Saturday, July 31, 2010


What museum exhibition would you find the above picture of Paris Hilton on her way to jail in? 10 points if you guessed "Exposed" - a show originated by SF MoMA and now at the Tate Modern in London.

The exhibition offers a fascinating and original look at pictures made without the explicit permission of the people depicted. With photographs from the late nineteenth century to present day, the show tackles its voyeuristic theme in a way that's at once serious and pleasurable.

Beginning with the idea of the 'unseen photographer', "Exposed" presents 250 works by celebrated artists and photographers including Brassaï's erotic Secret Paris of the 1930s images; Weegee's iconic photograph of Marilyn Monroe on the set of "Some Like It Hot"; and both Nick Ut's Paris Hilton picture and his more famous image of children escaping napalm attacks in the Vietnam War.

At a time where organized surveillance is dramatically increasing and reality (or faux-reality) t.v. is the mainstay of cable, the issues raised by "Exposed" are timely and provocative. So drop by if you're in London. If not, there's an excellent catalog readily available.

The Contessa Castiglione by Pierson.

Liz Taylor and Richard Burton caught by a paparazzi.

Helmut Newton's famous image of Lisa Taylor, considered to be the first image where the female gaze was allowed to appear as predatory as a man's.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Two London Shows

Mick Jagger by David Bailey

On a flying visit to England I stopped in to Hamilton's Gallery to see the show of David Bailey's enlarged contact sheets. They're very large, effective, a trip down memory lane, and a reminder of his place as the English Avedon. Here are a few of my favorites:

Jean Shrimpton

John Lennon and Paul McCartney

The Rolling Stones

Catherine Deneuve

Next door to Hamilton's the Timothy Taylor Gallery had an original Diane Arbus show tucked away in the back - a selection of her most summery pictures. I guess it's not surprising that a photographer who roamed the streets would do well in the summer but Arbus is in some ways so dark one wouldn't always put the two together. Anyway, a selection of known and unknown:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Weekend Video

Another weekend video courtesy of my contributing editor, Josie Danziger. In case you don't recognize the song it's Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours". But in addition to this highly original interpretation, have you noticed how good the video quality is on YouTube these days?

More on Jason to come as he's not only a great singer and songwriter but also a photographer. FYI - here's the original song below.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Vampire Chronicle

An interesting story by Lyndsey Parker from Yahoo's music blog:

While debate regarding unauthorized use of Facebook pics rages on, a photograph from the pre-digital age has gotten one indie group in some serious trouble. Former fashion model Ann Kirsten Kennis is suing buzz band Vampire Weekend for a cool $2 million, claiming a 1983 photo of her was used in their Contra album cover art without her consent.

Kennis, who currently resides in Fairfield, Connecticut, with her family, was reportedly very surprised to see her doe-in-headlights likeness in a preppy Polo shirt on the Contra cover, when her daughter showed her the disc earlier this year. "Her daughter came home one day and said, "Hi, Mom, see your picture?'" Kennis's lawyer, Alan Neigher, told Entertainment Weekly. Neigher also told EW that the photo was never intended for professional use. "It was taken by her family. It was a Polaroid, not a modeling picture," he insisted. "Her mother was a chronic Polaroid snapshot-taker, and used to sell whole archives of photographs to these shops, five bucks a hundred or whatever. Her mother may have given away to a charity bazaar a whole ream of photographs. We just really don't know...[Kennis] has no idea how that photograph got into the photographer's hands."

The photographer in question is Tod Brody, who along with Vampire Weekend's record label, XL Recordings, is also named in Kennis's $2 million misappropriation-of-identity lawsuit. See, Kennis claims Brody duped Vampire Weekend into believing he was the photographer who had shot the Polo pic, and that he forged her signature (as "Kirsten Johnson" in one spot and "Kirsten Johnsen" in another, Neigher says) on the photo's release form. Brody of course has denied this, telling EW: "Ms. Kennis's claim that I didn't take the photo is blatantly false. I took the photo in 1983. The photo was in my possession the entire time, for 26 years, until it was delivered to Vampire Weekend." (Incidentally, the photograph seems to have been removed from Brody's website,, although it was once included in the Portraits section under the file name "Kirsten.")

The band, who reportedly paid $5,000 to use the picture, have also issued their own formal statement: "As is standard practice, Vampire Weekend and XL Recordings licensed the rights to use the photo on the cover of Contra pursuant to a license agreement that contains representations and warranties authorizing this use of the photo. Now that a lawsuit has been filed, we look forward to having the matter resolved in court."

So there are several questions here. First, who took the photo--Kennis's mother or Tod Brody? And if it was the mom, then did Brody really forge Kennis's signature and claim he was the real photographer? And if so, how did he think he'd get away with such a scam, since it was inevitable that Kennis would eventually see the cover? (After all, the album did debut at number one on the Billboard album chart in January 2010, so it was hardly obscure.) Conversely, if it was Brody who took the pic, is it possible that Kennis failed to read the fine print and didn't realize she was signing away rights to the picture 27 years ago?

And finally, did Vampire Weekend have any responsibility--as Kennis alleges--to make sure the photo release form's signature was legit? It's unclear just how much the band knew about their cover model before this lawsuit; when asked about the girl in interviews at the time of Contra's release, they gave deliberately vague answers. Lead singer Ezra Koenig told MTV News: "We know where the image came from, but we're not being very specific about her. We don't know her or anything....there's just something infinitely fascinating about a nice portrait of somebody, especially when she's got this ambiguous look, and people can read a lot into it....It makes you realize how much you can imagine about somebody when you know nothing about them, based on only a few signifiers."

The mystery surrounding the enigmatic golden girl on the Contra cover continues, although not in the way Koenig may have imagined. Kennis retired from modeling years ago; additional photos of her, from either the past or present, professional or candid, are seemingly non-existent on the Web (even the profile pic on what appears to be her private Facebook page is a photo of a dog); and she's refused to speak to the press thus far (she did come to the phone when the Village Voice rang her recently, and was reportedly polite, but declined to be interviewed). Perhaps when the reclusive ex-model finally appears in court, we'll all find out the real story behind this now-infamous photograph.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Weekend Video

This high testosterone video is a promo for Versus TV, a cable sports channel in the U.S and Canada (where it's known as OLN - the Outdoor Life Network).

It's so retro and un-artsy that it's artful (if you follow me), And an interesting motivational speech for me as I'm doing the Montauk Triathlon this weekend. Another slightly less aggressive but also effective Versus video below.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Noted With Pleasure

Elliott Erwitt. Sicily 1965.

The Chelsea Market on West 15th Street is a block long pass through of mouth watering food shops developed within the site of the former Nabisco Factory. Over the last few years, they have been putting up free photo shows of a mixed quality, but up right now is their best show to date - a selection of Elliott Erwitt photographs shot in Italy over the last 50 years. I was particularly taken by this stylish picture taken in Sicily in 1965. I'm not sure who the gentleman is but it is definitely Sartorialissimo!

Elsewhere around town, the theme seems to be women in danger. Above from Aperture's "States of Flux" show - Jun Ahn creates a striking performance piece confronting the encroaching urban environment of Seoul.

Meanwhile on a chance visit to my neighboring gallery Fredericks & Freiser my eye caught this catalog by the front desk with this startling image by Josephine Meckseper. Meckseper is a U.S. based German contemporary multi-media artist so you can be sure this image is a comment on American culture. (Feel free to offer your own interpretation.)

This month's British VOGUE offers up these striking photographs by Josh Olins. The "Contributor's Notes" explained that the pictures were inspired by the British painter Euan Uglow - certainly not a household name but as you'll see below, it's actually an interesting source and a good example of an artist being inspired by rather than copying someone else.

Below - two Uglow paintings.

To finish off the week, a chance encounter with Lisa Atkin, who manages the advertising and design company Baron & Baron, brought up this adorable picture of her brand new puppy, Max. I forgot to ask if the composition of this iPhone photo was also inspired by Uglow.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

RISD Graduate Photo Show at Danziger Projects

Sonya German's video work is based in the embarrassment, confusion, and joy of our sexual lives. Her investigation into our relationship with sex and love exploits her own vulnerabilities.

When I was approached out of the blue by this year's graduating RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) photo students about showing their work, I was happy to offer them a mid-summer week. They are a diverse and interesting group, and have been a complete pleasure to work with.

Anyway, we hang the show next week and due to the abbreviated schedule (July 13 - 17) we're having a Tuesday night opening so mark this in your datebook.

Heather Johnson is inspired by the visual cues of Pop Art. She exploits the theory of post-black America by appropriating and digitally manipulating photographic images of the African American elite, with a specific focus on actors and various media moguls who have crushed the glass ceiling of race, class, and culture.

Ki Ho Park documents what is left behind in the storefronts across America. He examines vacant retail stores left in a hurry—evidence of the decline of American prosperity .

Louisa Marie Summer’s focus is on portraiture and social documentary. Through intimate images of unpolished life, Louisa’s photographs and most recent video explore issues of social inequity and survival.

Isaac Wingfield grew up in rural Western North Carolina. He is using a study of the landscape to search for a way home, from urban New England back to his roots in the rural Southeast.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Levinstein at The Met

This tightly edited and excellent show recently opened at The Metropolitan Museum and runs through October 17, so no excuse for missing it if you’re in town.

Leon Levinstein is something of an insider’s choice – being much more known and appreciated by dealers and curators than collectors or even photographers. But he’s the real deal – as almost every picture in this show demonstrates.

Based on a large donation to The Met, the exhibition features 44 prints covering the range of street people Levinstein was drawn to in the ‘60s and ‘70s. “Hipsters, Hustlers, and Handball Players” is the show title, but it might be more accurately called “Fatties, Floozies, and Fashion”. However the strange thing about the images is that however outlandish Levinsteins subjects may be, there is a generosity and a vitality to his eye that makes his characters seem almost stylish!

If you look at the pictures illustrated here, I feel that Levinstein is actually celebrating rather denigrating his subjects’ individuality and how they present themselves. It’s just that his taste is much broader than most. I think, for example, he really likes the outfit below and was simply ahead of his time in appreciating 70s fashion. As it’s pretty easy to make people look freakish, I also particularly admired Levinstein’s skill and generosity.

Ken Johnson writing in The New York Times responded in totally the opposite way. For his review click here. Let me know what you think. But to me Leon was a softie playing in a hardball world.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Summer Shows

Mitch Epstein. New York City. 1978

It's corny, but what else are you going to do? When summer rolls around and business slows down, galleries and museums roll out the summer snaps. This year looks like a particularly engaging crop and I noticed lots of great images advertising the shows.

This selection comes from that invaluable guide to exhibitions Photograph Magazine. Above - Mitch Epstein's polka-dotted street shot from the Princeton University Art Museum's "Starburst: Color Photography in America 1970-1980". Opens July 11.

Chelsea in the Summer. Jean-Philippe Delhomme.

On our invitation card for the first of our two summer shows, I went with Jean-Philippe Delhomme's gouache of West 24th Street which pefectly captures the mood, look, and feel of the summer. You may wonder why I would use a painting but it's easy to explain - Jean-Philippe thinks he's a photographer!

Lucile Brokaw on Long Island Beach, 1933. Martin Munkacsi.

I'm still working on the exact parameters of our second summer show but there's a good chance it will include this classic summer image by Martin Munkacsi, usually credited as being the first fashion picture employing deliberate movement. It's also the image The Met are using to illustrate their show at The Costume Institute, "American Woman".

Jeanne and Longboard. 1963. Ron Church.

Meanwhile, Scott Nichols Gallery in San Francisco goes retro-sexy with a show of summer favorites and this shot by the great surf photographer, Ron Church. For those interested in seeing more of Church's work, my friend Tom Adler has produced two books - Ron Church: California to Hawaii 1960 to 1965 , and Surf Contest. Both seminal surf photo books.

Jim Pond. Family in Convertible Somewhere in Texas. 1968

The George Eastman House in Rochester presents "Colorama" an exhibition celebrating the 60th anniversary of the first colorama. From 1950 until 1990, Kodak’s Coloramas were seen by millions of commuters passing through New York City's Grand Central Terminal. The panoramic photographs—18 feet by 60 feet—presented an idealized view of life in 20th-century America and promoted photography as an essential leisure activity. Norman Rockwell even art directed one and Ansel Adams shot another.

Smoking, Sinai, 2004. Barry Frydlender. Courtesy Andrea Meislin Gallery, New York

Also in Photograph Magazine, Phillips auction house have used this viscerally atmospheric summer image by master compositor Barry Frydlender to solicit consignments for their fall sale. (Do click on this to see it in a larger size.) It's this kind of work that shows what photoshop can do when used as a tool by someone who has an original vision and the skill to use it seamlessly.

Bruce Laurance, Woody Allen and Tamara, 57th Street, New York, 1971

And last but not least, as humor often seems to be a element in many of these summer shows, Staley Wise offer this amusing take on scale and fashion in their show, "Good Humor".