Archive for March, 2011

Colombia 2011, very rough scans

March 25, 2011

I was in Colombia for all of January, February and the first half of March. There’s no lab anywhere in the country that will process large format film. I had to take it all with me to New York. Thankfully none of it was damaged by the x-ray scanners at the airport. Here are a few pictures from my time there:

Cellphone minute vendors in main square of Villavicencio

This was the first time I’ve ever done street portraits of strangers with my 8×10 camera. Asking strangers for photos with such a large and strange-looking camera is not hard at all. I found the hard part to be dealing with all the attention the camera drew. That, and trying to figure out how to direct people in the photo once they said yes. I ended up taking a lot of pictures of people standing exactly in the middle of the frame, looking at the lens. Not that it’s a bad look, necessarily.

Osiris in Bosa, Bogota

Often people just came up to me and asked to have their picture taken. I only had 3 film holders which meant I could only take 6 photos in any given outing. I had to say no a lot. In the photo below, this man came up to me and said he was the oldest gay in the square and that I should take his picture. I couldn’t say no to that. It was my last photo too.

The oldest gay in the square, Villavicencio

Taking pictures of strangers on the street without a clear idea of why or what for is a great way to burn through a lot of film and money, especially with an 8×10 camera where each picture costs about $20 [don’t blink!].

With my 4×5 camera I went to a lot of different neighborhoods and surrounding cities and mostly took of pictures of houses and small buildings. Bogota and its surrounding cities have a very interesting aesthetic. I think it has something to do with being at 8,000 feet in elevation and having it never be too hot or too cold. Let’s call it Goldilocks architecture. It’s all the stuff you can build if you never need central heat or air.

Abandoned House in Tunja

While I was out shooting, residents in the neighborhoods usually thought I was a city employee, assessing property values or something. People would come up to me and complain about potholes or broken lamp posts.

"Mini" Skyscraper in Puente Aranda, Bogota

Just being out and about I’d come across some interesting situations which I just had to photograph.

Golf "criollo" in La Calera

You’re probably wondering why these scans are so atrocious. They’re not actually scans. Contact sheets are really expensive in the US, so everything was just process only. All I had time for was to take a quick snapshot of the negative sitting on the light table at the lab with a digital point and shoot, which I then inverted in Photoshop. I wish I had access to a color dark room and/or a good scanner. Alas, I’m headed back to South America and I’ll be leaving these negatives with a friend here in New York for safekeeping. Someday I’ll have to do right by these pictures.

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Sze Tsung Leong – En Español

March 15, 2011

Born in Mexico City and raised in the UK and US, photographer Sze Tsung Leong does urban landscapes with an 8×10 camera. His current show at Yossi Milo gallery in New York, Cities, features a number of photos from Latin America.

© Sze Tsung Leong - Havana

I didn’t know it was possible to take a photograph in Havana that doesn’t feature an elegantly decayed pastel interior or a 1950s American automobile.

© Sze Tsung Leong - La Paz

© Sze Tsung Leong - Mexico City

© Sze Tsung Leong - Potosí

© Sze Tsung Leong - Quito

My favorite photo in the series is, of all places, of Manhattan. I can’t remember the last time I was surprised by an image from New York.

© Sze Tsung Leong - Lincoln Center

It’s ridiculous to post 400 pixel jpegs of big ass C-prints from an 8×10 negative [Yossi Milo’s website has bigger jpegs from the series]. I’m actually going to be in New York for a couple of weeks at the end of March so I’ll have the privilege of seeing this show in person.

I was curious if there were any interviews of Leong on YouTube. Interestingly, the only one I could find is in Spanish. It accompanied an exhibition at the Monterrey Museo de Arte Contemporaneo of his work, Horizons.

Emiliano Granado – Go Big or Go Home

March 12, 2011

I first started following Emiliano Granado’s work in 2008 when he was named part of the PDN 30 for that year. As I do each year, I looked at everyone’s website and for those who had blogs, added them to my RSS reader [lamentably, a technology that’s never taken off]. Since I was living in Argentina at the time, I was obviously very interested in his take on the place.

© Emiliano Granado from the series 'On the Coast'

About a year later I was doing an unpaid internship for a free English language newspaper in Buenos Aires. We were doing a story on Cumbia Villera and I emailed Emiliano asking for permission to use one of his photos.

© Emiliano Granado from the series 'Cumbia Villera.' That's Pablo Lescano

He said no, as I would have, because we had no budget and we were trolling for free content. Nevertheless, we struck up a correspondence and another year later, in the winter of 2010, we were both in Los Angeles at the same time and we met up for coffee. Afterwards, sitting in his rental car, he took out a box of these precious little 4×5″ polaroids from his “secret” project.

© Emiliano Granado - Time for Picture

I felt like an effete Englishman in the 19th century, on a grand tour of the Middle East, being shown a book of “naughty” postcards by some sly merchant. I wanted to look, to really stare, but felt guilty in his presence.

I remember asking him how many photos he took in a single session. The response floored me, accustomed as I was to the modest endeavors of cash-strapped photographers in Argentina. Sensing my surprise he said, simply, “go big or go home.” Perhaps it’s not the most original advice, but it’s something I’ve taken to heart in all my subsequent projects. Though I’m sad to miss tonight’s opening of his project Time for Print, I can’t wait to see it in person and stare to my heart’s content.

Juan Fernando Herrán – Campo Santo

March 11, 2011

Juan Fernando Herrán is a sculptor who occasionally does projects involving photography. Campo Santo is a body of work documenting an area of simple crosses. The crosses are hidden in a patch of forest and are made with simple materials found on site. They are made as a remembrance of area residents killed in Colombia’s violence. Making a cross out of two sticks is a very simple but also very powerful sculptural gesture.

Juan Fernando Herrán - Campo Santo

Juan Fernando Herrán - Campo Santo

All Ochava Solstices

March 8, 2011

All Ochava Solstices, overlaid in Photoshop

British artist Idris Khan took the typological photos of Bernd & Hilla Becher and overlaid them on top of eachother, digitally. The other morning I was bored and decided to do the same treatment to my series, Ochava Soltice, as it’s a typology very much in the spirit of the Becher’s. The result is the photo above. My Photoshop skills are pathetic so I was surprised at how trivially easy this was to do.

On my website I have 15 Ochava Solstices. Since putting the work on my website I’ve been able to take about 10 more. I’m planning on returning to Buenos Aires in a few months to continue working on the project. My goal is 50. It’s an arbitrary number but I now have an idea about how I would like to eventually exhibit this work and, more is better.

Maria Isabel Rueda – Reves

March 6, 2011

Right when I first got to Colombia, I was at a bit of a loss as to what to write about on this blog. Googling the term “Colombia Contemporary Photography” turned up this exhibit in the UK from which I then discovered the work of artist, illustrator and photographer Maria Isabel Rueda.

© Maria Isabel Rueda

© Maria Isabel Rueda

© Maria Isabel Rueda

These portraits are all titled ‘Reves’ although there is no additional text to the series. Rueda has other portrait series which are more straightforward in their categorization of their subjects; goths, beach goers, tourists covered in mud [it’s a Colombia thing]. I liked these portraits the best however. I’d recommend taking a tour through Rueda’s flickr stream as it contains a rich and varied sample of her many projects.

Karen Biswell – Portraits

March 3, 2011

While visiting the gallery Valenzuela Klenner, I liked a few photographs by Karen Biswell.  Later, looking at her site, I really, really liked her portraits.

© Karen Biswell

© Karen Biswell

© Karen Biswell

I’m sorry to have missed her earlier show at the gallery, A Tres Bandas, which shows the house of her grandfather, once Colombia’s champion billiards player, along with archival photographs of the master at work:

© Karen Biswell - A Tres Bandas

© Karen Biswell - A Tres Bandas