Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bill Wood's Business

Bill Wood's Business by Marvin Heiferman & Diane Keaton is culled from an archive of 4x5 black-&-white negatves of commercial work done by Bill Wood, a photographer & camera store owner in downtown Dallas, working from 1937-1973. There are a total of 20,000 negatives in the archive which was originally saved by the archivist Rick Prelinger, which was later owned by Diane Keaton, & is now a gift to the International Center of Photography. Heiferman & Keaton have collaborated on books of industrial images in the past such as Mr. Salesman; & Keaton is also a photographer. Her book, Reservations, is one of my treasured possessions - & when I go to Miami Beach I look in vain for what is now a lost world of Morris Lapidus & such designs, such as those seen in her images.

Bill Wood's photographs, all done commercially, are a fascinating insight into the social fabric of post WWII USA. An entrepreneur, a public figure, Bill Wood himself emerges as a resolutely cheerful, social figure - a Mason, a lodge member, his name emblazoned on his car & in neon over his store. If anything this shows us an aspect of photography as a kind of thread to the social fabric - from showroom displays to prizewinners to re-enactments of accidents to new buildings & streets - the photograph as a kind of proof & reinforcement of social values emerges, even when we can no longer identify directly what the uses of the images. Both familiar & strange, there is some uncanniness to the images, which are nevertheless deliriously cheerful & matter-of-fact. Lists of the subjects do not do the images justice. I am struck by their constant "can-do" spirit, their euphoric faith in the "new" world of the modern city & suburb, product & display.

As a collection, the book reminds me of Evidence, the book by Mike Mandel & Larry Sultan. Evidence utilizes the obsolescence of the images - that they have lost function & sense - to create a new narrative of images which become enigmatic in their lack of context, again utilizing their familiarity to lead us to a state of un-knowing. The Bill Wood photos do this with their eclectic subject matter(s), rendered as if all of one piece with the uniform clarity of film & flash, yet never revealing their "secret," if there actually is one. I am reminded of the worlds of my parents & their peers, their "new" world of subdivisions & products, from ready-to-wear clothes to frozen vegetables. Perhaps I am romanticizing this epoch, but I do believe they believed they had inherited a new world which was bountiful & extraordinary in the everyday - optimistic values not so apparent in our current world. If there is a "zeitgeist" to the ordinary, I believe it can be seen in this amazing archive of our once brave new world - we see what we have lost, or what is no longer available to us.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

a partial bibliography regarding vernacular photography

What do lists reveal? The following is an attempt on my part to find some meaning(s) in the compilation of a list of some of my books. "Vernacular photography" is an incomplete & not necessarily a sharply defined subject. I am including any book which resonates somehow with the concept. This can include texts entirely outside the subject (e.g. art history & theory) as well as photography which could be disputed as "vernacular". In plainer terms - this is looking at what I find on my shelves.

American Snapshots, ed. Ken Graves & Mitchell Payne, Scrimshaw Press, 1977
The Book of Shadows, ed. Jeffrey Fraenkel, D.A.P./Fraenkel Gallery, 2007
Boring Postcards, ed. Martin Parr, Phaidon, 1999
Close to Home - An American Album, Getty Publications, 2004
The Contest of Meaning - Critical Histories of Photography, ed. Richard Bolton, MIT, 1992
The Critical Image - Essays on Contemporary Photography, ed. Carol Squiers, Bay Press, 1990
Death Scenes - A Homicide Detective's Scrapbook, ed. Sean Tejaratchi, Feral House, 1996
Harms Way: Lust & Madness, Murder & Mayhem - A Book of Photographs, ed. Joel Peter Witkin, Twin Palms, 1994
The Killing Fields, ed. Chris Riley and Doluglas Niven, Twin Palms, 1996
Lady Ottoline's Album, ed. Carolyn G. Heilbrun, Knopf, 1976
L'Amour - French Glamour Girls, ed. Makoto Ohrui, Graphic-sha Publishing Co., 2000
Least Wanted - A Century of American Mugshots, ed. Mark Michaelson & Steven Kasher, Steidl/Steven Kasher Gallery, 2006
Moord in Rotterdam - Diverse Photografieen 1905-1967, Witgeverij Duo/Duo, 1994
Other Pictures - Anonymous Photographs from the Thomas Walther Collection, ed. Mia Fineman, Twin Palms, 2000
Our True Intent Is All For Your Delight - the John Hinde Butlin's Photographs, ed. Martin Parr, Chris Boot, 2003
Over Exposed - Essays on Contemporary Photography, ed. Carol Squiers, New Press, 1999
Peek - Photographs from the Kinsey Institute, ed. Carol Squiers, Arena, 2000
Real Photo Postcards - Unbelievable Images from the Collection of Harvey Tulcensky, ed. Laetitia Wolff, Princeton Architectural Press,
The Snapshot, Aperture Vol. 19, #1, 1974, ed. Jonathan Green
Snapshots - the Eye of the Century, ed. Carl Eigner, Hatje Cantz, 2004
Summer Vacation/Found Photographs, T. Adler Books, 2000
Torture Garden - Vintage Erotic Archives compiled by Azzlo Discipline, Treville, 1993
Without Sanctuary - Lynching Photography in America, ed. James Allen, Twin Palms, 2000
Pierre Apraxine, La Divine Comtesse - Photographs of the Countess de Castiglione, Yale, 2000
Pierre Apraxine & Clement Cheroux, The Perfect Medium - Photography and the Occult, Yale University, 2005
Goeffrey Batchen, Each Wild Idea: Writing, Photography, History, MIT, 2002
Geoffrey Batchen, Forget Me Not - Photography and Remembrance, Princeton Architectural Press, 2004
Tom Blake, Surfing 1922-1932, T. Adler Books, 1999
Gary Lee Boas, Starstruck - Photographs from a Fan, Dilettante Press, 1999
Christian Boltanski, Le Club Mickey, Imschoot, 1990
Pierre Bourdieu, Photography - A Middlebrow Art, Stanford University, 1996
Serge Bramly, Anonym, Kehayoff, 1996
Serge Bramly & Gerard Levy, Fleurs de Peau/Skin Flowers, Kehayoff, 1999
Elizabeth Breyer, George Eastman - A Biography, Johns Hopkins, 1996
Norman Bryson, Looking at the Overlooked: Four Essays on Still Life Painting, Reaktion, 2004
Janet E. Buerger, French Daguerreotypes, University of Chicago, 1989
Stanley Burns, Forgotten Marriage - the Painted Tintype and the Decorative Frame 1866-1910, Burns Press, 1995
Clement Cheroux & Ute Eskedin, The Stamp of Fantasy - The Visual Inventiveness of Photographic Postcards from the Collections of Gerard Levy & Peter Weiss, Steidl, 2007
T.J. Clark, The Painting of Modern Life, Princeton, 1986
Douglas Coupland & Pierre Huyghe, School Spirit, Dis Voir,
Tacita Dean, FLOH, Steidl, 2001
David Deitcher, Dear Friends - American Photographs of Men Together 1840-1918, Abrams, 2001
John DePrez & Lee Marks, The Hidden Presence, Venti, 2005
Gillo Dorfles, Kitsch - the World of Bad Taste, Bell, 1975
William Eggleston & John Szarkowski, William Eggleston's Guide, Museum of Modern Art, 1976
Hans-Peter Feldmann, 272 Pages, Fundacio Antoni Tapies, 2001
Hans-Peter Feldmann, All the Clothes of a Woman, Art Metropole, 1999
Hans-Peter Feldmann, Das Kleine Mövenbuch - The Little Seagull Book, Walter Konig, 2004
Douglas Fogle, The Last Picture Show: Artists Using Photography 1960-1982, Walker Art Center, 2003
General Idea, Manipulating the Self, Coach House Press, 1971
Allen Ginsberg, Snapshot Poetics, Chronicle Books, 1993
Nakki Goramin, American Photobooth, W.W. Norton, 2008
Herve Guibert, Ghost Image, Sun & Moon Press, 1996
William Hannigan, New York Noir - Crime Photos from the Daily News Archive, Rizzoli, 1999
Marvin Heiferman, Now is Then - Snapshots from the Maresca Collection, Princeton Architectural Press/Newark Museum, 2008
Marvin Heiferman & Diane Keaton, Local News - Tabloid Pictures from the Los Angeles Herald Express, D.A.P., 1999
Francois Heilbrun & Saskia Ooms, Maurice Denis, Musee d'Orsay, 2006
Heinz K. & Bridget A. Henisch, The Photographic Experience 1839-1914, Pennsylvania State, 1994
Babette Hines, Photobooth, Princeton Architectural Press, 2002
Alison Ferris, The Disembodied Spirit, Bowdoin College Museum of Art, 2003
Don James, Surfing San Onofre to Point Dune 1936-1942, Chronicle Books, 1998
Cameron Jamie, Rugburn, Pinspot 3, Smart Art Press
Martyn Jolly, Faces of the Living Dead - The Belief in Spirit Photography, Mark Batty, 2006
Mike Kelley, The Uncanny, Sonseek, 1993
Michael Lesy, Dreamland - America at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century, New Press, 1997
Michael Lesy, Wisconsin Death Trip, University of New Mexico, 2000
Barbara Levine, Snapshot Chronicles, Princeton Architectural Press, 2006
Mike Mandel & Larry Sultan, Evidence, D.A.P., 2004
Marshall McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride - Folklore of Industrial Man, Beacon, 1967
Billy Name, All Tomorrow's Parties - Billy Name's Photographs of Andy Warhol's Factory, D.A.P./Frieze, 1997
Douglas Nickel, Snapshots - The Photography of Everyday Life, 1888 to the Present, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1998
Barbara Norfleet, The Champion Pig, Penguin, 1980
Barbara Norfleet, Looking at Death, Godine, 1993
Celeste Olalquiaga, The Artificial Kingdom - A Treasury of the Kitsch Experience, Pantheon, 1998
Eugenia Parry, Crime Album Stories - Paris 1886-1902, Scalo, 2000
Karen Pinkus, The Montesi Scandal - The Death of Wilma Montesi and the Birth of the Paparazzi in Fellini's Rome, University of Chicago, 2003
Anatole Pohorlenko, When We Were Three - the Travel Albums of George Platt Lynes, Monroe Wheeler and Glenway Wescott 1925-1935, Arena Editions, 1998
Richard Prince, Naked Nurses, JMc & GHB Editions, 2006
Astrid Proll, Baader Meinhof - Pictures on the Run 67-77, Scalo, 1998
Mel Roberts, California Boys - Photographs from the 1960s and 1970s, Foto Factory Press, 2000
Mel Roberts, The Wild Ones - the Erotic Photography of Mel Roberts, Foto Factory Press, 2001
Jay Ruby, Secure the Shadow - Death and Photography in America, MIT, 1995
Ralph Rugoff, The Eye of the Needle - The Unique World of Microminiatures of Hagop Sandaldjian, Museum of Jurassic Technology, 1996
Ralph Rugoff, The Painting of Modern Life - 1960s to Now, Hayward Publishing, 2007
Ed Ruscha, Then and Now, Steidl, 2005
Luc Sante, Evidence, Farrar Straus Giroux, 1992Chec
Peter Schlesinger, Checkered Past - A Visual Diary of the '60s and '70s, Vendome Press, 2003
Daniel Schmid, Excitation Bizarre, Zyloc Publishing, 2003
Joachim Schmid, A Meeting On Holiday, Neroc, 2004
Joachim Schmid, Belo Horizonte, Praca Rui Barbosa, J. Schmid, 2004
Joachim Schmid, Phantome, Edition Fricke & Schmid, 1992
Joachim Schmid, Photoworks 1982-2007, Steidl/Tang Museum, 2007
JOachim Schmid, Porträts, Edition Fricke & Schmid, 1990
Joachim Schmid, Tausend Himmel, Photographers' Gallery, 2007
Collier Schorr, Jens F., SteidlMACK, 2005
Leslie Shedden, Mining Photographs and Other Pictures - A Selection from the Negative Archives of Shedden Studio, Glace Bay, Cape Breton, NSCAD/UCCB Press, 1983
Rupert Smith, Physique - the Life of John S. Barrington, Serpent's Tail, 1997
Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Photography at the Dock: Essays on Photographic History, Institution, and Practices, University of Minnesota, 1991
Susan Stewart, On Longing - Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection, Duke University, 1993
Will Straw, Cyanide and Sin - Visualizing Crime in 50s America, PPP Editions, 2006
Annelies Strba, Shades of Time, Lars Muller, 1997
Guy Stricherz, Americans in Kodachrome, Twin Palms, 2002
Larry Sultan, Pictures from Home, Abrams, 1992
Andy Warhol, catalogue, Moderna Museet, 1968
John Wood, The Scenic Daguerreotype - Romanticism and Early Photography, University of Iowa, 1995
Sylvia Wolf, Ed Ruscha and Photography, Steidl, 2004
Tim Wride, Retail Fictions - The Commercial Photography of Ralph Bartholomew Jr., LACMA, 1998
Bunny Yeager, Bunny's Honeys - Bunny Yeager, Queen of Pin-Up Photography, Taschen, 1994

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Stan Douglas "Detroit Pictures" @ Hamburger Bahnhof

Berlin - May 6 @ the Hamburger Bahnhof. A selection from the Flick Collection: Bernd & Hilla Becher, their students Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff, Candida Hofer, Axel Hutte; from Vancouver, Jeff Wall, Rodney Graham & Stan Douglas; also Sigmar Polke, Fischli/Weiss, David Claerbout.

What an interesting group of images to contemplate. Both T. & I were most enthusiastic about an early (1969) 8-piece grid of a single building, by the Bechers - seen methodically from 8 no doubt equidistant vantage points, encircling it. There were also early works by Struth (including the photo of the intersection of Crosby/Spring in lower Manhattan, which I often show students, pointing out the future locations of Balthasar & Starbucks), Ruff (interiors in an apartment building - each image identified by its room number - I wondered if this was student work, it seemed slightly more photographic than I would associate w/ him). & a series of vague, un-fixed images of Turkey by Polke. Overall a stunning show.

T. had recommended I look at the Stan Douglas Detroit pictures. I had seen them briefly in 1998 at David Zwirner & had a somewhat different memory. The images date from 1997-1998. Both T. & I remembered most distinctly the image at the top of the parking structure in the former Michigan Theater (also used in the film 8 Mile). When I saw the image initially it was a period when I had not been in Detroit for a few years & was out of touch as to the then current topography. The Douglas pictures were taken at the onset of construction of Ford Field & Comerica Park, which displaced a large area of downtown. 2 distinctive structures, the Gem Theater & the Elwood Diner were moved, for preservation purposed, & can be seen in transit. The scenes in the photos are both well-known places or buildings, mixed in with some much more anonymous sites. My sense is that a fair amount of research went into the choices, measured with enough freedom from a didactic agenda. If anything the Detroit photos remind us that without a specific context, photographs float in a kind of suspended animation, absent from specific meaning. One can see that the attention is mostly to the entropic decay of the city (perhaps more glamorous to outsiders than residents), however, there is none of the didactic recordings of a sociologist such as Camilo Jose Vergara. Is Stan Douglas being an aesthete of urban decay? There is that possibility; however it is a relief as well to not have explanations, statistics, facts, purposes - it becomes a bit formal perhaps, dealing with the phenomenology of technological images - which may or may not seem deceptively simple. The images are all color, varying in sizes & shapes. One can see the great icons of urban abandonment in downtown Detroit, the empty Michigan Central Depot (also seen in the film True Romance) & the until recently ruinous Book Cadillac Hotel (I have photos from the same intersection at Michigan Ave & Shelby). & there are some not so well known locales such as the perfectly monotonous, gray, abandoned Idlewild Motel (a great example of roadside readymade), & one perverse excursion into wealthy suburbia - a perfect green lawn in Grosse Pointe Farms, at the shore of beautiful Lake St. Clair, with a hanging loveseat facing out towards the placid water. An image of suburban private back yard splendor.

There is also an anomalous image of the Mies Van Der Rohe development, Lafayette Park, which is not in decrepitude, unlike what seems most of the city. Or at least this is anomalous in the structure of a journalistic essay, which the photos are NOT. This is an illuminating example of the different structures & necessities of journalism and art. Also curious to a former Detroiter adrift in Berlin, the signage for the Mies development & one of the Idlewild images were switched. A meaningless mistake, but of note to a former local such as myself & sweetly bizarre (one a cracker shack, the other a modernist epiphany). Also an image of a gas station is labelled "Paradise Valley" which officially no longer exists - it was torn down for a freeway long long ago.

To a Detroiter this portfolio may seem incomplete - but what could really be complete with such a project? There's a certain amount of beauty in these images which seems important too - a kind of golden twilight light. They are quite silent, still, contemplative. They seem of similar cast to the videos of sawmills by Douglas, as well - the contemplation of industry & its residue.