Friday, November 6, 2009

Thanks, gracias, grazie...and a couple of shout outs.

So, my Tel Aviv series has been getting a lot of coverage lately online, and I wanted to thank the various people who've taken an interest in my work. First up is the grandaddy of all photography blogs, Conscientious. As many of you know, Jorg Colberg ran his own portfolio competition earlier this fall, and as part of the benefit of participating he's been featuring selected portfolios on his blog. Check out also the interviews he did with the 3 winners, Bradley Peters, Lydia Panas and David Wright. Excellent work all around.

Next up, the Italian site Urbanautica. This site regularly showcases new work dealing with the landscape as a social construct. In their own words, it's "a research project on photography and human landscapes. Dealing with studies on urban and industrial sociology lead us to the idea of a website, without commercial purposes, that tries to bring back people’s looks on the “ways of doing” territories. A sailing by sight, a trip around ideas, people, and what makes them part of nature, and the world." It's run by Steve Bisson and Andrea Filippin, and they publish their short essays and interviews in both italian and english. Lots of good urban landscape photography to look at, much of it from often overlooked parts of the globe.

Alejandro Cartagena is a Mexican photographer whose work has been getting lots of recognition recently (Critical Mass Top 50 and Book Nominee, Lishui Festival, Fotofest International Discoveries, Aperture Portfolio HM, and probably a couple more I'm unaware of: see this blog post over at Flat File for more details). So, first of all, FELICIDADES ALEJANDRO!!! Wow, what an impressive run of achievements. Anyway, I met Ale through facebook and he was kind enough to write a short piece about my Tel Aviv series on his blog. I love the Joe Deal and Lee Friedlander photos he chose to 'hang' next to mine, so we're definitely on the same wavelength. Oh, it's in spanish only btw.

Just a couple more thank you's, first to Exposure Compensation for the nice write up, and to the italian blog click_blog_it for the same. I loved their 'poetica dell'asfalto' description of my work, "Poetics of Asphalt" indeed.

I also recently became a member of an online gallery for emerging contemporary artists, Culturehall. I love the fact that it's cross-disciplinary, so you can see a huge variety of up and coming art from practically every type of media (they do video too). Membership is by invitation or application, so if you're interested definitely apply, you'll be in good company. I found out about Culturehall through Tema Stauffer's blog, an excellent photographer who's also one of their curators. Here's her write up on her most recently curated show up on Culturehall currently.

Her own photography is most definitely worth checking out too, as she's as adept at moody American landscapes as at portraiture.

Two of my favorite landscape photographers, Lois Conner and Steve Smith currently have work up on a show, Of Land, curated by +Kris Graves Projects in NYC. If you have a chance, definitely stop by, some of the most interesting landscape photography on exhibit right now. I'll be doing a review of Steve's work shortly, so stay tuned, but here's a taste of what he does.

More to come on Steve's work, and thanks again to everyone for the interest in my work.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"Tel Aviv at 100" Makes Finalists Stage on Photolucida's Critical Mass and Conscientious

When it rains, it pours I guess. Two separate portfolio competitions have just announced their finalists, and my Tel Aviv project made the cut in both! Critical Mass at Photolucida is the older and more established of the two, and boasts an impressive roster of jurors this year which reads like a "who's who" of the contemporary photography world. Those who make it past the first round have their work seen by these experts, and the top vote-getters get a book of their work published by Photolucida. In addition, they also put together an exhibit of the top 50 finalists.
The second is a brand new competition, run and juried by J.M. Colberg at Conscientious. This is the first year Mr. Colberg is running his portfolio competition, and out of over 500 submissions he's chosen 25 contenders for the top 3 spots. The 3 winners will be announced later this fall, and featured with an interview on Conscientious. Congratulations to all the finalists, and thanks to the judges for all their hard work.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Review of "Tel Aviv at 100" at DLK Collection

My Tel Aviv project just got reviewed at DLK Collection. DLK is a blog written by and for photography collectors, primarily, and they usually only do reviews of NYC gallery shows. I therefore feel honored that they'd write a full review of my work, and am very grateful for the spotlight. Their site is a wonderful place to get a sense of what's going on in NYC gallery-wise, and they are beginning to branch out into other locales. Do stop by and take a look.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Portfolio Review at Rencontres d'Arles Photo Festival

I just got back from showing my work at the Rencontres d'Arles portfolio review, and thought it'd be a good idea to share some advice and impressions from the whole experience. I'll also be doing a few write ups on the exhibits I especially liked, books recently published, and some photographers whose work was repeatedly recommended to me at the reviews.

For now, let's concentrate on the reviews themselves. I was definitely someone with some doubts about the effectiveness of these events, having read about and talked to photographers who had serious misgivings about the very idea of a portfolio review. I have to say that, in my case at least, these doubts were wholly dispelled. I think it's primarily a question of expectations, and of how much work you put in before you show up at the review.

First off, there are basically two kinds of reviewers, those that are looking for work to use in their respective venue (gallery, magazine, collection, ad agency), and those who are really only interested in giving critiques. This is as it should be, and what you as a photographer need to do in advance is figure out what you want to get out of the review process. If you feel confident with your work and are primarily interested in marketing, look for people who are there to find new work. If you're esentially still in need of good critiques, look for that type of reviewer.

It isn't always clear of course who's there for what purpose, but if you do a little research, you can narrow it down. It's true, I had a gallerist who I thought was there looking for new work turn out to be interested mostly in critiquing, but by and large, gallerists are interested in new work (even in today's economy). But it has to be the right fit. Take a look at what the gallery is showing and has shown recently, and make an honest assessment of how well it fits your type of work.

One good thing about the reviews at Arles is that you get to choose who you'll show your work to, and there's usually enough time to do some research before choosing. This isn't the case with all protfolio reviews, and the usefulness of such events is, I think, diminished if you can't choose your reviewers. One should keep in mind, however, that no matter how well you pick your reviewers, the whole process is still pretty much a roller coaster ride. Some people will love your work, some won't, and you just have to be ready for both. It is definitely an experience worth having if only because you'll very quickly get a sense of where your work fits in the big world of photography. You'll also get immediate, and pretty honest feedback from people who know what they're talking about. I made notes after each and every meeting, and have started to implement some of the suggestions I got already. But in the end, you have to figure out what it is that you can take from all those reactions to your work, and make sure it helps you go forward, not back.

The other very important point that needs making (obvious though it seems) is to make sure your work is ready to be shown. Do not show the early stages of a project you're not sure about, or haven't edited down to the very best images. Take your best work, period, and make sure you know why you made it. Also make sure it's presented in its best possible way. I brought along mounted contact prints, because my work looks best in that form. Other people brought laptops, huge prints, books of their work, inkjets, etc. The point is, make sure the way you show your work is the optimal way to show it. The only impression these reviewers will have is of what you actually bring, not of what you might have brought if you'd had the time.

Having chosen the right person to look at your work, and the right project to show them in its best presentation, you still have to tell them what it's about. Reviewers are as interested in listening to what you have to say as they are in looking at your work, so make sure you can say something useful and interesting about it. I'd actually recommend practicing this, by sitting down with a few people and walking them through why and how your photographs are worth looking at. The more you do it, the more comfortable you'll feel, and you might be surprised at how much you actually have to say about your work once you try it. Definitely do not wait until your first review to think about what to say.

Finally, the leave-behinds. To some extent, I think their importance is overstated. You should definitely have a business card with all your contact info and (ideally) a recognizable image from the project you'll be showing. A CD of your current work is also nice to leave behind, but if it's on your website already, it might be redundant. Some reviewers like to carry home stuff, some don't, so it's best to just ask. The most important leave-behind is the actual quality of your work, and how well it fits what the person in front of you is looking for. That's where I'd put most of my effort.

So that's it, for now. If you're thinking of going to one of these things, I hope my comments are of some use to you in getting ready. If you think reviews are a waste of time, they're not. People are getting anything from a good basic critique of their work to gallery representation at these events, so it's basically up to you to make the most of them. Do get in touch with me if you have questions or comments, and stay tuned for more on the Arles festival.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Stuck in my mind's eye

I thought I'd share with you some photographs I've been looking at lately, and thinking about when out photographing. The first three are from flickr, the rest from surfing around. There's a definite vertical theme to most of them, other than that, just stuff that has stuck in my mind's eye. Please click on the thumbnails to get a larger view. Enjoy.

Bryan Formhals

Ben Roberts

Joni Karanka

Jeff Ladd

Lee Friedlander

Lee Friedlander

Saturday, March 14, 2009

"Tel Aviv at 100" featured on "Israelity"

My Tel Aviv project has just been featured on Israelity, a blog dedicated to looking at everything that goes on in Israel other than the conflict w the Palestinians. Do stop by and take a look.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

More Street

I've been looking over all the street photography on flickr, and there's some good stuff there. I'm definitely very late to that party, nevertheless I'm getting the street bug once more. Here are a few more from my last binge:

I also ran into a street artist who calls himself Klone whose work I've seen all over Tel Aviv recently, and he's been documenting his work on flickr for some time. Take a look, here.
A couple of photographers worth looking at are Ben Roberts and Dr Karanka. There are also tribute groups for both Eggleston and Friedlander, as well as myriad street photography groups, here, here, and here. Check them out, especially if you need a change of pace from "fine art" photography, as I did.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Street Work on Flickr

Inspired by the folks over at la pura vida gallery, I joined flickr and uploaded a bunch of my street photography that I shot a couple of years ago. Stop by and tell me what you think. It's quite different from what I'm doing now, but one can see the continuity. I'll write more at length soon about the similarities and differences between using an 8x10 and a 35mm rangefinder for city work.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Lares penatesque, or what I've lived by.


How they are provided for upon the earth, (appearing at intervals,)
How dear and dreadful they are to the earth,
How they inure themselves as much as to any-what a
paradox appears their age,
How people respond to them, yet know them not,
How there is something relentless in their fate all times,
How all times mischoose the objects of their adulation and
And how the same inexorable price must still be paid for the
same great purchase.

Walt Whitman, Inscriptions, L.G.

"Writing is about discovering things
hitherto unseen. Otherwise there’s no
point to the process."

W.G. Sebald, from Maxims collected by his students.

"All Real Knowledge is accumulated in ignorance of what it will lead to."

Guy Davenport, On Reading

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tech Notes: On Waterfalls, Hiking, and Choosing a Format.

I made the move to 8x10 from 4x5 a couple of years ago, and had to change my idea of what photographing is in order to do so. My experience may be helpful to you too. At the time, I read a post by Michael Smith on about hiking and LF cameras, where he basically explained why you need not mix the two (he now uses 8x20 almost exclusively, but did 8x10 work in cities and countryside for decades). I can't find the original posting anymore, but the gist was that photography, and visual art in general, are not concerned w the subject matter depicted, but rather w the way it is depicted. It isn't the fact that you're photographing, say, a waterfall (that takes a half hour to get to on foot) which will make a photograph succesful, but rather how the waterfall (or whatever is in front of you) is seen. If this is true, there's really no need to go out of your way to find "interesting" subject matter, but rather one should be able to make an interesting photograph out of anything. I was already moving in this general direction in my thinking about photography when I found Michael's writings on pnet, but he definitely gave me the final push I needed in that direction. How does this relate to the decision, say, between 8x10 and 5x7? Simple, really, work backwards from the desired result to the means necessary for achieving it, rather than letting the means dictate the result. If you want 8x10 contact prints, get an 8x10 and work within its limitations/possibilities. If you want larger or smaller prints, ditto. First figure out what you want to see as the final result of all your hard work, then find the means to it. And given that you don't need to hike to that waterfall (something I did many times) in order to make a great photograph, the weight of the gear (within reason) shouldn't be the deciding factor.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Genealogies: The view from above

I thought I'd start with a form I've been thinking about, a kind of family tree/genealogy of images. All summer long, while working on my Tel Aviv Project, I was obsessed with extreme views from above, be it rooftops, hills, whatever. It was as if I had this visual idea in my head which I had to find somewhere out there. This is one of the first photos I was happy with early on,

in that it showed me, in a sense, what I was looking for. It should be said that much of the fun and interest inherent in photographing, at least in how I do it, is the discovery of a new vision from one's own photographs. This photograph, Ayalon Highway #3, came towards the end of the summer, and certainly comes close to what I had in mind when starting out:

Later last year, once I'd begun sorting through my work from the summer, I started reading Kirk Varnedoe's excellent "A Fine Disregard: What makes modern art modern". There's lots to talk about relative to photography in Varnedoe's book, but his last chapter goes into some detail over precisely this obsession I had over the summer with overhead views. Varnedoe charts the origins of this view in modern art, beginning with Caillebotte's Boulevard seen from above, 1880 This painting was shown in the Impressionist exhibition of 1882, and one critic's response to its extreme perspective was that "such a thing is ultimately meaningless, if only because to work properly the painting would have to lie on the floor and not hang vertically". Nowadays of course we see such views on every other frame of a TV show, so are completely unaware of its initial strangeness. Varnedoe goes on to compare this critic's response to Pollock's subsequent drip paintings , i.e. of painting with the canvas on the floor! Some of the photographs Varnedoe discusses really felt very close to what I'd been looking for, and it was both encouraging and discouraging that they'd been done in the twenties. Here are a couple that stand out,

Alexander Rodchenko's Assembling for a demonstration and Moholy-Nagy's View from the top of the Berlin radio tower.
Later in the year I found Gerhard Richter's site, and went through a retrospective of his which I'd seen in 2003. Among the paintings which I'd "forgotten" from that exhibit were a number of aerial city views, done in his blurry photo-realist style:

Now these were paintings I hadn't seen or thought about in years, though I did see the exhibit several times. But the minute I saw them again this year, I realized they had been in the back of my mind this summer, forming that sense of an ideal image I had in mind when I went out photographing. At the time I saw them, I was just starting out doing serious photography, and was certainly not interested in them for their subject matter or their approach to the subject. I simply loved Richter's work, and these three were certainly among those I lingered over.
I should say that what initially got me interested in views from above was working with Michael Smith and Paula Chamlee from the rooftops of Chicago skyscrapers.

Michael had done similar work in his Toledo project back in 1980, which has been compared to Mondrian's Broadway Boogie-Woogie The allure of the high vantage point is fairly obvious, especially for anyone interested in abstraction. Almost anything looks interesting from above, if only because we're so unused to the perspective. There's a similar balance between the familiar and the unknown, as there is between abstraction and realism. This is all to say, of course, not that I went out with this prefabricated list of images and ideas but I've tried rather to relate some of what I was looking for to similar works with similar motivations. I'll let the images speak for themselves.
Postscript: In answer to some comments over at the Large Format Forum:

I limited my scope basically to my immediate sphere of influences and connections, wasn't really trying for an art-historical perspective. Varnedoe does that perfectly, and looks at Nadar's views from a balloon. I don't go into any detail in my photo essay, but Varnedoe's main point is to challenge the idea that this perspective was something new made available by technology, i.e. hot air balloons. That's a basic approach of the book as a whole, to argue that the point of such new interests in modern art has more to do with their meaning as artistic expression rather than as expressions of a new social or technical fact. As he says, anybody who went to the top of Notre Dame and looked down got the same effect hundreds of years before anyone started painting or photographing from that perspective. So the real question, the interesting question, is why all of the sudden people did.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Photographs in Onward '09 and Fraction Magazine

One of my photographs, "Alexander River", was recently chosen to take part in a group show, Onward '09. This show was juried by Peter Barberie, photography curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and will be up til March 22 in Project Basho's Gallery, in Philadelphia. Please stop by their web gallery and take a look, there's some very good work up. You can read a review of the show here.

Also, a new online magazine, Fraction, has just put up their Apug group show and my photograph "Old Bus Station, Tel Aviv" was included. Thanks to David Bram for putting the show together, and here's hoping it'll become an annual event.

Welcome to my Blog!

Hello and Welcome,

My name is Gabriel Benaim, and I'm a fine art photographer. I recently launched my own website, and decided I'd keep a blog to go with it, and to keep an online record of whatever else I'm interested in. In addition to photography, the visual arts and literature form a major part of my life, and I will be sharing and documenting here some of those interests. In a previous life I was a doctoral candidate in philosophy, and there are vestiges of that life still lingering, and will probably make an appearance now and then. At the moment, the writer Guy Davenport has resurfaced as a major player in my daily reading life, and through him I'm starting to read Thoreau's and Kafka's journals. I will be periodically introducing choice aspects of Davenport's work, together with my glosses and cross-references, in an attempt to entice new readers to try this little known master. In the plans also is a brief photo-essay of my time spent with Michael Smith and Paula Chamlee last summer, when I assisted them in photographing the City of Chicago for a commisioned project. So stay tuned, and do stop by and take a look at my website,