I had not seen much of Ralph Gibson‘s work, only some of his peripheral projects – I knew his name well as he’s revered in the church of Leica and cult of Rodinal – then this evening I came by a used copy of his book Deus Ex Machina, and after flipping through it I had much more respect for what he’s put together over the years.  I was going to write some composition theory mumbo-jumbo that had crossed my mind, but then I saw this thorough interview with Gibson that covers all of that and more quite nicely.

photo: “Mary Ellen and Hand,” ©Ralph Gibson.

This image reminds me of that phenomenal French short La Jetée that I posted a little while back: here…in case you missed that one.

photo: Cigarette Box #5, 2009. ©Graeme Mitchell.

My friend, Kelly, sent me this video of Vik Muniz speaking for TED (which are often excellent talks if you’ve never seen them).

It’s welcome relief, and also I think rare, in the visual arts to see someone do work that is thoughtful and technically interesting but moreover that is inspired with humor.

Nice start to the day.

One of the canons of the contemporary American canon, John Updike, died yesterday.

photo: “Massachusetts – John Updike, 1962.  ©Dennis Stock / Magnum.

“We do survive every moment, after all, except the last one.”
-John Updike

…though I much prefer,

Existence itself does not feel horrible; it feels like an ecstasy, rather, which we have only to be still to experience.”
-John Updike

Met up with a stylist/fashion-ed yesterday for lunch and we were talking work; work work work: what’s new, what’s good, what’s fresh…you get the idea.  She told me to look at Miles Aldridge‘s work.  Not exactly a new name, but I’m thinking, the guy who shoots shiny for NYTimes mag?  She responds, yeah maybe, but look at his stuff, digital wah!, which I know you’re not into, but it’s fucked up, which I know you are into.  True and true…for the most part.

Given the post, I obviously did check out his work and obviously liked it.  I mean, how to make a watch sing:

photo: Minuit, Paradis, 2007. ©Miles Aldridge.

Now that’s not so much twisted as more digestably erotic, excellent nonetheless.  If you shoot sexy in fashion you’re pretty much coming from one of two similar but also disparate schools.  Newton, who made for a confluence of the erotic and style. Or Bourdin, who did the same with eroticism and discomfort.  Aldridge’s lineage is more of the latter.  The difference is that Bourdin’s work tunneled below the image to something more troubling.  There was an honesty to what he did, and much of his work then manages to transcend a sexually disquieted idea to a palpably troubling psychological event, to something that approaches the sick, but subtly so. (Not to say Aldridge’s work is superficial or dishonest, not at all, rather maybe I’m just pointing out in a round about way it’s contemporary traits.  Suggesting the possibility that our current culture may be more reserved and commercial than, say, the 1920s or 1960s in some manners.  We often associate the past with simplicity and a pietist nature and the the present with the opposite…consider that possibly we like to give ourselves undue credit in these regards, while culture and history ebb and flow.)  Old news though, as I’ve hashed Bourdin here before, as countless have elsewhere.

photo: for Vogue magazine, ©Guy Bourdin Foundation.

But, if you want to see some actual footage of him, which is as rare as anything, someone emailed me this show (in eight short parts) last week of Rankin recreating some classic work.  My first thoughts on the shows was a not getting the, why, but then I guess it’s for TV so that makes overall futilities excusable.  Never mind that though, b/c I think it’s worth a watch for the superb old footage alone…or for David Baily.









Sometimes I think I use these fragments to fortify myself against the obscenity of life.  They’re put aside in reserve and their absurdity, even if a fabrication, shores up a guard against a certain kind of injury…so I can imagine or dream these limits and continuously exceed them, and I’m then unshaken by reality’s more belligerent versions, by the wrenches of life’s more general and specious variations of realpolitik.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

For those of you who didn’t hear, Andrew Wyeth passed away last Fri.  Christina’s World is the one painting I’ll always stop to visit with when at the MOMA.


photo: “PENNSYLVANIA—Painter Andrew Wyeth, 1991.”  ©David Alan Harvey/Magnum.

Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
-from T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

Nearly as an aside, I was at a friend’s apartment last night and she’d just bought an issue of Harper’s Bazaar from 1946. While looking through it I just kept reiterating how little had changed, I mean, aside from improved films and printing technology, the content really remains the same. Actually the design, font, art direction of this Bazaar was more sophisticated and interesting and in a way more contemporary than much of what’s done today – the use of white space alone seemed far ahead of our time.  It made me appreciate why Alexey Brodovitch was and remains so lauded.

photo: Brodovitch lay-out in 1945 Harper’s Bazaar.

Brodovitch, you could say, discovered or groomed Avedon, bringing him in to shoot for Harper’s when he was 22.  Those two working together became such a seminal time for the magazine and for fashion that they’re now commonly referred to as, The Avedon Years:

photo: 1952 Harper’s Bazaar cover by Avedon.

Brodovitch incidentally was also Penn‘s teacher while he was studying painting at the Philadelphia Museum School.  Later Brodovitch hired Penn at Harper’s for design and layout.  Penn later moved to Vogue, I believe again with the function as a designer/creative, but Vogue’s Alexander Liberman had him do a photograph for the magazine, and the rest, of course, is history.

(Huh, interesting, I just noticed both that Brodovitch and Liberman were originally Russian…)

In this particular copy of Harper’s my friend had the fashion story was by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, who’ve I’ve mentioned before (here) as a notable influence on the early years or editorial fashion photography.

photo: by Louise Dahl-Wolfe for Harper’s Bazaar, circa 1950s I think.

And that last image goes back to my original point of nothing being new under the sun.  Reshoot it on Portra 160VC replace the warmth with a little cyan and it might as well have been Craig McDean that shot it.  Okay, not exactly, but you get the idea.

“All intelligent thoughts have already been thought;
what is necessary is only to try to think them again.”
-from Goethe’s Faust

This photograph from Antoine D’Agata’s book Hometown…it, it, as an old timer might say, hits me where I live.

photo: “France-2002” ©Antoine D’Agata/Magnum.

Concentrating on a few shoots right now.

In the meantime, this is that something swell:

photo: Avedon, Penn, and Newton, from left to right, © unknown, found here.

photo: Cigarette Box #4. ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: Cigarette Box #3. ©Graeme Mitchell, 2008.

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell 2008

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell 2008

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell 2008

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell 2008

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell 2008

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell 2008

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell 2008

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell 2008

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell 2008

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell 2008

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell 2008

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell 2008

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell 2008

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell 2008

photo: ©Graeme Mitchell 2008