Tuesday, February 25, 2014

photo-eye: Some Things... Jörg Colberg writes


It was nice to get a mention on photo-eye this week, particularly from Jörg Colberg whose opinions I respect more than many...

This week's Book of the Week pick comes from Conscientious Photography Magazine writer, photographer and teacher Jörg Colberg who has selected Some Things You Should Have Told Me by Harvey Benge published by Dewi Lewis.
"I don't know how I would categorize the photographs Harvey Benge takes. He's certainly not the only person doing this kind of work. He also is not the only person to have made a book containing these little fragments extracted from the world. However, the majority of books made around pictures like Harvey's end up trying way too hard to be clever. That's the curse of this kind of photography: It is clever, at least to some extent, and it is so tempting to exploit that cleverness. But the cleverness can never be the point of the whole exercise. Unlike all these other books Harvey's Some Things You Should Have Told Me is genuinely moving; it tells you a story, and I have no idea how I would talk about that story. The story is never fully revealed, drawing the viewer back in. Inevitably, some things will not be resolved (something else many photographers dislike — Harvey, however, does not shy away from uncertainty); and that's fine. This book seems to have flown under a lot of radars; and while I have spent a lot of time with it, I forgot to include it in my list of my favourite books 2013. But it's going to be in this year's list for sure. Some Things You Should Have Told Me has everything a great photobook should have: Great pictures, a great concept, and more." —Jörg Colberg

You can go to Jörg Colberg's  photography magazine Conscientious HERE.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

FotoBookFestival, Dummy Award 2014


OMG it's that time again!

Photographers worldwide are invited to present their so far unpublished photobooks to an international public and to eminent experts. The best 50 books will be exhibited at international photo events in Athens, Cologne, Dublin, Madrid, Oslo, Paris, Rome, Paraty and Sao Paulo. From these 50 titles, the winners will be chosen by an international jury of experts at The PhotoBookMuseum Cologne in September. The winner of the First Prize will be given the opportunity to realize their dummy as a “real” book and will be reported on in the magazine European Photography. Registration for the Award costs 32 Euros (plus return postage charges, if necessary). Entry will open on February 12 and close on 22 May 2014.

You can enter HERE.

Robert Adams at Jeu De Paume, Paris

Robert Adams, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1968

American photographer Robert Adams is the subject of an extensive retrospective - The Place We Live - currently showing at the Jeu de Paume in Paris. The exhibition is probably the most sweeping survey ever mounted of the 76 year old photographers work. The show presents more than 250 prints from 21 different series allowing visitors to observe Adams' career long exploration of the American West.

The West has often served as a proving ground for landscape photographers. At least since Timothy O'Sullivan's landmark geological surveys in the 1860s and 1870s, photographers from around the country and the world have gone west of the Mississippi in search of a vision of a vast, raw, countryside no longer visible in the ostensibly more civilized, urbanized corners of the Earth. From O'Sullivan's photographs to the films of John Ford, images of the West have also become a critical part of the American imaginary, a fantasy of an unconquered territory filled with opportunity and challenges fit for true heroes. In the 1960s and 1970s, photographers continued to go west and photograph what they found, but for artists like Adams the fantasy of an untrammeled land of opportunity was no longer tenable. Adams' work, as well as that of Lewis Baltz, Stephen Shore, Joe Deal and Henry Wessel, Jr, is often referred to as "New Topographics", from a 1975  George Eastman House exhibition of the same name. Their work focused on the intersection between technology and the landscape. Instead of searching for the pristine wild they sought out the altered, transformed or even damaged terrain of the modern West. Adams' work was characterized in particular by an intimacy and an emotional appeal that many of his fellow photographers assiduously avoided. Coming to photography rather later in life while working on his dissertation in Colorado, Adams was often drawn to those moments where the isolation, even loneliness of suburban life was most on display and where the harm done to the environment was most visible. At a time when the world is struggling to deal with humanity's impact on the planet, Adams' photographs are particularly poignant. This exhibition offers a unique chance to see the breadth of his lifelong attempt to picture this struggle.

Robert Adams: The Place We Live will be on view until May 18. For more information you can go to the Jeu De Paume site HERE.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Auckland weekend, light and shadow under clear blue summer skys


Aucklanders were spoilt for choice this last weekend. With the NRL Auckland Nines, rapper Eminem's concert and the annual Lantern Festival celebrating Chinese New Year, there was something for everybody. I took to the streets and made these photographs.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Malcolm McLaren: The Quest for Authentic Creativity


Posted this week on the superbly expansive site OPEN CULTURE is a 50 minute speech, The Quest for Authentic Creativity, delivered in 2009 by British musician, impresario, visual artist, performer, clothes designer and boutique owner Malcolm McLaren.

In early October of 2009, Malcolm McLaren was nearing death but didn’t know it yet. He showed up at the 2009 Handheld Learning conference feeling fatigued, but managed to deliver a provocative and heartfelt speech titled, “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Txt Pistols,” in which he reflects on his life growing up in post-World War II England and expresses dismay over the rise of what he called “karaoke culture.”
“All popular culture today,” said McLaren, “goes to great lengths to promote the idea that it’s cool to be stupid.” He championed instead the “messy process of creativity” in which struggle, failure and the acquisition of skill and knowledge are valued above instant fame. You can watch the complete speech above. A few days after it was given, McLaren went into the hospital and learned that he had cancer. He died six months later, on April 8, 2010.

McLaren takes no prisoners in his address. He talks of the horror of the commodified world where artist's foolishly seek fame over self discovery. Where colleges promote career paths over educating the whole person. He exalts the importance of failure, he calls it magnificent failure. McLaren advocated the need to be fearless, experience the unknown, and the artistic value of banality. He closed his address stating that so many artist's careers had about as much authenticity as you'd find when fucking an inflatable doll.

You can see the McLaren's speech HERE. And you can go to OPEN CULTURE, HERE.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Wim Wenders - and Evans, Eggleston and Shore, with a touch of Hopper


I had the pleasure last night of watching Wim Wenders 2006 movie Don't Come Knocking.
The movie in itself is not a great movie, some critics called it a beautiful mess, unsure of direction or tone. This may be so, however what captured me was the stunning photography which is the real star of this movie. Orchestrated by cinematographer Franz Lustig, every frame glows with light and shadow, infused with honeyed yellows, burnt reds, and acid greens. Some images evoke Edward Hopper paintings and the poetry of the photography brings to mind Walker Evans, William Eggleston and Stephen Shore. One reviewer commented that he could have watched the movie with the sound off and gone home happy. I agree. Have a look and see for yourself.

Monday, February 10, 2014

NEW YORK in April or July


I'm looking for somebody in New York who might be interested in doing a house swap with me for either 2 weeks in April (18 April - 3 May) or July (5 July - 19 July). Ideally something  in Manhattan would be perfect. I'd be coming with my delightful 17 year old daughter Zoe.
I have a very pleasant, large, 3 bedroom home in central Auckland that looks out over the city and is close to the harbor and beautiful beaches.
Alternatively, if a house swap is not possible, somebody might have a place we could rent.

Anybody interested could email me at: harvey.benge@xtra.co.nz

Friday, February 7, 2014

John Baldessari - I Like the Idea of Aerial Advertising...

John Baldessari - Two Figures 2005
The pioneering conceptual artist John Baldessari (b. 1931) began his career as a painter in the 1950s, but in the subsequent decades he expanded his practice in a new and groundbreaking direction by juxtaposing texts with found photography or appropriated images. These texts questioned the nature of art and the art-viewing experience, suggesting new meanings for the images they accompanied. This interaction of words and images remained a critical aspect of Baldessari's work, even as he branched into other media, such as site-specific installations, drawings, video, sculpture, prints, and multiples.

The two volume edition, More Than You Wanted To Know About John Baldessari, edited by
Meg Cranston and Hans Ulrich Obrist trace the development of Baldessari's understanding of art from the early 1960's to the present day. These books read like the pages from an artist's work book and for me his writing excites my vision in the knowledge that trial and error is essential while knowing that danger is never far away. Baldessari is a risk taker and so must we be.

After burning his paintings in 1970 Baldessari commenced an affair with photography, making photography work for him using it as a tool to make marks on paper.

Here are some random quotes from Vol 2 of More Than You Wanted...
enigma is what I believe art should accomplish...if I show you everything, it's going to be ho-hum, if I make a picture a guessing game, I might capture your attention for a little while longer...my goal has been to attack conventions of seeing...paradoxically complex and simple, simple and complex. And beautiful. Isn't this what artist should attempt to achieve?
Be suspicious of experts and received wisdom. The old sort of minimalist discovery that the more you take away, the more charged the imagery gets...one's art is the truest picture of one's life...beware of idyllic photographs, beware of clever photographs, beware of humble photographs. A photo can equal a painting. They should not be separate categories or histories. Does a single image equal a single truth? Multiple images can mirror multiple truths. Prioritize photos with no aesthetic intent.

...and I like this: most good art students know more about art in their little finger than most art dealers know in their entire body.

These quotes are just a taste, for the full meal, both books are available on Book Depository, Volume 1 and Volume 2. In my view essential reading.

You can go to John Baldessari's site HERE

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Photographers whose work I like - No24/ Mariette Pathy Allen


For more than 30 years, New York based photographer and painter Mariette Pathy Allen has been documenting transgender culture worldwide; in 2004 she won the Lambda Literary Award for her monograph The Gender Frontier. In her new publication from daylight books, TransCuba, Allen focuses on the transgender community of Cuba, especially its growing visibility and acceptance in a country whose government is moving into a more relaxed model of communism under Raúl Castro's presidency. This publication records a cultural watershed within Cuba. In addition to color photographs and interviews by Allen, the book also includes a contribution from Raúl Castro's daughter, Mariela Castro, who is the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education in Havana. The book will be available in April 2014.

You can see more of Mariette Pathy Allen's work on her site HERE.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

IN BRUGES - November 2013


Last November I was in Belgium for an exhibition of my work at 44 Gallery in the city of Bruges. Not wanting to miss an opportunity I made a bookwork. There are 16 photographs, over 16 pages, printed on 150gsm art paper, 226 x 160 mm. Each book signed and numbered.

The edition is limited to only 10 copies, 5 for my own use and 5 for sale. So it's a matter of first in first served.

Copies can be obtained directly from me at: harvey.benge@xtra.co.nz
Prices are, €24 / £20 / US$32 / NZ$38, which include packing and postage. For payment you can simply log on to my PayPal account using my email address above.

Newsprint Publication Award 2014

Bookdummypress and Reminders Photography Stronghold have joined forces to launch a  publication award for international photography focused on the newsprint medium. The award celebrates newsprint’s contribution to the ever evolving creativity of self-publishing.

This award is intended to stimulate photographers to take a fresh approach towards newsprint as a vehicle and to introduce practitioners to self-publishing and self-distribution of their work.

Newsprint is a medium with minimal commercial strings attached and it allows for a range of experimentation. It has the potential of reaching a diverse audience, where work can be spread widely, with speed.

Submissions are accepted until March 31st. There is no entry fee. Submissions must consist of a coherent project suitable for production as a 24 page newsprint publication, in tabloid size, either in color or black and white. The winning entry will be published and exhibited in Tokyo and distributed to a wide audience. You can see the application details HERE.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Harvey Benge - Ways of Looking at NORTHART, Auckland

I have a show opening at 5pm this Sunday, February 9 at Auckland's public art space, NORTHART. The show is called 60 Ways of Looking, simply because there are sixty photographs in the show. The works have been chosen from a range of projects made over a number of years. My artist friend Ross Ritchie selected the works and has superbly designed the hang. Thank you Ross.
Ron Brownson senior curator at Auckland Art Gallery will introduce the show at the opening and we will have a conversation about the work.

MoMA NYC - A World of Its Own: Photographic Practices in the Studio

Man Ray, Laboratory of the Future, 1935

Curated by Quentin Bajac and opening this Saturday February 8, A World of Its Own: Photographic Practices in the Studio examines the ways in which photographers and artists using photography have worked and experimented within the four walls of the studio space, from photography’s inception to today. Featuring both new acquisitions and works from the Museum’s collection that have not been on view in recent years, A World of Its Own includes approximately 180 works, by approximately 90 artists, such as Berenice Abbott, Uta Barth, Zeke Berman, Karl Blossfeldt, Constantin Brancusi, Geta Brătescu, Harry Callahan, Robert Frank, Jan Groover, Barbara Kasten, Man Ray, Bruce Nauman, Paul Outerbridge, Irving Penn, Adrian Piper, Edward Steichen, William Wegman, and Edward Weston.
The exhibition considers the various roles played by the photographer’s studio as an autonomous space; depending on the time period, context, and the individual motivations (commercial, artistic, scientific) and sensibilities of the photographer, the studio may be a stage, a laboratory, or a playground. Organized thematically, the display unfolds in multiple chapters. Throughout the 20th century, artists have explored their studio spaces using photography, from the use of composed theatrical tableaux (in photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron or Cindy Sherman) to neutral, blank backdrops (Richard Avedon, Robert Mapplethorpe); from the construction of architectural sets within the studio space (Francis Bruguière, Thomas Demand) to chemical procedures conducted within the darkroom (Walead Beshty, Christian Marclay); and from precise recordings of time and motion (Eadweard Muybridge, Dr. Harold E. Edgerton) to amateurish or playful experimentation (Roman Signer, Peter Fischli/David Weiss). A World of Its Own offers another history of photography, a photography created within the walls of the studio, and yet as groundbreaking and inventive as its seemingly more extroverted counterpart, street photography.