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photo-eye Gallery From the Flat Files: Staged Photography photo-eye Gallery
Staging a photograph is similar to the process of composing a canvas. Rather than capturing a fleeting moment, artists make specific choices when constructing their images — by intentionally placing elements and arranging compositions, they stage the environments and events.

Julie Blackmon, Snow Days, 2021, archival pigment ink, 22 x 29 inches, edition of 7, $4000

 
With or without snow (and yes it's melting), it seems like we’ve had 350 snow days in a row. I have so much respect for the parents who have spent months upon months nonstop with their kids underfoot. It’s unnatural and next to impossible.

The thing is, too much together time is hard, but too much alone time is, too. The simultaneous desire to connect and disconnect. They're such primal needs — the need to draw close and then to retreat.

— Julie Blackmon

 
Staging a photograph is similar to the process of composing a canvas. Rather than capturing a fleeting moment, artists make specific choices when constructing their images — by intentionally placing elements and arranging compositions, they stage the environments and events. The photographer, in addition to his role as an image-maker, also becomes a director, stage and costume designer, make-up artist and, occasionally, a performer as well.


This week we are thrilled to explore this exciting genre by taking a look at some of our favorite staged photographs from our collection. We start with Julie Blackmon's most recent image, Snow Days (pictured above). Enjoy!

 

Ernie Button

Ernie Button, Cheeramids #3, 2005, archival pigment print, 11 x 14 inches, edition of 20, $300

 
As part of our video series photo-eye Conversations, photo-eye Gallery Director Anne Kelly interviewed Ernie Button about his photographic practice and his most recent work from the Vanishing Spirits series. Watch their conversation on Vimeo.

» View More Work by Ernie Button



Richard Tuschman

Richard Tuschman, Pondering Life at Age 4, 2016-2020, archival pigment print, 14.5 x 21.5 inches, edition of 5, $2000
 
photo-eye Gallery is currently showing Richard Tuschman's My Childhood Reassembled, an online solo exhibition by the New York-based photographer. Be sure to check it out!

 
To learn more about Carla van de Puttelaar's work, check out the interview she did with photo-eye.
 

Anne Kelly interviewed Carroll about her photographic practice and her book Domestic Demise. This fabulous book comprises the fourth part of Carroll's ongoing photographic series “Anonymous Women.” Watch their amazing conversation on Vimeo.
 



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For more information, and to purchase prints, please contact Gallery Director Anne Kelly or Gallery Assistant Patricia Martin, or you may also call us at 505-988-5152 x202

 
Book Review The Color of a Flea’s Eye Photographs by Taryn Simon Reviewed by Blake Andrews “We live in a world in which we are bombarded by images. Thousands of them hit our eyeballs every day through various channels: TV, Internet, video games, print, vernacular reality, and good old-fashioned photographic prints. The deluge is so constant that it might be hard to remember a time when reality’s mediation was less pervasive..."

The Color of a Flea’s Eye. By Taryn Simon.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=DT868
The Color of a Flea’s Eye
Photographs by Taryn Simon

Editions Cahiers d'Art, 2020. 460 pp., 13¼x10".

We live in a world in which we are bombarded by images. Thousands of them hit our eyeballs every day through various channels: TV, Internet, video games, print, vernacular reality, and good old-fashioned photographic prints. The deluge is so constant that it might be hard to remember a time when reality’s mediation was less pervasive. But that period was not so long in the past. Just a century ago, the flood of graphic arts was a mere trickle. Image encounters were far less commonplace, and the few that circulated in popular culture did so in a haphazard fashion, with no central repository to archive or distribute them efficiently. Someone hunting pictures of, say a boa constrictor or a flea’s eye, would have few resources.

To help alleviate the situation The New York Public Library organized The Picture Collection in 1915. This was a dedicated room on the third floor of the library’s mid-Manhattan branch on 5th Ave, which housed a plethora of physical images. Photos, drawings, posters, and diagrams of all types were clipped from disused materials, affixed to card stock, and carefully filed away. The sources ranged from famous to anonymous. All were mixed together, each item generically labeled by category and subcategory, e.g., Snakes — Boa. Google Image Search was still a few generations in the future, but New Yorkers of the time could implement their own primitive version by submitting keyword image requests through the library. Once filled, they could check out the materials just as they would books.

The Picture Collection quickly became popular, growing in size each year. At its mid-century peak, it circulated over a half million images annually, each researched by hand. Eventually, the demand outstripped the staff’s fulfillment ability, and public hours were trimmed to make time for internal reassortment. Decades later, The Picture Collection remains the largest physical picture library in the world, although the more valuable items no longer circulate.


If you find the early history of The Picture Collection arcane and fascinating within the current context of the digital revolution, you’re not alone. Taryn Simon was captivated too. She eventually devoted eight years to its systematic study. As with every photo project undertaken by Simon, there were no half measures. Her past books are consistently well researched, dense, and immense. Weighing in at 7 pounds, 13 inches tall, and with 460 pages, The Color Of A Flea’s Eye may be the largest one yet. With a leatherette cover and quiet mid-century typeface, the spine of this massive tome looks like something one might find buried in the stacks of an old library. It might be my imagination, but its pages even smell like an old library book, with a faint musty odor. The scent of ancient tales. The cover’s design is more contemporary, but only slightly. It’s a rote listing of subcategories from The Picture Collection.


Like its subject, the book’s reach is ambitious. There is a lot of ground to cover since 1915. The book is cleanly divided into color-coded sections to help maintain some order. Introductory essays by Joshua Chang and Tim Griffin provide a historic overview of the collection and Simon’s connection to it. Then the plates commence with a selection of folder contents drawn from The Picture Collection. With over a million items distributed over 12,000 categories, only a small fraction can be shown. But the sheer range photographed by Simon — Beards & Mustaches, Explosions, Gavels, Rear Views, etc — hint at its gargantuan scale. They are reproduced in the book as tipped-in plates, each one showcasing several dozen small artifacts.

The next section reproduces archival documents surrounding the collection. The archive’s narrative core comes into sharper focus through the figure of Romana Javitz. As the head of the collection in its early heyday from 1929 to 1968, she was chiefly responsible for its success and later organizational form. Javitz had a hand in most of the collection’s dealings during her long tenure, and at this point, her name is an integral piece of its history. Simon spends hundreds of pages sharing a chronology of archival documents. They primarily span the mid-part of the 20th century, and all putatively concern the collection. But as a subtext, they provide a broad sketch of Javitz, her professional life and friendly correspondence. There is a note from Lewis Hine to Javitz bemoaning his financial straits. A letter from Roy Stryker enquires into the possibility that Javitz might store FSA photos at The Picture Collection (it would eventually acquire 40,000). A multi-month exchange between Javitz and Dorothea Lange gives an inside view into the nuts and bolts of art acquisition. These old letters are collected alongside less personal items, such as ledgers, agendas, picture request forms, and other daily ephemera. Taken as a whole, they provide a wonderful history of both The Collection and Javitz, their two paths inextricably intertwined.

Following this is a sampling of photographs from the collection. Although it’s just a smattering, there are enough to convey the collection’s heavyweight importance. Most of the mid-century luminaries are here: Adams, Stieglitz, Shahn, Evans, Lange, Parks, Levitt, Bubley, Capa, and so on, sometimes in varied multiples. Their prints are shown front and back, revealing the organizational imprints often stamped on verso. This is as close to seeing them as most readers will get, since the actual photos were deemed too valuable for general circulation, and were shuffled off to a specialized photographic collection in 1982. The last section in the book is an alphabetical listing of The Picture Collection subheadings — all 12,000 of them in tiny print. If this last section seems excessive — will anyone actually read all of them? — it is in keeping with Simon’s general modus operandi. To repeat, her books take no half measures.


The Color Of A Flea’s Eye (the phrase adopted from an early keyword request to The Picture Collection) arrives in a world in which image research has become a routine fact of life. For perhaps the first time in history, virtually any image is now locatable within seconds, at the click of a button. Looking back, the idea of physically archiving and searching such material feels rather quaint. And yet The Picture Collection survives to the present day; patrons still visit the library and check out materials. And, one wonders what the bookmakers of tomorrow might think of Simon's book. How might they approach or analyze our current systems of image organization? Will we leave any physical pictures for posterity? The future is yet to be written, but today The Color of a Flea's Eye is a landmark study and historical marker.

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Blake Andrews is a photographer based in Eugene, OR. He writes about photography at blakeandrews.blogspot.com.

photo-eye Gallery OPENING TODAY | My Childhood Reassembled by Richard Tuschman photo-eye Gallery
photo-eye Gallery is thrilled to present My Childhood Reassembled, an online solo exhibition by New York-based photographer Richard Tuschman.

Richard Tuschman, Five O'Clock Shadows, 2016-2019, archival pigment print, 14.5 x 21.5 inches, edition of 5, $2000

photo-eye Gallery is thrilled to present My Childhood Reassembled, an online solo exhibition by New York-based photographer Richard Tuschman.

In the beautifully nostalgic, contemplative, and visually captivating new work by Richard Tuschman, the real world fuses with digitally created realms, resulting in seamless images portraying the magical and fluid times of youth. A self-taught model maker and photographer, Tuschman painstakingly crafted miniature sets of his childhood home, photographed them, and then digitally inserted real models into the images to recreate the most significant memories from his early years in emotionally compelling scenes with open-ended narratives.

My Childhood Reassembled uses photo-eye’s revolutionary new VisualServer X website builder and is the third in photo-eye's series of online exhibitions, and is the artist's third exhibition with photo-eye Gallery.

 
Richard Tuschman, Early Morning, 2016-2019, archival pigment print, 14.5 x 21.5 inches, edition of 5, $2000

Artist Statement:

I grew up in the American suburban Midwest of the early 1960s. This project reflects my experience in that time and place as a young child trying to make sense out of his world and his family relationships. For this visual memoir, I photographically recreated selected vignettes from my childhood. Based on memory and family snapshots, I constructed a replica of portions of the interior and exterior of my childhood home. I then directed and photographed an ensemble of actor-models who resembled my family members.

The title,
My Childhood Reassembled, in addition to describing the act of physically reconstructing the environment, also refers to the science that has shown that memories are not static, but are recreated and reassembled each time they are conjured in the human brain.
 
The set is a replica of the modest house in Shaker Heights, Ohio, where my parents, brother, sister and I lived from 1958–1966, or from when I was age two to age ten. These were my formative years, and my most significant and emotionally resonant childhood memories spring from then and there. Architecturally, the house was exceptionally unremarkable. Built in 1955 on one quarter of an acre, the utilitarian two-family, red brick cube contained two identical three-bedroom apartments, one on each of its two floors. Devoid of almost any architectural ornamentation, the textures and physical characteristics I recall most vividly are the coarse, tightly woven pale brown wall-to-wall carpeting, the mostly unadorned plain, off-white walls, the blue-green mid-century patterned linoleum in the kitchen, the harsh light from the large picture window in the living room, and the rough red brick texture of the exterior. What interests me are the many rich emotional associations conjured by these simple sensory recollections. For example, when I think of the heavily varnished, badly nicked, inexpensive hollow-core bedroom doors I remember the complicated, mixed feelings I harbored towards my siblings, who were alternately my best friends and arch-rivals. When I think of the kitchen linoleum floor, I remember wondering, with a mix of anxiety and curiosity, about the mysteries of my parents’ marriage, trying to make sense of their hushed tones as they spoke quietly in that room when my father came home from work late at night.
 
Richard Tuschman, Pretend Grown Ups, 2016-2019, archival pigment print, 14.5 x 21.5 inches, edition of 5, $2000

The visually nondescript rooms of
My Childhood Reassembled, in contrast to the more romantically picturesque architectural elements and textures of past projects, confront the viewer as stubbornly aesthetically mute, and this is how I remember them. Thus, by necessity, I have relied almost completely on a variety of expressive lighting strategies, along with the actors’ expressions and body language, to convey the range of moods.

Childhood is as emotionally complex a period as any other stage of life, though as children we lack the ability to put such a wide range of feelings into any coherent perspective. Life then can be at times especially magical, at times mysterious, and at times bewilderingly sad. My hope and my aim has been to create a picture that expresses both the joy and pathos of childhood, as reflected in the fluctuating and ever-changing mirror of my memory.
– Richard Tuschman

 
 
 

Richard Tuschman © 2021



• • • • •
 

Richard Tuschman's new works are available in two sizes. Currently, all prints are in their 1st tier, but prints are limited and prices are subject to change.

For more information, and to purchase prints, please contact Gallery Director Anne Kelly or Gallery Assistant Patricia Martin, or you may also call us at 505-988-5152 x202
 
 
Book Review Greater Atlanta Photographs by Mark Steinmetz Reviewed by Odette England "Absorb more poetry. It’s neither a belated New Year’s resolution nor an item on my to-do list, it’s a mental reminder to feed my soul and beam it outward to others. In our world of swiping, liking, texting, emoji exchange, and other forms of quick contact through partitions and pixels, absorb more poetry is one antidote..."

Greater Atlanta by Mark Steinmetz.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=ZJ553
Greater Atlanta
Photographs by Mark Steinmetz

Nazraeli Press, CA, USA, 2020. 88 pp., 73 illustrations, 10½x12".

Absorb more poetry.

It’s neither a belated New Year’s resolution nor an item on my to-do list, it’s a mental reminder to feed my soul and beam it outward to others. In our world of swiping, liking, texting, emoji exchange, and other forms of quick contact through partitions and pixels, absorb more poetry is one antidote. The keyword being absorb. Take things in, soak them up. Let one’s pores fill like a sponge until they are heavy, a reassuring kind of heavy, like a weighted blanket.

This year I am absorbing the poetry of Georgia Blanche Douglas Camp, an African-American poet and playwright born in 1880 in Atlanta, Georgia. I began on January 1 with Camp’s 1918 poem, “The Heart of a Woman”: 

The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn,

As a lone bird, soft winging, so restlessly on,

Afar o'er life's turrets and vales does it roam

In the wake of those echoes the heart calls home.

The heart of a woman falls back with the night,

And enters some alien cage in its plight,

And tries to forget it has dreamed of the stars

While it breaks, breaks, breaks on the sheltering bars.
These beautiful and intense words reverberate when I receive Mark Steinmetz’ photobook Greater Atlanta, brought on by the cover photograph. I languish in its shadows and light. The black-and-white image, Barrow County, GA, 1994, shows a young black girl looking over her left shoulder, directly into Steinmetz’ lens. Dressed in a striped shirt, standing in a parking lot at night. Her expression is complicated, multi-layered, and magnetic. Just as Camp deliberately chose and arranged language for its meaning, sound, and cadence, so too does Steinmetz in this image, and the 72 that follow, all made between 1992 and 2008.


The book, a newly remastered edition of the 2009 Nazraeli Press publication, is part of a trilogy called “South”, the first of which, South Central, was published in 2007. According to Nazraeli, the format, sequence, and design mirror the original printings — including Linh Dinh’s poem “Recent Archeo News” — but the materials have been improved with a sumptuous cloth cover and matt fine art paper.

After several armchair visits to Greater Atlanta, similarities in themes between Steinmetz’ images and Camp’s words intensify, each making my skin prickle and tingle at different registers. There is seclusion, solitude, pain, love, the role and costs of living — for it is a role each of us pays to play — compassion, yearning, and progress.

It starts with love. The first image inside the book is a close-up view of a car, the upper windshield and part of the roof, upon which is a drawn outline of a love heart. It is daytime, sunny; the car is stationary, the road in the background devoid of action or objects. Steinmetz winks at this little ideograph. We are going on a journey of tenderness it whispers, winking back. But like all great love stories and all great poems, the trip will be unpredictable, touching, and traumatic. The twists of the girl’s hair in the cover image resound again. I buckle my imaginary seatbelt.

Initially what stands out are recurring subjects and photographic behaviors: asphalt, transport, windows, overgrowth, darkness, animals, contours, branches, hands, bricks, scars, offcuts, and highlights. Then I change gears for a Sunday drive through the pages. I’m looking at actions and feelings. Penetration, protection, and departure. A stand-off between two broken trees. A brother with his long arm draped around his younger sibling. A flock of ducks, almost in a line, waddling away from Steinmetz. I’m looking at sound and sensation. Two chattering cherubs of a weather-worn statue, their stone hearts warmed by a splinter of sunlight. The rustle of a brown paper bag in the crook of an arm. The pressing of vinyl when you slide into your favorite booth at your favorite diner. It is a book of visual particulars displayed as emotions that swing less like a pendulum and more like petals tossed during a game of she loves me, she loves me not, Greater Atlanta loves me, it loves me not…


What I am most absorbed by are the facial expressions. Most mouths are closed. Most eyes focus on a specific something — a newspaper, another face, a cigarette, an ATM — or nothing at all. There are few smiles, fewer frowns. Each portrait vibrates, a hum of the age apathy. In the image of two young black girls striding through a parking lot in front of a coin laundry, I hear Camp’s “Calling Dreams”:
The right to make my dreams come true,

I ask, nay, I demand of life;

Nor shall fate's deadly contraband

Impede my steps, nor countermand;

Too long my heart against the ground
Has beat the dusty years around;

And now at length I rise! I wake!

And stride into the morning break!
There is a photograph around the halfway mark, intentionally placed I hope, at which I pull over. It is taken from inside Steinmetz’ car looking out the window to the other side of the highway, heavy with traffic. But Steinmetz also includes his rear vision mirror and the steady stream leaving the city with him. This is the ‘Greater’, a sort of middle ground between committing to a lifelong relationship with the urban whirr or its deceptively simpler peripheries.


I love a photobook with extra legroom. There is no superfluous design here. The white space is liberal, and the sequencing is cool and smooth. Its elegance gives way to the images.

The journey ends with a 3x4” photograph, Steinmetz looking skyward at a squirrel running along a powerline, as if headed back to the book’s beginning. The connection is palpable, the day-active creature scurrying back to see the night-active girl on the book’s cover. Squirrels are an adaptive and resilient species because they are under constant threat; from people, other animals, and the ever-changing environment around them. Perhaps the people and places Steinmetz introduces us to.

The core common denominator, though, is the absence of time. Whether I’m absorbing Camp’s poetry or Steinmetz’ photographs, time doesn’t fly by or slip away. There is no time. There is no “Junior” wearing his cap backwards, sitting outside on a step, taking a break to read Women’s Physique World. There is no concrete sidewalk etched crudely with ANN, ANNA, ANNIE ANA ANNE. There is no abandoned Ruscha-esque gasoline station nuzzled in fog. No man resting on a bench wearing mirrored sunglasses and a hat emblazoned with BEEN THERE.

There is no time, only place, Greater Atlanta. Thanks to Steinmetz I have been there. A place to be absorbed in and by, a place of visual poetry through Steinmetz’ patient and watchful eyes, and a place of community, passing, oppression, affection, and wild imagination.

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Odette England is an artist and writer; an Assistant Professor and Artist-in-Residence at Amherst College in Massachusetts; and a resident artist of the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Studio Program in New York. Her work has shown in more than 90 solo, two-person, and group exhibitions worldwide. England’s first edited volume Keeper of the Hearth was published by Schilt Publishing (2020), with a foreword by Charlotte Cotton. Radius Books will publish her second book Past Paper // Present Marks in collaboration with the artist Jennifer Garza-Cuen in spring 2021 including essays by Susan Bright, David Campany, and Nicholas Muellner.

photo-eye Gallery Maggie Taylor: New Images + Conversation photo-eye Gallery
Recently, as part of our video series photo-eye Conversations, photo-eye Gallery Director Anne Kelly interviewed Maggie Taylor. They discussed the artist's latest work, her upcoming book, and her process in great depth.
 
photo-eye Gallery is excited to share new images from represented artist Maggie Taylor.

Maggie Taylor has been utilizing digital technology to build her evocative and elaborate photomontages for over 20 years. These whimsical narratives often begin as pastel background drawings. Additional components, such as drawings, vintage toys, seashells, feathers, taxidermy, and 19th Century photographs, are then scanned and meticulously arranged overtime to complete the scene. Working intuitively, Taylor crafts a surreal alternate reality that is rich in symbolism.
 
Recently, as part of our video series photo-eye Conversations, photo-eye Gallery Director Anne Kelly interviewed Taylor. They discussed the artist's latest work, her upcoming book, and her process in great depth. Don't miss this fascinating conversation, available below or on Vimeo!
 

 
 
 
Maggie Taylor's new works are available in four sizes. Currently, all prints are in their 1st tier, but prints are limited and prices are subject to change.
 
For more information about Maggie Taylor, and to purchase prints, please contact Gallery Director Anne Kelly or Gallery Assistant Patricia Martin, or you may also call us at 505-988-5152 x202.
 
Maggie Taylor, The Adventure, 2021, archival pigment print, 8 x 8 inches, edition of 15, $1500


Maggie Taylor, Me, Myself and I, 2021, archival pigment print, 8 x 8 inches, edition of 15, $1500


"I work very spontaneously and intuitively, trying to come up with images that have a resonance and a somewhat mysterious narrative content. There is no one meaning for any of the images, rather they exist as a kind of visual riddle or open-ended poem, meant to be both playful and provocative. "Maggie Taylor
 
 
Maggie Taylor, The Wanderer, 2021, archival pigment print, 8 x 8 inches, edition of 15, $1500


Portrait of the Artist © Maggie Taylor






Book Store Interview Night Calls Photographs by Rebecca Norris Webb Interview by Allie Haeusslein Drawing inspiration from W. Eugene Smith’s iconic photo essay Country Doctor (1948), Brooklyn-based photographer Rebecca Norris Webb spent six years regularly returning to Rush County, Indiana. This is the rural community where both she and her father were born, and where he subsequently worked as the community’s country doctor. Night Calls intimately chronicles her experience within this community, among its current residents, and her past recollections of Rush County.
Night Calls. By Carole Glauber.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=DT874
Night Calls
Photographs by Rebecca Norris Webb

Radius Books, Santa Fe, USA, 2020. 128 pp., 61 illustrations, 8½x9¾".

Drawing inspiration from W. Eugene Smith’s iconic photo essay Country Doctor (1948), Brooklyn-based photographer Rebecca Norris Webb spent six years regularly returning to Rush County, Indiana. This is the rural community where both she and her father were born, and where he subsequently worked as the community’s country doctor. Night Calls intimately chronicles her experience within this community, among its current residents, and her past recollections of Rush County.

Retracing her father’s professional routine, Norris Webb worked primarily at night and in the early morning hours, creating ethereal photographs of Rush County’s landscape. She juxtaposes these dreamlike scenes with tender portraits of her father’s former patients and, in some instances, their families, evoking the tight-knit, multigenerational nature of this community. Originally a poet, she deftly interweaves poignant texts rooted in her experiences and memories amidst her photographs. Night Calls is a multilayered portrait of this place and an extension of Norris Webb’s abiding interest in the relationships between people, memory, and the natural world.

Norris Webb took the time to speak with Allie Haeusslein about this most recent monograph, delving into greater detail about the underlying motivations and processes behind the making, editing, and completion of this deeply personal endeavor.


Allie Haeusslein (AH): In Night Calls, you lyrically address your perceptions and childhood memories of your father, his role in your rural county as a doctor, and your relationship to the landscape where you were raised. Do you remember the initial impetus for this project?

Rebecca Norris Webb (RNW): Night Calls is a project that I’d been thinking about since I was a young photographer at the ICP. That’s when I first came across Eugene Smith’s iconic Life photo-essay, Country Doctor. I remember thinking: How would a woman tell this story, especially if she happened to be the doctor’s daughter?

After finishing my second monograph, My Dakota, I finally had the creative space to begin this project. I work intuitively, so my first trips to Rush County were exploratory. I began to retrace the routes of some of my father’s house calls through this rural county where we both were born.

AH: In addition to relying on his handwritten patient logs, did you and your father talk about his recollections of working in Rush County?


RNW: My father was very much a collaborator, freely sharing his memories with me. Since he no longer travels, I was his eyes and ears in Rush County, bringing him back news of his former patients, which often sparked more memories.

AH: Over the six years you worked on it, how did the form and content of Night Calls evolve?

RNW: During my third trip, everything shifted. That’s when I decided to echo his doctor’s work rhythms, photographing largely at night and in the early morning, when many of us come into the world — Dad delivered some thousand babies — and many of us leave it. All of a sudden, the project broke open for me, both emotionally and visually.


AH: In addition to retracing his work rhythms, you talk about trying to evoke his “gentle bedside manner” when photographing his former patients and, in some cases, their families or descendants. What steps did you take to realize that demeanor in your process?

RNW: I’m rather shy, so I left many of the portraits until the last year of the project. That’s when I stumbled across my inspiration. I read how August Sander made portraits of German farmers “working much like a country doctor making house calls.” It dawned on me to try to channel Dad’s gentle bedside manner. As a doctor, he’s a man of few words, someone who listens closely and sees deeply. So, listening intently to his former patients’ stories — many involving a birth or near death — I worked with them to choose where in their home to make the collaborative portrait. More often than not, it was a doorway or window, which, like many of their experiences, were kinds of thresholds.

Since memories of my father were on their minds — and hinted at in their daydreamy gazes — I see these photographs, taken together, as a kind of slantwise portrait of Dad.


AH: “Slantwise” also describes the quality of the handwritten texts interspersed throughout Night Call. As with many of your other projects, text plays an important role here. Can you share more about the relationship between your writing and photographs in this body of work?

RNW: I think in images, whether I have a camera in my hand — or a pencil. That means that the photographs tend to come first, the words later on. Working in Rush County — where the landscape seemed to call to me — the beginning of the project was as much about listening as it was about looking. On foggy mornings while walking along Blue River Road — where Dad grew up and where our Quaker family lived for a hundred years — I found sometimes that the first lines of text pieces came to me. It was as if I could hear what I saw.

Only near the project’s end, did I settle on image and text pairings. Ideally, I hoped these photos/texts would expand our view of this landscape, sometimes by suggesting the more elusive metaphysical geography that lies outside the frame — including memory, history, reverie, as well as birth and death, suffering and compassion. “I have always aspired to a more spacious form,” to quote the poet Czeslaw Milosz. This has long been one of my photographic obsessions.


AH: What ideas most strongly guided your editing and sequencing process when you were conceiving the project in book form?

RNW: I try to edit intuitively, to let the rhythm and palette of a project guide me — slowly and organically — to the final sequence and shape of the book.

With Night Calls, the palette was varying shades of blues — from the ethereal blues of fog to the midnight blue of moonlit skies to the violet-blue clouds of thunderstorms, the color of a bruise. In Rush County, where the air is often heavy with humidity, you can feel the weight in your body. These Rush County blues — which sometimes feel part of you — are emotional hues as well. They are ever-shifting as water, the blues of transformation.

As I worked more deeply into the project, I began to see the shape of the book as meandering: passing through different kinds of weather, going back and forth in time — from the present to the near past to the distant past — while meditating on the relationship between memory and one’s first landscape, fathers and daughters, and the history that divides us as much as heals us. It seems fitting that the book’s sequence is as winding as Big Blue River, and perhaps as memory itself.


AH: Now that you have this beautiful book in hand, I have to ask: what does your father think of the finished monograph?

RNW: Not surprisingly, my father’s response when I’d asked him what he thought about Night Calls was another memory—one I’d never heard before. It was about a family who lived on a remote farm. Although one of the children had an alarmingly high fever, they were wary of this unfamiliar, young doctor on their doorstep. After helping bring down the toddler’s fever, however, Dad won the entire family over. They remained his patients for twenty years—and his personal friends, decades longer.

At the end of our phone call, his most heartening words, though, weren’t about Night Calls. He said that, thankfully, their family doctor saved her last two COVID-19 vaccines for Dad, who is now 100, and Mom, who is 93. Hearing the lightness in his voice, I smiled with relief. Their family doctor has definitely won me over.

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Allie Haeusslein
is the Associate Director of Pier 24 Photography in San Francisco.
photo-eye Gallery Michael Kenna: New Images from Japan photo-eye Gallery
photo-eye Gallery is delighted to present new images from represented artist Michael Kenna. Photographed in 2020, these beautiful works are characteristic of Kenna’s dynamic minimalistic style, as well as his fascination with the ethereal wintry landscapes on the island of Hokkaido, Japan.

photo-eye Gallery is delighted to present new images from represented artist Michael Kenna. Photographed in 2020, these beautiful works are characteristic of Kenna’s dynamic minimalistic style, as well as his fascination with the ethereal wintry landscapes on the island of Hokkaido, Japan.

The toned gelatin-silver prints are hand made by Kenna, and available as 8x8 inch prints in an edition of 25 starting at $3000. At the time of this post, all prints are in their 1st tier, but prints are limited and prices are subject to change.

For more information about Michael Kenna, and to purchase prints, please contact Gallery Director Anne Kelly or Gallery Assistant Patricia Martin, or you may also call us at 505-988-5152 x202.

Michael Kenna, Dakekanba and Snow Barriers, Hokkaido, Japan, 2020, toned gelatin-silver print, 8 x 8 inches, edition of 25, $3000

“I often think of my work as visual haiku. It is an attempt to evoke and suggest through as few elements as possible rather than to describe with tremendous detail.” 

 

Michael Kenna, Orumnai Ice, Hokkaido, Japan, 2020, toned gelatin-silver print, 8 x 8 inches, edition of 25, $3000

 
Michael Kenna, Three Trees in Pasture, Hokkaido, Japan, 2020, toned gelatin-silver print, 8 x 8 inches, edition of 25, $3000

 

“I gravitate towards places where humans have been and are no more, to the edge of man’s influence, where the elements are taking over or covering man’s traces.”

 

Michael Kenna, Approaching Ice Floe, Okhosk Sea, Hokkaido, Japan, 2020, toned gelatin-silver print, 8 x 8 inches, edition of 25, $3000


Michael Kenna, Biei, Hokkaido, Japan, 2009 ©Mark Silva
 

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