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A Conversation About Photography

written by: Robert Hirsch, A. D. Coleman

We asked two of our favorite writers and well-respected critics of photography to get together to talk about photography. Here are some topics, thoughts and talking points from their discussions. On their personal introduction to photography. Robert Hirsch: I learned the rudiments of photography from my dad in his basement darkroom at age 11. This set me on the path of earning my BFA from Rochester Institute of Technology and MFA from Arizona State University and pursuing a life in the field as an imagemaker, curator, gallery director, professor and writer. A. D. Coleman: My introduction to photography as a Read more »

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Keith Carter

written by: Robert Hirsch

Keith Carter has been called a transcendental realist for his hauntingly enigmatic and mythological toned photographs that blend the animal world, popular culture, Southern folklore and religion from his East Texas home. Carter has published over a dozen mono- graphs and teaches photography at Lamar University where he holds the Endowed Walles Chair of Visual and Performing Arts. The following represents a condensation of our recent exchanges. Robert Hirsch: How has your background affected your imagemaking? Keith Carter:I’m a self-taught photographer from a Southern culture on the Texas-Louisiana border. My mom was a single parent who made a living as Read more »

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Brian Ulrich’s Copia

written by: Robert Hirsch, Brian Ulrich

After the attacks of 9/11, President Bush encouraged Americans to go shopping, equating consumerism with patriotism. Brian Ulrich’s Copia was a response to that advice, “a long-term photographic examination of the peculiarities and complexities of the consumer-dominated culture in which we live. Through large-scale photographs taken within both the big-box retail stores and the thrift shops that house our recycled goods, Copia explores not only the everyday activities of shopping, but the economic, cultural, political and social implications of commercialism and the roles we play in over-consumption and as targets of advertising.” Copia unfolds in three acts, each representing a Read more »

The Wolf On My Island, 2011. 15x22 inches. Handmade book, illustrated with toned gelatin silver photographs.

Brian Taylor and the Photographic Narrative

written by: Robert Hirsch

Brian Taylor innovatively explores alternative processes including historic nineteenth century printing techniques, mixed media and handmade books. Taylor is a Professor of Art in the photography program at San Jose State University where he has taught for 30 years. The following are highlights from our recent discussions. Robert Hirsch: How would you describe your artistic voice? Brian Taylor: My photographic practice involves visualizing the poetic interior views of my subjects and communicating these visions to others. Most photographers act as hunters in search of a preexisting scene: without a specific image in mind, they stalk the elusive “wild” photograph. In Read more »

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Mia Fineman

written by: Robert Hirsch

Although digital imaging has raised society’s awareness about how camera images are constructed, the practice of hand altering photographs has existed since the medium was invented. Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop is the first major exhibition devoted to the history of how photographers have actively interacted with pictures before the digital age. Following the curatorial premise that “there is no such thing as an absolutely unmanipulated photograph,” the project offers a stimulating view on the history of photography as it traces the medium’s link to visual truth by concentrating on how images were changed after the camera capture. It does Read more »

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Arthur Tress: Documentary Fiction

written by: Robert Hirsch

Arthur Tress is an American experimental photographer who utilizes his anthropological background to construct astonishing, dream-like expressions of his interior landscapes. Tress’s fictions, made up of ordinary objects set in commonplace environments, are organized to reveal their underlying psychological associations. Tress’s direct involvement with his subject matter generates tension between the formalism of the photograph and the subjectivity of his personal vision, creating a new hybrid form: documentary fiction. The resulting unexpected juxtapositions construct surrealistic non-sequiturs in which outer reality merges with the inner mind. The following is a distillation of recent exchanges between Tress and myself. Robert Hirsch: How Read more »

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Carl Chiarenza: Transmutation

written by: Robert Hirsch

Over the years Carl Chiarenza’s photographs have evolved from tightly framed, documentary-style images into a vocabulary of visual abstraction. He achieved this by taking leave of the natural landscape and constructing collages from scrap materials for the purpose of being photographed under a copy stand with a 4×5 view camera. Chiarenza’s luminous, meticulously crafted black and white photographs remove his subject from the everyday world of color. This allows his images to transcend their specific subject matter and evoke an inner state of consciousness that grapples with his subject matter beyond its external structure. Chiarenza’s spirit of experimentation disrupts customary Read more »

stephen berkman, robert hirsch, photo technique, wet plate collodion

Stephen Berkman

Documentary Photographer of the Mind
written by: Robert Hirsch

…I am interested in photography’s first 40 years because it was at its zenith right from the start. Photography has not improved much; it’s just gotten more convenient. I like the visual code of the nineteenth century, the formality of it, the way things looked, and the mix between art and science. In an age when digital imagery often disrupts our expectations about photography’s traditional role as a witness to outer reality, Stephen Berkman does so using the collodion wet-plate process. Berkman’s enigmatic, time-traveling images demonstrate how an understanding of our world can be acquired through fabricated methods, thus revealing Read more »

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Daniel Beltrá: Photography and the Environment

written by: Robert Hirsch

The interrelationship between photography and America’s natural environment can be traced back to Solomon N. Carvalho’s daguerreotypes made during John C. Frémont’s fifth expedition crossing the Rocky Mountains in 1853 (only one of his plates is thought to have survived). The expansionist notion of Manifest Destiny, public curiosity, and tall tales about the West stimulated demand for photographic documentation of these wonders by photographers such as Carleton E. Watkins, Timothy H. O’Sullivan, and William Henry Jackson. In Jackson’s case, his large, wet-plate photographs played a role in the establishment of Yellowstone as the country’s first national park by Congress in Read more »

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Lukas Birk, Sean Foley and the Afghan Box Camera Project

written by: Robert Hirsch

From photography’s earliest days, enterprising practitioners realized they could take their services directly to the people. This lead to the horse-drawn wagons called “Daguerreotype Salons” and then to portable, darkroom tents that allowed wet-plate photographers to make pictures outside. As technology advanced, the tents morphed into a single apparatus that combined both camera and darkroom, which allowed photographers to work anywhere. Afghanistan is one of the last places where street vendor photographers still use such a hand-made, wooden camera called kamra-e-faoree or “instant camera.” Observing this practice lead Lukas Birk to undertake the Afghan Box Camera Project. The following are Read more »