The Scrapbook of Photographer Andrew Sullivan

Archive for the ‘Must-See’ Category

Henry Wessel

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Henry Wessel was featured in the 1975 exhibition, “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-altered Landscape.” Considered one of the most influential shows in modern photography, Wessel’s understated work was alongside pictures by Stephen Shore, the Bechers and Lewis Baltz.

A New York Times review by Michael Kimmelman of Wessel’s show at MOMA in 2007 explained a sliver of what New Topographics photographers were after.

“Following Walker Evans’s example, a postwar generation focused on what everybody in America during the 1950s, 60s and 70s actually saw in front of their faces or through their windshields or across their backyard fences, but didn’t bother to register or preferred not to – much less to think was worth photographing. These were run of the mill subjects, mostly, shot with deadpan acumen.. seemingly nowhere places, shown to be somewhere after all. In the populist spirit of Walt Whitman, but with a heavy dose of dry-eyed skepticism, they found a fresh kind of poetics in the American everyday… [Wessel] had a knack for seeing a compositional order where it didn’t obviously present itself – making pictures like visual haikus.”

There’s such good counsel in Wessel’s work about the photographic process, working and looking for the element of surprise as Kimmelman wrote, “without sentiment, but without condescension, either…” But the author also pointed out Wessel worked modestly, and that his self-effacing style sometimes led to boring images. But maybe that’s the point, too, that this expansive country, while filled with incredible subject matter, can sometimes be kind of plain. Time to look deeper.

I first saw Wessel’s work in Philip Gefter’s book “Photography After Frank,” a collection of essays originally published in the NY Times. Wessel speaks here, adding insights to his process.

“Part of it has to do with the discipline of being actively receptive… At the core of this receptivity that might be called soft eyes. It is a physical sensation. You are not looking for something. You are open, receptive. At some point you are in front of something that you cannot ignore.”

Marrying his images to his thoughts about his work made both get under my skin. It all just resonates. Commenting on a picture of a man watching birds take flight, Wessel said, “When I look at it now, I marvel at how much of the world is hidden in the flux of time.” Is that photography? Mining time to see what’s between the seconds?

And this is a treasure, “The process of photographing is a pleasure: eyes open, receptive, sensing, and at some point, connecting. It’s thrilling to be outside your mind, your eyes far ahead of your thoughts.”

Written by Andrew Sullivan

April 5th, 2010 at 10:41 am


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Jorge Colombo uses an iPhone app called “Brushes” to make digital paintings reminiscent of the work of painter Edward Hopper. The New Yorker magazine’s website features Colombo in a blog called “Fingerpainting.”

Each post is an animated video of the steps Colombo takes while creating his pictures. It’s beautiful, inspiring work. Really fun to see.

Jorge Colombo | The New Yorker

Written by Andrew Sullivan

February 10th, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Paolo Ventura

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Here’s an interview with Paolo Ventura on his new book Winter Stories, in which a dying circus performer remembers everyday moments of his life. The astonishing photos show hand-built miniature scenes of mid-century Italy. I spent hours with the book, in awe of Ventura’s imagination and the execution of his ideas. Ventura spent more than a week assembling the miniature books in this picture. Does this shop have a first edition of The Americans or The Decisive Moment hidden in the shelves somewhere?

Libri E Stampi | Paolo Ventura

Written by Andrew Sullivan

January 19th, 2010 at 10:20 am

Photo-eye’s Books of ’09

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If you’re in need of some inspiration or ideas for a wish list, photo-eye magazine’s curated list of 2009′s top photo books is a good place to start. Twenty-seven prominent photographers, editors and critics comment on their top ten favorites of the year.

“Looking In,” the volume celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the publication of Robert Frank’s “The Americans,” was on nine of the the curators’ lists, essentially earning the top spot on the “master list.” I’d have to agree. It’s a seminal work, filled with historical and critical essays, contact sheets and hundreds of pictures. Essential reading.

Written by Andrew Sullivan

January 19th, 2010 at 10:05 am

Intuition, Persistence

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“The aliveness of the unguarded intuition and the persistence of our own feelings guide us to our discoveries.” Quote by Emmett Gowin from an interview published in American Suburb X.

The first I often distrust, the second I often lack. So I’m working on trusting the sixth sense and sticking to it..

Written by Andrew Sullivan

September 23rd, 2009 at 10:50 am

Mindy McAdams’ Multimedia Guide

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Download journalism instructor Mindy McAdams’ no-nonsense & fantastic PDF “Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency” here. I’m on Step 2, “Start a blog.”

I hope her contention, “…writing a blog with commitment, on some kind of a regular schedule, makes you smarter,” turns out to work on this old brain of mine.

Written by Andrew Sullivan

September 10th, 2009 at 12:58 pm

Posted in Ideas,Must-See

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Robert Frank’s elevator girl

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Robert Frank’s elevator girl was interviewed by NPR after she recognized herself in an exhibit of “The Americans”in San Francisco. “”He saw in me something that most people didn’t see…” Read it here.

Written by Andrew Sullivan

August 31st, 2009 at 7:55 am

Antonin Kratochvil

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There’s a gritty profile of Antonin Kratochvil in Outside Magazine that reveals quite a bit about one of the founders of VII. He’s a genuine bad-ass who was forced to join the French Foreign Legion while trying to find political asylum.

“The Legion shipped him to the north-central African nation of Chad, where he fought against Libya-backed rebels for a few months. Later that year, while lugging ammunition at a Legion base in Marseille, he stole a length of rope and used it to lower himself off a high wall. He ran to a nearby rail station, hopped a commuter train, and fled toward Holland, which he’d seen only in pictures.”

Bernardo Bertolucci | by Antonin Kratochvil

Written by Andrew Sullivan

August 28th, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Tillim at Harvard

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Back from Cambridge, Mass., where Guy  Tillim’s “Avenue Patrice Lumumba” is up at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard. He was the 2007 Robert Gardner Photography Fellow, which gave him the support to explore Modernist architecture in Western and Southern Africa as a metaphor for the legacy of colonialism.

Tillim’s prints are about 36×52 inches on photo rag paper. His images have a slight desaturated quality with a brown, gray and green palette. But it’s the evocation of history and and the mysterious quality of these quiet images that give the show and its accompanying book such power. My iPhone couldn’t do the gallery justice, but I had to remember this exhibition. A comprehensive look at Tillim’s work can be found at Michael Stevenson.

Written by Andrew Sullivan

August 25th, 2009 at 7:01 am

Robert Frank Interview

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My friend Erica McDonald, a portrait and documentary photographer in Brooklyn, kindly shared this interview with me recently. Public radio’s Bob Edwards talked to Frank about his groundbreaking work, including his book “The Americans,” which redefined documentary photography. It’s about an hour long, but good to listen to while working on images in Photoshop or driving to your next shoot. One highlight is Frank talking about Walker Evans writing the application for the Guggenheim Fellowship that paid for Frank’s travels around the USA.

Written by Andrew Sullivan

March 17th, 2009 at 12:09 pm