Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Michel Houellebecq - writes and photographs, beauty and brutality

Michel Houellebecq - France #014, 2016

In a June 16 piece in Artsy, my favorite online art resource, writer Michael Robbins talks about the photographs of controversial French novelist Michel Houellebecq.

There’s a description in the French writer Michel Houellebecq’s best novel, The Map and the Territory, that recurs to me often. Jed Martin, a painter and photographer who gets entangled with the famous novelist Michel Houellebecq, is walking down a Parisian boulevard:
"A Casino hypermarket and a Shell service station were the only perceptible centers of energy, the only social propositions likely to provoke desire, happiness, or joy. Jed already knew these lively places: he had been a regular customer of the Casino hypermarket for years, before switching to the Franprix in the boulevard de l’Hôpital. As for the Shell station, he also knew it well: on many a Sunday, he had appreciated being able to go there for Pringles and bottles of Hépar."
I have never been to Paris, but I too already know these lively places. So do you. Fungible temples of the commodity “as a force aspiring to the complete colonization of social life,” to quote Guy Debord. For most of us, such spaces are dead zones, not worth noticing, pit stops and way stations. (I never noticed the chintzy chandelier hanging from the ceiling of the deli I frequent almost daily until, thinking about Houellebecq’s work, I took a good look at the place.) Houellebecq’s protagonist sees these spaces as the only throbbing hearts in a diseased social body. Of course this means that contemporary society—French, but the idea extrapolates—is idiotic and brutal. Jed finds an oddly comforting beauty in it nevertheless.

Houellebecq’s camera discovers a depopulated—almost no people appear in any of the shots, even those of huge public housing blocks—and often depressing world. But like his novels, his photographs reveal the wit and allure of total disenchantment, the quirky loveliness of what Debord called “an insufficiently meaningful world.” Giant concrete letters spell out “EUROPE” in front of a desolate, monochromatic car park. A hotel corridor—darkened glass doors in the middle distance, blue lights spaced evenly along wood-paneled walls—is drenched in an eerie greenish-red glow. It can take the viewer a second to realize the corridor isn’t quite empty: Ghosts of guests flicker in the frame, leaving an impression of the universal tourist costume of jeans, sandals, book bag. It’s a simple but effective trick of exposure. In this pleasant field of corporate light and angles, people are an afterthought.

Occasionally I come across photographs I wish I had made. These stunning images made by Houellebecq most certainly are in that category...

You can read the full article HERE. And while you are at it, why not sign up for Artsy's regular mailings. You will not be disappointed.

Michel Houellebecq - France #002, 2017

Michel Houellebecq - Tourisme #014. 2016

Monday, June 19, 2017

Auckland - Back!!

Back in Auckland after five weeks in Europe - London, Paris, Rome. First outing a group show at Auckland City's public artspace - North Art. I'm showing my 2011 work, Auckland Apple. Shown here in conversation with Billy Apple in a photograph made by William Dart.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

London, Paris, Rome...

Harvey Benge - THE LAMENT, 2017

Today I leave for London, and from there Paris and Rome. I will be in London all this coming week for Photo London and if you are around will be signing my new photobook THE LAMENT at Dewi Lewis' stand at 2.30pm Saturday 20th.
If any of my European friends are up for a coffee, a beer or any other beverage please get in touch... my email is

Harvey Benge - London, November 2016

Friday, May 12, 2017

PHOTOBOOKSTORE UK - Always a pleasure to get their mailing...

In my opinion the UK's PHOTOBOOKSTORE is probably the best on-line resource for photobook collectors! It's always a pleasure to get their regular mailings. Today's mailing includes a list of most popular books which includes among others Ravens by Masahisa Fukase and Nausea by Ron Jude. There is a piece on Laura El-Tantawy’s new book Beyond Here Is Nothing and a list of selected books. There are links to latest books, signed books, rare books and more... well worth a look and a certainly joining their mailing list.

You can go to the PHOTOBBOKSTORE site HERE.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

THE MONTH BEFORE TRUMP - my new photobook

Harvey Benge - THE MONTH BEFORE TRUMP - with print

THE MONTH BEFORE TRUMP is a record of what I discovered in San Francisco and New York a month before the US presidential election last November. The bookwork is both an affectionate and sometimes critical look at a society that is at an existential watershed.

This 68 page book, 210 x 148 mm with 61 photographs is in a signed and numbered edition of 50 copies.

Each book comes with a signed and numbered limited edition print, which you can see at the top along with the cover of the book.

Copies can be obtained directly from me at:
Prices are, €25 / £22 / US$28 / NZ$40, the price include packing and postage. For payment you can simply log on to my PayPal account using my email address above.

Below are some of the spreads from the book:

Monday, May 1, 2017

MACK follows the making of a photobook with Clare Strand


Richard West from Northern Ireland's SOURCE publication reports that they have just published a film from MACK following the making of Clare Strand's book Girl Plays with Snake. The film looks at the publisher's contribution to making a book and the role the artist has in the development process. The video follows the making of the book from the first production meeting between artist and publisher through the design and printing to the launch itself.

With a running time of about 40 minutes, the documentary is well worth a look, you can do so HERE.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Irving Penn: Centennial at The Met, NYC

Irving Penn - Rockette NYC 1951

Opening Monday of next week and running until July 30, The Metropolitan Museum of Art presents a major retrospective of the photographs of Irving Penn. The show marks the centennial of the artist's birth. Over the course of his nearly 70-year career, Irving Penn (1917–2009) mastered a pared-down aesthetic of studio photography that is distinguished for its meticulous attention to composition, nuance, detail, and printmaking. Irving Penn: Centennial, opening April 24, 2017, will be the most comprehensive exhibition of the great American photographer's work to date and will include both masterpieces and hitherto unknown prints from all his major series.

Long celebrated for more than six decades of influential work at Vogue magazine, Penn was first and foremost a fashion photographer. His early photographs of couture are masterpieces that established a new standard for photographic renderings of style at mid-century, and he continued to record the cycles of fashions year after year in exquisite images characterized by striking shapes and formal brilliance. His rigorous modern compositions, minimal backgrounds, and diffused lighting were innovative and immensely influential. Yet Penn's photographs of fashion are merely the most salient of his specialties. He was a peerless portraitist, whose perceptions extended beyond the human face and figure to take in more complete codes of demeanor, adornment, and artifact. He was also blessed with an acute graphic intelligence and a sculptor's sensitivity to volumes in light, talents that served his superb nude studies and life-long explorations of still life.

There is more on The Met site HERE.

Irving Penn - Sword Swallower NY, 1951

There is a stunning 376 page catalogue to support the show: The definitive book on the work of a virtuosic and revered American photographer Irving Penn (1917-2009) was among the most esteemed and influential photographers of the 20th century. Over the course of a nearly seventy-year career, he mastered a pared-down aesthetic of studio photography that is distinguished for its meticulous attention to composition, nuance, and detail. This indispensable book features one of the largest selections of Penn's photographs ever compiled, including famous and beloved images as well as works that have never been published. Celebrating the centennial of Penn's birth, this lavish volume spans the entirety of his groundbreaking career.
Avaialble now on bookdepository at 29% off.