Monday, July 27, 2020

Alec Soth's Favorite Photo from NIAGARA

In a Guardian article 13 years ago, Alec Soth discussed his favorite photograph from NIAGARA. In his 2019 Magnum course "Alec Soth: Photographic Storytelling," Soth revisits that fateful image.

Melissa, Flamingo Inn, c. 2005

Consequently, this has come to be one of my own favorite images from the series.

All the best,

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Thinking of Charles White

I recently discovered Charles White, an artist who's drawings, lithographs, and murals create powerful images of African Americans -- what White called “images of dignity.” White's contributions to American muralism and the "New Negro" cannon are significant but had gone unnoticed after his death in 1979. The subject of a major retrospective at MoMA in 2018, White's work reemerged into the public eye.

Love Letter III 

I Had a Dream

Folksinger (Voice of Jericho: Portrait of Harry Belafonte)

Goodnight Irene

Our War

Name Unknown

Name Unknown

Banner for Willie J


Mary McLeod Bethune

Charles White, c. 1950

I definitely have more thoughts/ideas/questions about Charles' work and I look forward to sharing them sometime in the future.

All the best,

Walker Evan's Final Thoughts on Photographers & the Medium

In 1969 Walker Evans was invited to write the section on photography for Louis Kronenberger’s anthology Quality: Its Image in the Arts (1969). It was his last major statement on the medium.  He chose images taken by Arbus, Cameron, Steiglitz, Cartier-Bresson, Levitt, Frank, Friedlander, his last lover Virginia (Ginni) Hubbard, as well as others. Each double spread carried one image with a text opposite, a format developed by John Szarkowski in his influential book Looking at Photographs (1973). Although there was great variety in Evans’s curation, he ultimately conformed to his own photographic aesthetic which he established forty years earlier:

“(1) absolute fidelity to the medium itself; that is, full and frank and pure utilization of the camera as the great, the incredible instrument of symbolic actuality that it is; (2) complete realization of natural, uncontrived lighting; (3) rightness of in-camera view-finding, or framing (the operator’s correct, and crucial definition of his picture borders); (4) general but unobtrusive technical mastery.”

Walker's excerpts on Frank & Freidlander are the most striking to me as well as his inclusion of Ginni Hubbard. Ginni was a dear friend of Walker's and eventually his "last love." Despite extensive search, the photograph included here is the only one I've found taken by her.

All the best,

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Some Flags I Like

The last couple of days I've found myself spending a good bit of time crawling through the Vexillology subredddit. Naturally, of course, I found myself building a little mental catalog of flags I really liked.

The first is the Moultrie flag originating from my home city of Charleston. The flag dates back to the Revolutionary War and was commisioned in 1775 by Colonel William Moultrie. The flag was flown during the famous Battle of Sullivan's Island and was actually shot down during battle. Sergeant William Jasper ran out in the open and hoisted it again, rallying the troops until a new stand could be provided.

There are two main variants of the flag I really like. The first is an empty crescent with "LIBERTY" written across the bottom. The second is "LIBERTY" inside of the crescent/breast plate.

The second is the flag of the Oglala Lakota tribe at the Pine Ridge Reservation. The circle of nine tipi on the flag represent the nine districts of the reservation. The red field represents the blood shed by the tribe in defense of their lands and an allegorical reference to the term "red man," by which they were referred to by European colonialists. The blue represents the sky, as seen in all four cardinal directions during the worship of the Great Spirit, and the elements. It also represents the Lakota spiritual concept of heaven or "the Spirit World" to which departed tribal members go. (Copied from Wikipedia)

The last flag is the Liberty Flag of Schenectady. This flag was first displayed in January of 1771 in the city center of Schenectady, NY. It was originally flown to show the original Dutch settlers did not approve of the more recent settlers from England. The flag continued to be used into the American revolution by the First New York line regiment, mostly made up of citizens in Schenectady.

All the best,

Listening to: Luiz Bonfá, Vince & Bola, Zoot Sims

While on a latin jazz spur, I found myself listening to these four artists. Here's what I'm listening to from them:

Luiz Bonfá's Solo in Rio 1959.

Vince Guaraldi and Bola Sete's Vince & Bola.

Zoot Sim's on Jutta Hipp with Zoot Sims.

All the best,

Day 2: Birdhouse Writeup

Today was a smashing success compared to day 1. I was able to put together the entire main structure, excluding the floor. While this design is almost certainly an easy task for someone with marginal experience, I feel very accomplished.

In the day 1 writeup I mentioned picking up oak wood in place of cedar. Instead, I picked up pine which I like the look, feel, and price of more. However, I would love to put together some houses with 1/2in cedar boards in the future if I find them near me.

In the next iteration of the design I would like to add dowels for support between the pieces. Right now it is held together only with glue. I plan on sanding, staining, and painting the current piece as well as adding a latched bottom. (I also might put it on a post?)

At Lowes, I picked up some extra quick grips and Valspar sealer. I also grabbed a few natural yellow and green toned paint swatches. At Home Depot, I swapped out my smaller Forstner bits with a larger set.

Success of today:
    * Put together main structure with good cuts.
    * Overall piece looks great.

Challenges today:
    * Getting the cuts and angles right for the wall and roof pieces.
    * Learning to use the Forstner bit on handheld tool. (Maybe buy a drill press in the future?)

Moving forward:
    * Add latched bottom to this piece.
    * Finish this piece with sand, seal, paint, etc.
    * Learn how to use dowels for added support.

All the best,

Thinking of Robert Kipniss

I recently discovered painter and printmaker Robert Kipniss. His work has a dark, foggy romanticism reminding me of the work of Robert Adams. A friend remarked that his prints have a familiarity to early computer generated images.

All the best,

Day 1: Birdhouse Writeup

Today was a good learning day. While I didn't fully finish a model I learned some valuable lessons. I like the direction I'm moving in but still have about a week of tooling and fiddling to get at a product that I'm happy with.

The success of today:
    * Good cuts for the gabled roof with the front and back faces of the house.
    * Perfect hole on front plate for bird entrance.

The failures of today:
    * Poor wood selection. Used expensive 1in Cyprus boards for first test run. The boards are too thick and weighty. The boards at Lowes were mostly a crapshoot and full of knots and cracks.
    * Narrow placement of countersink holes causing the front board to crack along a knot.
    * Inconsistent countersink depth.
    * Uneven roof piece.

Moving forward:
    * Pick up 1/2in Oak boards from Lowes. Should be affordable and the right size, will see tomorrow.
    * Need to pick up a couple more fast clamps.
    * Larger forstner bits. Thought 1in was large enough for Carolina wrens but 1 1/2in is more like it.
    * Add about 1in in height to the overall piece.
    * Make the roof pieces flush with the side walls reaching the top before the roof angle begins.

Little notes:
    * Maybe use #6 screws instead (1 1/2in is a good length maybe?).
    * I really, really love the look and feel of the cedar but it's too expensive and there are no 1/2in or 1/4in boards available to me.

All the best,