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« Information on how to use your flash strobes | Main | Blaise Aguera y Arcas: Jaw-dropping Photosynth demo »

September 03, 2007

Comments

Sarah Jane Spreng

I attended Tom Jones and Mike Schmudlach’s presentation on the creation of their book “People of the Big Voice: Photographs of Ho-Chunk Families by Charles Van Schaick, 1879-1942.” This presentation was a part of the Wisconsin Historical Society’s series in honor of American Indian Heritage Month.
I think the most fascinating part of this process was hearing about the ways in which this book came together following the narrative of Van Schaick’s documentation of the Ho-Chunk families’ lives. Not only is this book educational to those who do not identify as American Indian or understand Ho-Chunk culture, but it also seems to be a truthful representation of the community. I, for one, was unaware of all the nuances and symbolism in American Indian garb, for example. Upon Mike and Tom explaining certain examples, each photo told an infinitely deeper story to me. This understanding of such symbolism is a simple, yet impactful lens for someone like myself to have. I am grateful to have attended this presentation, for this exact reason. I think that photography as raw and historically significant as that which is displayed in this book carries a weight that is obvious, but moreover, it is the stories behind the photos which solidify this moments as significant in history.
This book is truly a testament to the importance of photography as a means of documenting history - particularly for groups like the American Indians, who have been oppressed and often forgotten in the larger narrative of American History.

Sarah Jane Spreng

Art Exhibition Reflection:
We’re Better Than That

I attended an art gallery held by a student organization on campus called We’re Better Than That (WBTT). This organization formed with the goal of educating and engaging the male population on campus on the topic of sexual assault as a humanitarian and gender-blind issue. I thas since developed into a co-ed club for this purpose, with specific groups for various communities on campus (e.g., multicultural groups, greek life, etc.). Their Fall Showcase displayed the work of about 20 different students. Specifically unique to this gallery, only about one fourth of the work shown had been created by students who identify as artists.
There was a range of mediums, from sculpture, to painting to photography; moreover, some work had been specifically created for the show, while others were in students’ portfolios. The fact that numerous artists already had work which embodied the spirit of this particular gallery indicates that the conversation takes place all across campus and across different mediums -- literally. A piece that spoke to me was one titled “#METOO,” which was a compilation of newspaper clippings about young men and women who were victims to sexual assault on college campuses. This artists is a member of WBTT, and used the opportunity to show her solidarity with young people like her who have been made voiceless through their experiences and the media's portrayal of them. Each element of the show, including how it was planned out very elegantly by the club president, spoke powerfully about a subject that very often becomes silenced by victims and non-victims alike.

Tehan

People of the Big Voice: A Talk with Tom Jones & Mike Schmudlach

In honor of American Indian Heritage Month and UW-Madison’s Wunk Sheek’s Native November, the Wisconsin Historical Society hosted three different events that celebrated the histories, cultures, and lives of Native people. The lecture I attended was about the process of People of the Big Voice coming together.

I learned so much in the hour we had in that auditorium; from the photographic recovering process to the community work and collaboration it takes to unearth so much history. Tom Jones mentioned how surprised others were at how quickly the book was formed and lineages aligned, but that it was because “we work collaboratively, it is not about the individual”.
It’s extremely refreshing to see a book with native language alongside English; as a bilingual student of a semitic language, I value the representation that that brings to the people who speak the Ho-Chunk language not only in the forward, but the names these communities of people carried with them. I did not know until this lecture that winnebago was a derogatory term, and that the Ho-Chunk name was reclaimed under Tom’s mother's term. So much of history is rewritten to disregard the facts that include Native people; these photos are a part of the reclaiming of the Ho-Chunk peoples history and the names that were taken from them.
The photographs presented were crisp and each held a story about the person in front of the camera. I’m glad to have gone to the talk and have purchased the book because the back stories behind each image were real and felt so tangible. Tom spoke about the way the film at some point would get re-touched by shellacking the glass and re-touching the faces to look incredibly smooth.

Tehan

Exhibition Review: Aisthetikos Cuvare

Through September 2nd-Sunday October 29th at the Overture Center of the Arts there was a photo show called Aisthetikos Cuvare(Aesthetic Curves) in the Playhouse Gallery. It was a group show with seven artists who, according to their show statement, “explore the subtle ways in which curves animate the aesthetics of our daily lives”. These artists came together from being in a black and white film photography class together earlier that year and applied as a group show.
The different styles of their photography and the environments they chose to photograph were prominent and individualistic. Even though their work was mixed up among one anothers, after going through a few times it is apparent the themes that were sticking together. One artist focused on the curves of the body; there were pieces that commented on the sexualization of the body, but also the innocence, by the same artist to note.
Another chose to photograph objects from nature and their movements when spun or that were oriented in ways that were confusing to understand what they were at first. Possibly my favorite piece was one by Delany Keshena which had people were stuck sitting with the longest. It was a blurry photo, with just enough light from the sky contrasting the shapes in the foreground to understand what it was if you stood there long enough. Standing too close, suggested a large cat was the true model, but the farther you stood back, the fuller the image became, showing two horses racing on a track with the sun blazing from behind.
Overall, I thought the medium of black and white film photography was the strongest part of the show connecting all the pieces together.

Jane Shen

Reflection of Photography Talk: People of the Big Voice
I went to the photography talk by Tom Jones and Michael Schmudlach. They talked about their book People of the Big Voice. It is a book collecting photographs of Ho-Chunk families by Charles Van Schaick from 1879 to 1942.
I did not really know about Ho-Chunk families before the talk. Therefore, it was a great chance for me to know those group of people and the culture. The artists talked about the reservations of the photos. They also talked about the retouching skills used by Charles Van Schaick. That was interesting because I cannot really imagine how to do retouch on the negatives.
Most of the photos showed the whole body of the people. We could see the details of their clothing. Because those photos are in a large time period, it is interesting to observe the changes on their clothing style. It is obvious that after about 1910, national elements did not stand out a lot anymore. What made that more interesting is that, Charles Van Schaick took pictures of some people during their different ages. Then we could see the changes more clearly.
When we only see the pictures, we might easily ignore the stories behind the photos. Therefore I am so glad that I can hear the stories, relationships between characters and backgrounds of photos directly from the artists.

Jane Shen

I went to the exhibition: The Pinhole Thing by Cameron Gillie at Memorial Union.
The show is relatively small in scale, so I focus more on the layouts and frames rather than the work.
The Pinhole Thing is a photo exhibition which shows works shoot by a pinhole camera. That camera is made by the photographer himself. Therefore, at the entrance of the exhibition, there is the pinhole camera standing there. Besides the camera, the artist put a table there to allow viewers leave feedbacks. Also, there is a short statement talking about his camera and basic information about his works and this show. All the photos are black and white photos. Those photos are framed with dark frames. Besides the frames which are in a unity, the matting style is also consistent and interesting. The artist uses two layers of matt. On the inner layer, he wrote down some information and signed on it.
The show room is relatively small and all the photos are on the four walls of the room. There are about 20 to 30 photos in total. Photos are grouped by contents. Although not all the frames are in the same style, the ones in a group have the same frames. The first group is photo of cameras. Three photos are in that group. The titles are the brands of the cameras in the photos. Two photos are aligned in a row and the third one is one the right.
After this group, there is a group of wood house pictures. One photo which shows the overall look of the house is printed large and lays in the middle. Three smaller photos which shows the details are on the sides of the large one. This group looks so harmonious based on this arrangement.
For the next group, there are three architecture pictures with are at the same size. All of those are 16*16 squares. These looks tidy and clear. It seems like this group is the most accordant one and it is my favorite way to arrange works.
Another interesting group is one with three photos. Unlike the one which has three equal-size photos, these three photos are different in sizes, contents and scales. The artist played with different skills on these three photos. He shows the possibility and variability of the pinhole photography. I think it works for me because the differences are obvious and attract viewers focus more on this group of photos.

Kiki Arthur

Exhibition Review: Hyphenated by WUD Art

Memorial Union hosted an Installment call Hyphenated by the Wisconsin Union Directorate. Hyphenated is an exhibition that explores the experiences of Americans with intersecting identities such as African-Americans or Chinese-Americans. This exhibition brings the conversations to campus by highlighting the stories of students who identify as "Hyphenated". Through this exhibition, their goal was to show the beauty in the diversity and backgrounds of the people of this campus. This exhibition was absolutely phenomenal. During the closing ceremony, there was a feeling of togetherness that was both overwhelming and comforting. This exhibition forced me to see that although I may feel out of place sometimes on this campus, there are many people here of different identities who can relate to what I feel and make this campus a place were I can feel I can feel accepted and at home. The stories of these students were so relatable and it kind of reminded me of the work that one of the students in our photography class. It was so easy for us to feel as though we are the only people experiencing certain things and these stories changed that perspective for me. I think this was a successful exhibition and I would love to see things like this done more.

Kiki Arthur

Exhibition Review: Art & The Afterlife by Eric Adjetey Anang

I attended an exhibition in the Chazen Museum called Art & The Afterlife by Eric Adjetey Anang. Eric is a Ghanaian artist whose work has been controversial since he started. He is a 3rd generation Ghanaian design coffin maker. He has been determined to use these coffins to introduce a side of the Ghanian culture that many people do not understand and may be slightly skeptical about. Many people in Ghana do not even except his work as a form of art. His goal is to challenge viewers about the meaning of mortality and cultural identity. Art & The Afterlife is an installment that explores the afterlife and the funeral traditions of the Ga people of southern Ghana. These traditions include carving coffins into shapes that represent who a person was including their status and their profession. The coffins also incorporate specific colors that represent gender. Gold represents men and white represents women as well as twins. The coffin displayed was in the form of an eagle and I found this extremely beautiful but it also confused because in my experience coffins are something you find beautiful. I loved that it challenged me to think about mortality and find some kind of beauty in it. However, I was still kind of conflicted because I still found this to be a very private thing. I think going forward I would like to see how having some of these exhibition installed in Ghana affect the people there as well as the family members of the persons these coffins are for. Overall it was a very mentally challenging exhibit that forced me to think about a lot of things I wouldn't normally think about and I enjoyed being able to be there to witness his work in person.

Quinn Paskus

Photo Show: Sonja Thomsen

I found an exhibition currently on display at the MMoCA in Madison, WI by artist Sonja Thomsen titled, In the Space of Elsewhere. Sonja is a Milwaukee based artist who uses photography and sculpture to create interactive exhibits in pre-determined locations. This show is a site-specific display that uses the architecture of the MMoCA to its advantage. While it is not a purely photographic show, it does incorporate abstract photographic imagery to aid in her aesthetic. The show makes use of light and shadow to alter the architecture of the building and create new and exciting perspectives for the audience to discover. Depending on the time of day, light coming into the building will refract differently on specific surfaces. The exhibit is in constant motion, and is ever-changing. Sonja explains that one of her missions in the specific work is, ­ “creating spaces that highlight the inaccessible. There should always be a place for wonder; it is a direct line to new knowledge.”

I am always fascinated by shows that make use of mixed-media, and how the use of material can help make your point known. Her use of abstract photography certainly adds a layer of wonder and excitement, in junction with her reflective surfaces hanging from the ceiling create a new and unsettling way of seeing a building that has interesting qualities already. Site-specific work tends to take careful planning and meticulous research in order to get it right. You can tell with this exhibition that Sonja did just that.

Quinn Paskus

Photo Talk: Marissa Mackey

For my photo talk I attended Marissa Mackey’s artist lecture put on by the Colloquium in the Chazen Museum. Marissa talked extensively about her work and influences that have helped shape her photographic mindset. A lot of her early work tended to be travel-based, focusing on semi-political topics in places she would travel to. She explained that the work she was producing was not totally interesting her as it used to, and wanted to find new outlets to pursue. She began focusing her work on more abstract themes with a ‘fine-art’ based approach to photography. With the help of large format film, she started a series called Vehicle, where she would make use of the hood lights on her car to illuminate the subject that was in front of her. These nighttime shots would light up what is often concealed in darkness, making them known and exposed to the world. Marissa found herself fascinated by the mundane, and would often take road trips in the pursuit of finding these scenes to shoot. While she still is pursuing this project, she has taken up a new theme in her collection titled, Yonderlust, which makes use of mixed-media. In this new project, Marissa finds old photographs in yard sales and thrift stores, and alters them to create something new. In each photo, she takes push pins and in various ways and orientations, covers the subjects to create an abstract shape that often mimics the original orientation of the subject.

I found Marissa’s work to be interesting. She taught a Digital Imaging class that I had taken the semester before and had never seen any of her work. I had no idea she had such a diverse background in photography!

Chenyuan Zhang

On October 29th, I went to CHELE ISAAC: THE UNDERSTORY at Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. His work conveys an interesting and unique perspective that I rarely saw on other artists. One of his video works is about sea gulls with the dark and de-saturated pink background. From what I have seen, sea gulls represent a symbol of peace and calmness. However, through his frame, I felt disturbance and uneasiness. Perhaps it was the lifeless eyes on those sea gulls or the light shadows with dark and light pink backgrounds. I felt tense and uncomfortable. It is so interesting that Isaac could manipulate the viewers’ mood by making something appear quite the opposite to what it general delivers. I could even hear the giggle from Issac when he found out that the viewers got shocked or surprised by his wicked art work. Then I suddenly realized there might be a broader extent to what I had perceived as art forms. I always thought art was supposed to bring the viewers the satisfaction from the aesthetics like the summer breeze but now I began to question my previous perception. What exactly is art and what should art work deliver? Issac’s work obviously is not what I had described as art but his work was displayed in the museum where the public could go and see. Why there are still people going to see his work and enjoy being mocked by his rebellious and irony storytelling? I suppose that is what divided me and him apart because we shared different art philosophy. I am more inclined to arts forms like old oil paintings from medieval that represented the real life of different people and realistic scenery in a way that was aesthetically attractive and appealing, which I have been practicing during my photography work especially for portraitures. However, although I do not quite understand those abstract or seemly manipulating art work, I respect those work and appreciate the efforts those artists such as Chele Issace has put in their work.

Chenyuan Zhang

On December 2nd, I went to Jaume Plensa: Talking Continents at Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. It was a fantastic sculpture show. The one thing that surprised me the most was the combination of different letters on the bottom of those floating sculpts. As a native Mandarin speaker, I instantly recognized some Chinese characters in those and then I recalled an old Chinese saying that “there are no country borders in art”. People from different countries with different cultural backgrounds could come together and appreciate the efforts the artist has put and the stunning aesthetics of the art work. Another thing that I found interesting is the human shape of most sculpts in his show. The human shape sculpts were over the big giant spheres composited with different letters, which made me think about the human wisdom. One of those things that separate humans from the rest of animals is the extraordinary intelligence. Because of the intelligence, humans are capable to stand on the top of the food chain and develop different languages based on different cultures. Those different letters on the bottom represent the different cultures all over the world and is an abstraction of human intelligence. The last part of the show that I found fascinating is the composition of those sculptures in a way that are floating over the ground, creating a view of sophisticated shows, which resembles the instability and uncertainty of the human minds. Those shadows to me created a illustration that human’s influences (culture, actions to nature, etc.) would be carried on for a long period of time and have a dramatic effects at present and in the future. Although I have rare experience when comes to sculptures but as a photographer I could feel the crossover from the visual art point of view.

Jenn Gohlke

Artist Lecture 11/16
Tom Jones and Mike Schmudlach
Contributors to the book

While attending this lecture on People of the Big Voice I learned a lot about the work and cultural values that have been relayed through this book. The book utilizes photos captured by Charles Van Scoyk in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He was the town photographer in Black River Falls. There were 1200 pictures discovered that show the people from the area.
In order to find out who the people were in the pictures and who their descendants are, the photos were extensively researched. Jones and Schmudlach used tribal records and censuses to obtain this information. The Ho-Chunk people were removed from their homes somewhere between seven and nine times by the government. They are now two separate tribes because of separations that occurred during this time. They tribe has trust land all over Wisconsin.
We also learned about techniques Van Scoyk used to edit pictures. His methods seem almost like a form of 19th century photoshop. He would retouch people’s faces in the photos which would add a halo around their head. He would shellac the back of the glass plate negative to remove the blemishes. Jones mentioned that Van Scoyk first took full body shots. This was because the clothing of the time was so important and essential to the person’s image. As clothing became less significant within the tribe, the photos became close ups focused on the person’s face. Jewelry was a sign of wealth at the time, so this was a focus of the photos as well.
This lecture was a great way to learn more about the Ho-Chunk tribe and their photographic history. The book seems fascinating and very informational.

Cameron Smith

For my photography lecture, I attended The Inscribed Studio Portrait as Self-Image: Photography a New-Self in Early 20th Century China given by Wu Hung, a professor of Chinese Art at the University of Chicago.
Before going to the lecture, I can honestly say I knew nothing and planned to not know anything about Chinese history of the 20th century; however, Hung’s lecture was genuinely very interesting.
He first began by showing and talking about self-portraits made by men of the time displaying their “queue-cuts,” hair cuts that became a movement in 20th century China where men were cutting their pony-tails that they had been growing out their whole lives. Because China, at the time, was needing to transition over to being a “modern-country” in the eyes of the global community, having more modern hair cuts like became a nation-wide policy, forcing men to go through a transition of identity. Part of this transition was the of taking a self-portrait to commemorate with their family, peers, and selves, the men would take photos or have photos of them taken as a “before” with a full-body portrait and a mirror, displaying both their pony-tail and face as a reflection of who they were.
There were two things that consistently stood out with these self-portraits: the mirror and an inscription on the back of the photograph done by the sitter in the photo. This is what gave way to the “I-portrait,” the main idea of Hung’s lecture. The I-portrait was where the men inscribed, whether through poetry or free-write, their personal thoughts and feelings on the back of the photograph. This added layer of inscription reconfigured the representation of reality in China at the time of masculine identity and was a new form of expression for men going through and change in identity.

Cameron Smith

For my photography show, I went to the Happy Birthday, Mr. Hockney show at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California. The show, featuring David Hockney’s self-portraits and photograph collection, was held in honor of his eightieth birthday. According to the Getty Museum’s website, the exhibit featured “…self-portraits made over the past sixty-five years and key photographs from the 1980s that investigate time and perspective,” particularly with his collage-style of taking dozens of photos of one space, and placing them in a way which creates a cohesive image.
David Hockey is a British-born painter and photographer who attended the Royal College of Art in London. After moving to Los Angeles and splitting time between the UK and the United States, he created painting, photographs, print-making, set-designing, and iPad drawings influenced by both Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.
At the show, the photography portion of the exhibit featured a walk-through in chronological order of Hockney’s works. What was interesting about this was, not only did you get to see the change in style that Hockey displayed over the years, but the progression of camera technology, as it started out with polaroid collages, ending with digital prints. His use of polaroid photographs was particularly interesting with his photograph, “Yellow Chair,” which were dozens of detail shots of a yellow chair that cohesively created the full image of a chair. Hockey’s extreme attention to detail and ability to see a scene at such a broken-down level was interesting.
This was displayed prominently in the final photograph of the exhibit, Pearblossom Highway, a photo collage of 47 x 64 inches. The absolute masterpiece had its own wall, with an incredible depiction of the various shade of blue the sky offered and of the expansive highway landscape. I had seen images online of the collage before, but having the ability to see each individual photo that was laid in-person made it even more impressive.

Jessi Havens

Rashaad Newsome: Icon
On display on the second floor of the Madison Museum of Contemporary is Rashaad Newsome’s work Icon which consists of four videos of vogue dance performances (Untitled (2008), Untitled—New Way (2009), ICON (2014), Stop Playing in My Face (2016)). Voguing originated from African-American drag performers in the 1960’s, whom were inspired by the angular and rigid, arm, leg, and body positions in Vogue Fashion Magazine. In the 1970’s the African-American and Latino LGTBQ community in Harlem, New York expanded voguing into a style of dance. Newsome’s Icon is a tribute to bring attention to these dancers and to recognize them as the creators due to Madonna’s appropriation of voguing for her 1980’s music video “Vogue”. Moreover, including Newsome’s work in art museums, such as MMOCA, it has established voguing into the discourse of institutionally recognized art.
I enjoyed Newsome’ work and appreciated the way he chose to address the issue of cultural appropriate through giving space back to the communities that created voguing. I went and watching “Icon” twice, the first time with my mother and grandmother. All three of us thought the work was high-energy, engaging, and had factors of skill involved (performative and digital rendering). Newsome created digital backdrops of architectural spaces, with luxury items such as fancy cars, gold chains, and gemstones, the artist created a space for the dancers to perform and a multisensorial experience for viewers . During the course of the videos, other viewers came in and left the room rather quickly, I feel as if those viewers did not give the work enough time to show its complexity, one man got up and left after the word “bitch” was said during, “Stop Playing in my Face”. I watched Madonna’s video for the first time after viewing Newsome’s Icon. The feel way very different and felt more like she was selling her sexuality and beauty. Madonna turned voguing into something more digestible for mainstream America and stripped it of emotion and context.
“Icon” is both a work of art and a documentation of a historically overlooked art form in a way that also bring about issues of appropriation in a positive light that give integrity and power back to the original creators.

Jessi Havens

Event Write-Up
Last Thursday I attended Tom Jones and Michael Schmudlach’s talk about their book “People of the Big Voice- Photographs of Ho-Chunk Families” at the Wisconsin State Historical Society. The pictures in the book were taken by Charles Van Schaick, a photographer in Black River Falls Wisconsin, between the years 1879-1942. 1,200 of Schaick’s negatives were found in his studio and they were donated to Jackson County. The portraits are not only beautiful, but each individual person has a sense of agency and a multifaceted identity conveyed. The photographs were commissioned by Ho-Chunk families for themselves, to share with relatives, or in some cases as matchmaking photos for arranged marriages.
Jones and Schmudlach were able to identify all the Ho-Chunk and English names of the people in the images through interviewing tribal elders and researching documents, such as censuses from when the Ho-Chunk people were forcefully removed from their homes up to nine different times by the United States Government. The book is also unique because it is the first book published by the Wisconsin Historical Society in two languages, both English and Ho-Chunk.
Van Schaick had a tendency to re-touch people’s faces to make them appear younger, which also created a halo effect around the heads. In the earlier images, Van Schaick took full-body photographs, but over time perhaps because clothing became more western he zoomed in closer to people’s faces. He used backdrops that resembled home interiors or floral patterns, and used props in some of his images. The book also includes some photographs of Ho-Chunk ceremonies, and images of people who suffered from smallpox.
“People of the Big Voice” is a phenomenal documentation of history that shows the resilience and beauty of the Ho-Chunk nation and their determination to return to their homeland and continue living in Wisconsin today. Jones stated that this book was able to be completed in a two year time frame because the work was done collaboratively, and it was never about the individual.

XIAOYUE PU

Reflection of Photography Talk: People of the Big Voice
By Tom Jones
Photography 576, 2017 Fall
Xiaoyue Pu

I am so glad that I had the opportunity during this semester to listen to Tom’s talk of his new book People of the Big Voice, in which they talked about all sorts of information of Ho-Chunk’s history and traditions. Both photos and speaker’s explanation were inspiring and impressive. And I really want to share my thoughts here.
To start with the photographs showed at the talk, I was amazed at their historical value and these photos led me to find more interests in the field of documentary photography.
I remember when I first started in photography, I found myself barely interested in documentary photography. I’ve always considered documentary photography a type that showed nothing of the mind of photographers. There was no art to me in documentary photography. However, after seeing so many photos of Ho-Chunk families in the lecture, I started to understand and appreciate the beauty and value of these documentary photographs. They maintained the traditional clothes, which could rarely be found today, of Ho-Chunk families during the 18th – 19th century. These photos also enabled younger generations of Ho-Chunk families to learn traditions and cultures from those pictures. People who are not from the Ho-Chunk culture, like me, could also have chance to see the beauty of this culture.
After seeing photographer Charles Van Schaick’s work, which he took photos of the same person or the same family through their lifetime, I was impressed by the power of time and also the power of photographs. I understood that photography was really an art of time. It was not only about capturing a moment at a right time but also about showing a process to people. It could store more than a moment. It stored a huge amount of time and could store stores of people’s life.
Another aspect that impressed me of Tom’s lecture was how much work he and his co-authors had done to figure out the family relationship from those photos. The large amount of research they’ve done showed me that photographers were powerful researchers too. And photography itself sometimes was science as well. I was inspired by their work and I wished one day I could start a long research like this too. Maybe I would spend few years studying human bodies and all kinds of diseases that result in deformation of human bodies in order to deepen my understanding and creation of my Nudes project.
Finally, I really appreciate I had this chance to be in this talk and learned a bunch new things from Tom and his friends. I believed that I would have a great time reading their book too.

Robert Lundberg

Disruptive Perspectives
Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago

Disruptive Perspectives explores gender, sexuality, identity—highlighting artists who challenge binary categorizations and attempt to portray a broader range of identification within/beyond these boxes. Some of the work felt highly intimate, showing the viewer a momentary window into the life (and identity) of the subject, sometimes the artists themselves. Others images were more straight documentary (as were their titles). Still others managed both exquisitely.
The first category is exemplified by the work of Zachary Drucker and Rhys Ernst, who’s contribution to the show is a series documenting their relationship as each transitioned genders—one male-to-female, the other female-to-male. The images come off as though they could comfortably exist in either or both artist’s Facebook photo collections. They are candid, unpretentiously-captured images which document a consistent affection through the flow of a dual transition. The names attached (eg. “Relationship #23 (The Longest Day of the Year)”) maintain this feeling of simple, intimate documentation.
The work of Jess T. Dugan fits in the second group. Her work in the show simply and beautifully documents trans individuals over the age of 50, a group who may get even less visibility and consideration than the trans community generally (or at least before the arrival of Amazon’s series Transparent, though the namesake elder trans character there is played by a cismale—Jeffrey Tambor). Dugan captures her subjects here as strong individuals, which aligns well with her aim to recognize the sacrifices they made.
The final artist I’ll mention brought together the intimacy and documentary qualities of the other work, along with what was, for me, the strongest visual statement of the show. Laurence Rasti documented homosexual couples in Iran, but obscures their identities using things like colorful patterned sheets, flowers, trees, and balloons. Without the context, one could almost mistake these for outtakes from engagement or wedding photos, where the subjects hadn’t yet gotten in place for the final, unobscured shot. Additionally, Rasti’s work is the most overtly political of the whole show, with the series title “Il n’y a pas d’homosexuels en Iran (There are No Homosexuals in Iran)”, which is a direct quotation of then-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad from 2007. Homosexuality is a crime punishable by death in Iran. Thus the artful shrouding of Rasti’s subjects’ identities.

Aida Ebrahimi

People of the Big Voice – photographs of Ho-Chunk Families
November 16th, Tom Jones and Michael Schmudlack presented on their newly published book People of the Big Voice. The book is compiled of images taken by Charles Van Schaic, a photographer at Black River Falls city. He photographed the towns people from 1880’s until 1940’s. Many native Americans’ pictures were taken by him. The book is compiled of a selection of Van Schaic’s 1200 glass plate image collection. These images were found in his former abandoned studio in Black River Falls, which was later purchased by the telephone company. The images were donated to the Jackson County Historical Society.
The images are generally full frame and showed full body. However, at the beginning, Charles Van Schaic was doing full body portraits because of his interest in Native American clothing; he wanted to show all details of their clothing. Towards the end, he got closer and did more portraits, as the clothing became less traditional. Van Schaic also photographed families throughout the years, portraying all stages of their life. Since he was the town’s photographer from 1880’s to 1940’s he had seen the growth of the town’s people and was able to become their family photographer. In the book, there are examples of his images portraying an infant stage, younghood, and adulthood of a community member. Usually the posing of people in images is similar throughout all photos; one person is sitting, and the other is standing to their left. Van Schaic used the same background most the times.
Jones had noticed a halo around the head of all the people in the images. He explained that Charles Van Schaic had retouched all the faces so everyone looked young. I don’t know what techniques he used to retouch images on the glass plates. Some photos had names etched on the negatives, so it was easy to identify who was in the images based on the name, however, images without any names on them had to be identified by community members. Usually, photos were taken for family purposes, to keep them in the community. Until 1940’s photos were used for matchmaking and arranged marriages as well.

Jenn Gohlke

Artist Show Paper
Art 476, Fall 17
Sonja Thomsen
in the space of elsewhere

This piece had caught my eye from outside the Museum of Contemporary Art a couple of times before I actually went in to explore. The piece itself is amazing and expansive, starting from the front corner of them museum and spanning multiple areas and floors. At first, one might think it is decoration from the museum staff, but once you investigate further, you can see the distinct purpose and planning of each piece. The piece includes a mural that spans multiple floors on the back wall and a collection of mirrors and triangular pieces that play with the way light bounces.
I was very interested to see what the statement for this piece discussed. It talked about the desire to use light from both surrounding areas and the museum to change conceptions about what light does. When you look at a triangle hanging on the glass wall, it takes a second to realize what you are seeing. Sometimes it’s a reflection of what is behind you outside, other times it’s the floor, and other times it is another piece of the installation.
This piece also does a great job of drawing people in to the museum. It captures your attention from outside and piques your interest. I was excited to find out that it spanned multiple floors. I think this is a great technique not only to make the piece more expansive, but also to push people to keep wandering through the museum. This piece plays with the idea of the unknown and curiosity, which fits well with its positioning throughout the museum. Aesthetically, it’s a beautiful piece and pleasing to look at and wonder about.
I enjoy how specifically this installation must have had to be put together. The angles are essential to what you’re seeing and there is something great about knowing how calculated this was. I love the use of space in the museum and I will definitely come back soon to check out what piece is in this area next.

Chenyuan Zhang

I watched Chris Orwig’s lecture “Narrative Portraiture: Foundations of Portraiture” on Lynda.com. In his engaging lecture, he talked about his understanding of portraiture as a branch of photography, how to create connections with subjects, consideration of lighting, compositions and gear.
As a portraiture photography student myself, I was blown away by Chris’s presentation when he mentioned what makes a portrait good: the narrative. In his portrait work, I immediate felt that connection with the subject in the frame and was intrigued by their own personal stories behand the frame. One of his portrait is a black and white world champion surfer by the ocean. It is a stunning portrait of a successful athlete showing his strength and confidence but through his eyes I could sense a subtle trace of sadness. Then Chris told us that this famous athlete just lost his 18-year-old son in a car accident and that is the story behind his eyes. Suddenly I realized the power of narrative portraiture. It is like a poem. What a poet says in a few words, a novelist could write thousands of words. When I see a narrative portraiture, I not only appreciate the decent composition and lighting of the frame, but also want to explore what is the backstory of the subject. “It reduces, simplifies and deepens” like Chris said himself. For me, that reminds me of the moment I chose to shoot portraitures rather than other branches like architecture or landscape because I am fascinated by that extra layer from the portraiture, the connection. Till today I come to the realization that the connection could be interpreted as the narrative.
Chris also talks about his choice of gear especially his use of shallow depth of field. He explained that by using a 1.2-2.0 lens, he could narrow the focus point to the eyes of the subject so that viewers could immediate go to the eyes once they see the photo. Since eyes are the key expression of a person, the narrative (connection) would be intensified. I completely agree with that. I always think the portrait photography is all about the people and even there are environmental portraiture, the surroundings are just add-ons to the subject. I apply this methodology in my shooting as well. Every time I take portrait shoots, most of times I would use extremely shallow depth of field to blur the background and focus on the eyes.

XIAOYUE PU

Review of a photo show
Review of Generation Wealth
Xiaoyue Pu
Professor: Tom Jones
Course No: Photography 576
2017 Fall


During the second weekend of October, I got a chance to see the photography show in International Center of Photography in NYC: Generation Wealth created by Lauren Greenfield. The two-floor photo center exhibited more than 200 documentary photos, which intents to show the public the authentic lifestyles lived by generation wealth. The artists used photography, interviews and film footage to show her judgments of these ongoing fancies.

Most photographs in Generation Wealth were portraits within fantasy contexts: Rich housewives all wore shiny dresses and luxurious handbags in front of the camera flash; young woman with sunglasses stood in a well-furniture room playing indoor golf; children’s rooms were filled with toys and they all dressed up like princes/princesses; business corruption was going, in which a official threw the money in people’s face to express his impatience …… Those photos were very straight forward. They exposed the life of generation wealth in front of the public without modification and covering. The exhibition included nearly all aspects of their life: their struggles, their luxurious fantasy, their peaks and even their ends. I was amazed: I was amazed how close the artist was with those people to get those photo shoots; I was amazed those people allowed the artist to publish these photos which had their faces in; I was amazed at the huge amount of time (25 years) and efforts Lauren Greenfield spent on this project travelling to different countries and documenting different “representatives” of generation wealth. This project showed me perfectly how much work there would be for a long-term photo project, and how considerate, persistent and firm each photographer needed to be.

All photographs in this show spoke for themselves. Each picture individually showed a different aspect of the lifestyle of generation wealth. However, this was not enough. To help visitors better understand the situations and stories behind these photos, Lauren Greenfield also attached a description along each photo. Some texts were pure facts and others were quotes from the person in the photos. I remembered a quote along with a young man’s portrait. Without the text, I would understand nothing. But through reading the words, I knew that this young man grew up as one of the generation wealth. In the quote, he recalled how frustrated he was when he turned 21 and his father, instead of giving a birthday gift, gave him dozens of bill he needed to pay back, which each cost a huge amount of money. I also remembered stories along photos of big abandoned houses. The stories stated many people borrowed millions dollars to buy large villas but ended up as not being able to pay the banks back. Then people were put into jails and their houses were left behind, taken by banks.

I think the photo show Generation Wealth did a great job on drawing public’s attention to this minority group-the most wealth group in the world and leading people to understand this population within a wide social context and in a more comprehensive way. The series also increases people’s awareness of being an individual in the society. At least to me, those photos served very practical and positive functions, reminding me who I am, what kind of life that I do not want to live and what type of role I want to play in this world. More importantly, seeing this show get me to know how powerful a photographer could be: to confidently speak out and loud to the world and also make others aware of their minds too.

Robert Lundberg

Oct. 23, 2017

The Inscribed Studio Portrait as Self-image: Photographing a New Self in Early Twentieth-Century China.

Wu Hung, Professor in the Departments of Art History and East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, delivered an engaging lecture on the potential hybrid space between portrait and self-portrait through the lens of the early 20th Century “queue-cutting” movement in China. He termed these particular images, which bear first-person inscriptions from the subject, “I-portraits”. Hung artfully linked these images to the sociopolitical realities of late 19th/early 20th Century China, though his presentation of connections to photographic influences from other traditions and parts of the globe felt comparatively meager.
I found Hung’s presentation of four images of Chinese men standing in such a way as to capture both the subject and the subject’s reflection in a full-length mirror very intriguing. The photo’s all documents each man just before he cut off his “queue”, the hairstyle of a shaved front portion of the head with the top/back of the hair worn in a long braid down the back. This was the government-mandated haircut for Chinese men under the Qing dynasty, which ended in 1912. However, for several decades leading up to this, political reformers, artists, and other progressive elements of Chinese male society began cutting their queues. Interestingly, with the establishment of a Chinese republic in 1912, the law was reversed, outlawing the queue haircut and forcing men to cut it off. All of the four images are from some time in 1912, though at least some document the men cutting their queue after the new republican law took effect. Hung did not mention this explicitly, but I wondered whether the relatively affluent status all the subjects seemed to hold allowed them more leeway in adjusting to the new Chinese order. Hung’s focus was instead on the inscriptions the men wrote on the back of the photographs, commemorating the cutting of their queue, and, Hung argues, thereby creating an “I-portrait” which is a unique object that transcends the duplicability of a simple commercial photographic print.
Hung, limited by time in his lecture, was not able to dive as deeply into linkages he saw with prior traditions of photographing women in front of full-length mirrors. I did find fascinating, however, his point stating that the female subjects were always anonymous and photographed simply to document their fantastic hairstyles (the mirror allowing multiple angles to be captured) and traditional clothing. Conversely, the photographs of male subjects were inscribed by the subjects themselves, not only documenting their names, but showing that they commissioned the images taken for their own purposes, unlike those of the women. The strongest carry over, though, was the central and explicit use of the mirror to show the hair, though in the men’s case it takes on a much more poetic effect, capturing something thus far central to their lives which was soon-to-be-lost. Additionally, the mirror seems to allow both their pre- and post- haircut identities to briefly (yet enduringly) coexist.
Hung also linked the use of mirrors in the images to Britain, the US and the then-Kingdom of Siam. While he hinted at many interesting additional layers of gender, racial, and class complexities, there clearly was not time within this lecture to unpack these facets. I hope in further writing or presentations he is able to do so, as these examples seemed rich with potential.

Aida Ebrahimi

Exhibition Review: Reconfigured Reality at MMOCA

The current exhibition was a selection of photographs from contemporary artists from Midwest and elsewhere dated from 1970 and forward. In this collection one can see the development and changes in the contemporary photography, both conceptual and technical. Each image offered a new and unique perspective on contemporary photography. Some used creativity in framing and print size, and JoAnn Verburg's image stood out to me in that regard. Her large print of a man laying down was broken into two sections and each were framed individually but mounted next to each other. This style created a separation within the image and a distortion that helped with the concept of the series. Another creative yet simple example is an image by Paul Baker Prindle. His image was not framed and was simply pinned to the wall. This type of mounting complimented the concept of the image and turned the photograph into a court evidence, or rather an investigative image.

Some artists in this exhibition manipulated old techniques to create contemporary images. For example J. Shimon and J. Lindemann used Ambrotype and 19th century techniques to visualize their concept of decay. The exhibition also offered a development in the concept of photography and presenting unique perspectives. Lori Novak used ghosting and double exposure, Kenneth Josephson photographed a photography, and Thomas Barrow distorted his negative to highlight his concept. Each of these artists adopted their own technical signatures to aid their concept.

All images in the exhibition leave the viewer with some ambiguity and mysteriousness using conceptual and technical manipulations. Rober Von Sternberg's photo played with the composition to create a conceptual distortion and leading the eye to a black void, while Thomas Barrow physically manipulated his photos by scratching the negatives to create the same ambiguity. The collections shows how much contemporary photography has evolved over years and how artists used pre- or post-production techniques to manipulate photos. These techniques turn a simple image and scene into a much greater work of art that engages the viewer.

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