Monday, December 6, 2010

I'm sorry but I don't want to be an Emperor - that's not my business - I don't want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible, Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another, human beings are like that.

We all want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery. We don't want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone and the earth is rich and can provide for everyone.

The way of life can be free and beautiful.

But we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men's souls - has barricaded the world with hate; has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.

We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in: machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little: More than machinery we need humanity; More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me I say "Do not despair".

The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress: the hate of men will pass and dictators die and the power they took from the people, will return to the people and so long as men die [now] liberty will never perish...

Soldiers - don't give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you - who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel, who drill you, diet you, treat you as cattle, as cannon fodder.

Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines. You are not cattle. You are men. You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don't hate - only the unloved hate. Only the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers - don't fight for slavery, fight for liberty.

In the seventeenth chapter of Saint Luke it is written " the kingdom of God is within man " - not one man, nor a group of men - but in all men - in you, the people.

You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy let's use that power - let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age and security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie. They do not fulfil their promise, they never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfil that promise. Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men's happiness.

Soldiers - in the name of democracy, let us all unite!

Look up! Look up! The clouds are lifting - the sun is breaking through. We are coming out of the darkness into the light. We are coming into a new world. A kind new world where men will rise above their hate and brutality.

The soul of man has been given wings - and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow - into the light of hope - into the future, that glorious future that belongs to you, to me and to all of us. Look up. Look up.

- C.C., The Great Dictator, 1940

Richard Avedon, 1952

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.
- Joseph Campbell

Henry Peach Robinson, Fading Away, 1858

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The concept of good photography, as generally understood, is virtually synonymous with sharp focus. Blurred and out-of-focus images, however are as inherent to the medium as those that are crisp, clear and instantaneous.

- Martin Freidman “Vanishing Presence”

Inside you will find negatives which will not make satisfactory prints.

Dark negatives indicate over exposure.
Light negatives indicate under exposure.

Blurred images indicate camera moved, subject moved, or out of focus.

Black streaks indicate camera leaks light.

Whenever you are in doubt, be sure to check the operation of your camera before you load it again.

- Failure Envelope, 1930-40 est.

Nathan Lewis, 2009, Kodak Bullet Camera (broken)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Clarence John Laughlin, The Lamia Returns, 1941

My central position, therefore, is one of extreme romanticism - the concept of "reality" as being, innately, mystery and magic; the intuitive awareness of the power of he "unknown" - which human beings are afraid to realize, and which none of their religious and intellectual systems can really take into account. This romanticism revolves upon the feeling that the world is far stranger than we think; that the "reality" we think we know is only a small part of a "total reality"; and that the human imagination is the key to this hidden, and more inclusive, "reality."

Clarence John Laughlin, The Masks Grow to Us, 1947

It therefore should be possible for even the photographer - just as for the creative poet or painter - to use the object as a stepping stone to a realm of meaning completely beyond itself.

Clarence John Laughlin, We Reached for Our Dead Hearts, late 1940's (est.)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Felicia Batzloff,Untitled, 2010

at seventeen they
did not know
and I could not say
seeing it
now from hour
to hours end
dreams of a ghost
sunrise to sunset too

Felicia Batzloff, Untitled #1 of 13, Twelve Hour Project, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My walls of fire and my walls of water are, together with my roofs of air, the materials for the construction of a new architecture. With the three classic elements of fire, air, and water, tomorrow's city will be built and will at last be flexible, spiritual, and immaterial.

To feel the soul without explaining it, without vocabulary, and to represent this sensation. the midst of creating something, alone the main thing for them is to know in the end that truth does not exist, only honesty exists, it is always in bad taste, since after all honesty, in so far as it's human, is only a set of learned optical laws, etc. etc. But it becomes life, life itself, power this strange force of life which belongs to neither you nor I nor anyone, life is life...

Enlightenment, it's thought plus something else, plus the visit of the spirit, that strange spirit, you can't say it doesn't exist, after all that spirit even if you're a materialist, it exists.

A new world calls for a new man.
- Yves Klein

An amazing exhibition at the Walker Art Center:

Half shaman, half showman, Yves Klein took the European art scene by storm in a career that lasted just eight years, from 1954 to 1962. An innovator who embraced painting, sculpture, performance, photography, music, theater, film, architecture, and theoretical writing, Klein was a precursor of many movements of the postwar avant-garde, including minimal art, conceptual art, land art, and performance art. He self-identified as “the painter of space,” seeking to achieve immaterial spirituality through pure color—primarily an ultramarine blue of his own invention, International Klein Blue. Through these and other experiments Klein aimed to reach “beyond the problematic in art” and rethink the world in spiritual and aesthetic terms, creating a pivotal transition between modern art’s concern with material objects and contemporary notions about the conceptual nature of art.

...try to dream, continue dreaming while speaking...listening...try to capture this atmosphere of the mind.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nathan Lewis, After Kahn After Muybridge, 2010

Inside movement there is one moment in which the elements are in balance. Photography must seize the importance of this moment and hold immobile the equilibrium of it.

-Henri Cartier-Bresson

Sunday, October 3, 2010

We found a very interesting photograph yesterday at the MN Antique Show at the State Fairgrounds.

As you can imagine, what initially drew me to it was the Post-Mortem subject matter. Though the more I looked, the more I discovered some incredibly unique features.

Off the bat the Pallbearers were not in the scene with the actual casket, instead they seemed to be pasted on top of the image. Although in actuality it was done in the darkroom as the final image was just one photograph.

Even more interesting is that the cut marks on the pallbearer's images seemed to mirrored, so with little effort I was able to attach them and see that they were standing shoulder to shoulder in reality.

More notable features of the image are these scratches or smudges hanging in the air.

In itself the marks are probably innocuous, but there is something so sculpted about them that points toward them being deliberate. Now it should be noted that this image is most likely an albumen print, meaning it's a contact print on paper using a glass collodion negative. It's well known how easily collodion can be scratched off the glass surface, especially when dried and with age. But these marks don't look like they were made when the plate was dry, or else they would look like these damaged E.J. Bellocq images:

Because again these were contact prints, it's unlikely that the marks appeared after the fact, they had to be on the glass plate. Surely such a fine photographer would not overlook a damaged plate, so there had to be a reason. Could these scratches have been the beginnings of a drawing of a spirit or ectoplasm within the image? It was definitely not uncommon for praticitioners to mix illustration with Photography, especially when it came to spirit photography.

William H. Mumler, Moses A. Dow, 1871

Mrs. Thorn, Date Unknown

Even the inclusion of floating ectoplasm was common practice, though admittedly Our example is much rougher...maybe it was an idea abandoned half way through?

Now for the most fascinating feature beyond the Post-mortem, beyond the addition of bearers, and beyond the ectoplasm is the presence of a fourth figure. In the middle of the image stands a transparent man holding the coffin lid.

This eerie character's identity is a mystery indeed. At first I thought it was the left bearer, but when I scanned it, it became clear the face and mustache were different. So who could it be? The Mortician? Or perhaps even more amazing, could it be the man in the coffin?

When you place the faces side by side, the "ghost" figure and the deceased share similar characteristics.

Left bearer, Man in back, Man in the Casket, Right Bearer

In the end there are definitely more questions that answers. At minimum this a unique example of Post-mortem photography. Not only does it serve its purpose as a memorial image, but it also attempts to commemorate those who were in attendance at the services. Could the bearers be the deceased's brothers, maybe the younger was his son?

Lets also dissect the apparition behind the coffin. Could it be the departed? Perhaps the photographer usurped an image of him, then included it to show his ever living soul? But then what the chances that the man had a picture taken of himself with such a macabre item as a coffin lid? One can see the transparent man is holding a sold Coffin Lid, whereas the casket is equipped with an open faced one.

Could it maybe be the Mortician displaying his artistry? Maybe the whole image is an artistic display of the Photographer's talents, showing potential clients all the features he could include in one image?

Maybe it was a staged fine art photograph.

Maybe it was a series of flukes and mistakes.

Maybe it was a ghost.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bernd and Hilla Becher, from Typologies, 1989

Several days later Murray asked me about a tourist attraction known as the most photographed barn in America. We drove 22 miles into the country around Farmington. There were meadows and apple orchards. White fences trailed through the rolling fields. Soon the signs started appearing. THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA. We counted five signs before we reached the site. There were 40 cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot. We walked along a cowpath to the slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing. All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits. A man in a booth sold postcards and slides -- pictures of the barn taken from the elevated spot. We stood near a grove of trees and watched the photographers. Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book. 

"No one sees the barn," he said finally. 

A long silence followed. 

"Once you've seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn."

He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced by others.

We're not here to capture an image, we're here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies."

There was an extended silence. The man in the booth sold postcards and slides.

"Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We've agreed to be part of a collective perception. It literally colors our vision. A religious experience in a way, like all tourism."

Another silence ensued.

"They are taking pictures of taking pictures," he said.

He did not speak for a while. We listened to the incessant clicking of shutter release buttons, the rustling crank of levers that advanced the film.

"What was the barn like before it was photographed?"

-- Excerpt from White Noise by Don DeLillo

Idris Kahn, Every...Bernd and Hilla Becher Gabel Sided Houses, 2004

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Good news! Two exhibitions this weekend, it'll be a great double header.

The first opened last night at the Minneapolis Photo Center and the show was "Black & White: Black, White, and All Points In Between."

Whether images were arrived at by digital capture or by film exposure was a moot point; all I looked at, all I made decisions on, were end products of creative processes, which are as varied as the number of pieces on the wall. In the final analysis, all I could go on were my impressions of images on a screen—all emanations of light, all about the same size, some giving an indication of toning (the colors of black-and-white—shades of gray, brown, purple, green—are always remarkably diverse—the prints on exhibit will bear this out). My interest was piqued when I encountered evidence of invention, some sense that black-and-white was being applied in new ways, rather than in iterations of earlier work. My congratulations and encouragement to all who are advancing the capacities of this quintessential mode of photographic practice.

—George Slade, Boston, August 5, 2010

The show is fantastic, It was an international call curated by George Slade. Without a doubt the most exciting collection of contemporary black and white photographs I've seen. It had everything from Tin types to Inkjet prints, and as the title says, all things in between. I will absolutely be returning again and again to appreciate it.

It was a really well curated, featuring a ton of fantastic artists, one of which was Suzanne Opton, whose work I've always admired! Very seldom do I like and faun over the majority of work in ANY show, but this exhibit had me engaged the whole time.

I was fortunate enough to get this piece in:

Nathan Lewis, Untitled (Ectoplasm Escaping Ms. Johnson,) Silver Gelatin Fiber Print

There is a catalog available from the exhibit, which I think is well worth it!

Here are a couple installation shots. I was very happy to find my piece on the wall right when you entered.

Wow unbeknownst to me, I caught the fantastic photographer David Bowman in this shot. He also had a piece in the show, see below:

David Bowman, Dingo Traps, NSW Australia, 1994

THEN! To my disbelieve, I was also fortunate to get 3 pieces in the Stevens Square Center for the Arts exhibition About Face: An Exploration of Identity and the Human Experience.

The show is a really exciting and eclectic mix of sculpture, painting, print making, drawing, and I believe I'm the only photographer.

The human face is so central to how we view other people, whether meeting someone for the first time or scrutinizing an old friend’s reaction, that imagining a world without addressing the familiar set of features on the front of our head seems unthinkable. The mood, confidence, innocence, beauty, honesty, brutality and sadness of a person are so often indicated (sometimes falsely) by their face. Even as social media evolves to replace encounters with clicks, replication and broadcast of faces remains essential to the way we want to connect with others.

It is with these considerations in mind that ABOUT FACE at SSCA Gallery features artists
employing traditional and experimental means in communicating their own unique expressions of the human face, including painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, sculpture and mixed media.

Nathan Lewis, Untitled (Transformation), Silver Gelatin Fiber Print

Nathan Lewis, Untitled (Consumption), Silver Gelatin Fiber Print

Nathan Lewis, Untitled (Basement Window), Silver Gelatin Fiber Print

At the SSCA reception, you can sort of see the pictures to the side...I should've taken more images.

There is no question that these photographs are several years old. But, I am particularly excited because none of this work had been shown before. It has really inspired me to continue on with unfinished ideas and projects I started but then abandoned for my more straight documentary work. I know that I will be onto fantastic when I can combine the aesthetic quality of the older work with the content of the newer.

If only I could figure out how!!