Gund is the Library Intern at ICP this summer for two months. She just completed her first year at Brown University, and is looking forward to writing for Monsters & Madonnas more in the coming weeks!

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Library Reader Resources Series #8 (Additions) WAR

In the past fifteen years, there have been a few major changes to how Western photography is contextualized. A new era of war photography in the twenty first century has begun, and it is a large departure from its roots. War photography no longer means just combat photography. The definition has changed to include embedding with soldiers, civilians, and examining the aftermath of a war.

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With the introduction and widespread use of digital photography, war photography became faster paced, and more accessible to the general population. The digital age of photography made it easier for people with little photography experience to take their own pictures and have them published. People do not need a darkroom to make prints; they can use their own computer. The combination of these two things gave rise to the new “citizen journalism”. This means that ordinary people who take pictures and have new access through the Internet to publish them. They also don’t have a news agency or publication that enforces censorship upon them, and it is a positive direction to add new perspectives to war photography. However, it is also detrimental to have people without proper training entering dangerous conflict zones.

 
The changes that happened at the turn of the century also mark a large generational shift in cultural understanding and war photography. People of my generation have only ever seen foreign policy completely centered on the Middle East. I think this has created a skewed understanding of what conflict can mean, and how it can really affect people on the ground.

 
The books that I chose to add to the list of Library Reader Resources contribute diverse perspectives and interpretations of what war photography has become and can be.

 

 

Geert van Kesteren, Baghdad Calling. (Episode Publishers, 2008) [TR820.5.I72 .K482 2008]

Geert van Kesteren, Why Mister, Why? (Art Publishers, 2004) [TR820.6.I72 .V35 2004]

Tim Hetherington, Infidel. (Distributed Art Publishers, 2010) [TR820.6.H49 2010]

Leo Rubinfien, Wounded Cities. (Corcoran Gallery of Art, 2008) [TR140.R38 2008]

Susan Meiselas, In History. (International Center of Photography, 2008) [TR820.M45 2008]

Suzanne Opton, Soldier. (Light Work, 2006) [TR680.O68 2006]

Joel Meyerowitz, Aftermath. (Phaidon Press, 2006) [TR820.5.U6 .M491 2006]

Monica Haller, Riley and His Story: Me and My Outrage: You and Us. (Onestar Press, 2009) [TR140.R49.H35 2009]

Jenny Matthews, Women and War. (University of Michigan Press, 2003) [TR820.6.M38 2003]

Benjamin Lowy, Iraq Perspectives. (Duke University Press, 2011) [TR820.6.L693 2011]

Sadie Hope-Gund is the Library Intern at ICP this summer for two months. She just completed her first year at Brown University, and is looking forward to writing for Monsters & Madonnas more in the coming weeks!

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A Bibliography for Working Artists

The_Artists_Guide_How_to_Make_a_Living_Doing_What_You_Love_Jackie_Battenfield_Book

For all you graduating students, here is a useful bibliography complied by our summer intern, Sadie Hope-Gund.

Vocational Guidance for Artists

  • Art-work: Everything You Need to Know (and Do) As You Pursue your Art Career, by Heather Darcy Bhandari. (Free Press, 2009) [N6505.B53 2009]
  • How To Grow as a Photographer, by Tony Luna. (Allworth Press, 2006) [TR154.L85 2006]
  • The Real Business of Photography, by Richard Wiesgrau. (ASMP, 2004) [TR581.W45 2004]
  • Taking the Leap: Building Your Career as a Visual Artist, by Cay Lang. (Chronicle Books, 2006) [TR581.L352 2006]
  • A Practical Handbook for the Emerging Artist, by Margaret R Lazzari. (Harcourt College Publishers, 2002) [N6505.L39 2002]
  • Photojournalism, by Fred S. Parrish. (Wadsworth/Thomson Learning 2001) [TR820.P37 2001]
  • The Photographer’s Assistant Handbook, by Matt Proulx. (Focal Press, 2000) [TR154.P76 2000]
  • The Truth Needs No Ally: Inside Photojournalism, by Howard Chapnick. (University of Missouri Press, 1994) [TR820.C43 1994]
  • Letters to a Young Artist, by Gregory Amenoff. (Darte Publishing, 2006) [TR154.L47 2006]
  • Writing the Artist Statement: Revealing the True Spirit of Your Work, by Ariane Goodwin. (Infinity Publishing, 2006) [TR581.G66 2002]
  • The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers, by Peter Krogh. (O’Reilly, 2009) [TR267.K76 2009]
  • Creating Connections: Museums and the Public Understanding of Current Research, by David Chittenden. (AltaMira Press, 2004) [TR183.C452 2004]
  • Publish Your Photo Book: A Guide to Self-Publishing , by Bill Owens. (Morgan and Morgan, 1979) [TR147.O93 1979]
  • Teaching Photography: Tools for the Imaging Educator, by Glenn Rand. (Focal, 2006) [TR161.R35 2006]
  • Photography: Foundations for Art and Design, by Mark Galer. (Focal, 2007) [TR147.G35 2007]

Creative Thinking and Inspiration

  • Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity, and Personal Style, by Alain Briot. (O’Reilly Media, 2009) [TR179.B75 2009]
  • Artist Communities: A Directory of Residencies That Offer Time and Space for Creativity, by Deborah Obalil and Caitlin S. Glass (Allworth Press, 2005) [NX110.A78 2005]
  • Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity, by Lawrence Lessig. (Penguin Books, 2004) [TR187.L471 2004]
  • Chic Clicks: Creativity and Commerce in Contemporary Fashion Photography, by Fred Aufray. (Insitute of Contemporary Art, 2002) [TR679.C45 2002]
  • Visual Thinking: Methods for Making Images Memorable, by Henry Wolf. (Rizzoli International Publications, 1988) [TR179.W651 1988]
  • Photography Q&A, by Zack Arias. (New Riders, 2013) [TR147.A73 2013]
  • The Joy of Photography, by Eastman Kodak Company. (Addison-Wesley Publishing, 1991) [TR147.J69 1991]
  • Reframing Photography, by Rebekah Modrak. (Routledge, 2011) [TR161.M63 2011]
  • The Creative Photographer, by John Ingledew. (Harry N. Abrams, 2005) [TR146.I35 2005]
  • Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs, by Ansel Adams. (Little Brown,1983) [TR161.A32 1983]
  • Experimental Formats.2, by Roger Fawcett-Tang. (RotoVision, 2005) [TR147.F38 2005]

Business & Marketing

  • ASMP Professional Business Practices in Photography, by American Society of Media Photographers (Allworth Press, 2001) [TR581.M]
  • Artists’ Books Creative Production and Marketing, by Sarah Bodman (Impact Press, 2005) [TR179.5.B64 .A78 2007]
  • How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist, by Caroll Michels. (Henry Holt and Co., 2009) [N6505.M46 2009]
  • Marketing and Selling Black & White Portrait Photography, by Helen T. Boursier. (Amherst Media, 2000). [TR581.B68 2000]
  • Photographer’s Market 2004: 2000 Places to Sell Your Photographs, by Donna Poehner. (David & Charles, 2003) [TR12.P46 2004]
  • Photographer’s Market Guide to Building Your Photography Buisness, by VIK Orenstein. (Writer’s Digest Books, 2004) [TR581.O73 2004]
  • Publish Your Photography Book, by Darius Himes. (Princeton Architectural Press, 2011) [TR145.H55 2011]
  • The Artist’s Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love, by Jackie Battenfield. (De Capo Press, 2009) [TR581.B37 2009]
  • Print-On-Demand Book Publishing, by Morris Rosenthal. (Foner Books, 2004) [TR581.R674 2004]
  • The Professional Photographer’s Management Handbook, by Ann Monteith. (Marathon Press,1999) [TR154.M65 1999]
  • The Photographer’s Market Guide to Photo Submission and Portfolio Formats, by Michael Willins. (Writer’s Digest Books, 1997) [TR690.W55 1997]
  • The Business of Studio Photography, by Edward R Lilley. (Allworth Press, 1997) [TR581.L55 1997]
  • Professional Photographer’s Survival Guide, by Charles E. Rotkin. (Writer’s Digest Books, 1992) [TR690.R68 1992]
  • The Photographer’s Assistant, by John Kieffer. (Consortium Book Sales & Distribution, 1992) [TR690.2.K54 1992]
  • Mastering the Business of Photography, by Tony Luna. (Allworth Press, 2014) [TR581.L85 2014]
  • Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy, by Lawrence Lessig. (Penguin Press, 2008) [TR187.L471 2008]
  • The Photographer’s Guide to Negotiating, by Richard Wiesgrau. (Allworth Press, 2005) [TR581.W45 2005]
  • The Real Business of Photography, by Richard Weisgrau. (ASMP, 2004) [TR581.W45 2004]

Legal and Financial

  • Demystifying Grant Seeking, by Larissa Golden Brown. (Jossey-Bass, 2001) [TR581.B76 2001]
  • Licensing Photography, by Richard Weisgrau. (Allworth Press, 2006) [TR581.W45 2006]
  • Licensing Art & Design, by Caryn R Leland. (North Light Books, 1995) [TR581.L45 1995]
  • Business and Legal Forms for Photographers, by Tad Crawford. (Allworth Press, 2002) [TR146.C73 2002]
  • To Be or Not To Be: An Artist’s Guide to Not-For-Profit Incorporation, by VLA (Volunteer Lawyer for the Arts, 1982) [TR822.T63 1982]
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Mary Ellen Mark

For as long as I have been interested in photography, I have always been fascinated by photojournalism. The pictures that are seen all over the world on the cover of newspapers are the ones specifically made to elicit deliberate reactions from viewers: emotional reactions, a gut reactions, or prompts to think more. Each time that I look at the cover of the New York Times, or Time magazine, I glance to the bottom right corner to see whose name is typed out in small gray letters with their agency following.

The first time I saw my own name was in my school’s newspaper. Mine wasn’t an exciting picture; it was of a garden that had recently opened on the busiest street near campus. Taking it hadn’t been very exciting either; I had quickly snapped the pictures in a span of two minutes, and continued walking to class. The picture wasn’t even on the first page. And still, the feeling of seeing my name printed underneath that boring picture felt so good.

I have become mesmerized by the work of Mary Ellen Mark, who recently passed away. Here in the library, I’ve been lucky enough to have access to a number of books containing her work. Looking through them, it’s clear how moving her work is.

 

Life in Korem Camp, a famine relief camp 250 miles north of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Commissioned for Life/Time. Mary Ellen Mark.

From one photo to the next, whether in India, Ethiopia, or the United States, there is such compassion and empathy in her photographs, which I find rare when looking through a newspaper. Sometimes, I do feel uncomfortable with viewing a photojournalists work, because I sense that there is a lack of connection. Or, more than that, there is a lack of self-reflection based on the events that the photographer has experienced. In my limited practice as a photographer, the process can be intensely self reflective. Not only does being photographed affect the subject, it also affects the photographer profoundly. I feel as vulnerable, entering someone else’s space with a technical device, intent on capturing what I find beautiful and moving, and then leaving.

 

There is a strange disconnect here. While there is a power dynamic that is built with the camera, there is potential for equal vulnerability on either side of the camera. (I say potential here because that is not always what happens). Mary Ellen Mark’s works is an exceptional example of photography that is made more evocative for the viewer because the photographer was affected by the work as well.

 Streetwise, Mary Ellen Mark. 1983.

Mary Ellen Mark’s work didn’t reach the front page of the newspaper, because it takes more than a split second to realize what is happening, what the cultural context of the photograph is, and why it is important. My thinking is, the importance of the work should shadow the importance of being first page on a newspaper. Being on the first page of a newspaper is a fine goal to have,  but it may not be mine anymore.

The personal value and connection that a photographer has to a single photograph, along with context, can be more important than having the most incredible image.  Both are essential to the art of photography, but each will not affect the photographer in the same way. A photographer should care more about the subject than the photographs produced. If a photographer cares, and has the adequate technical skill, the photograph will speak for itself in intensity and emotion.

Sadie Hope-Gund is the Library Intern at ICP this summer for two months. She just completed her first year at Brown University, and is looking forward to writing for Monsters & Madonnas more in the coming weeks!

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