Tag Archives: photography

A 21st Century Gutenberg

When photography dealer Howard Greenberg celebrated his 25th anniversary in the business last year, he mounted an exhibition at his midtown Manhattan gallery. Amid 25 seductive highlights from his collection – including an abstract pear by Steichen, a pointillist streetscape by Karl Struss, two pieces of Americana by Walker Evans, and a print of Ruth Orkin’s An American Girl in Italy – he’d constructed a shrine to a book.

American Gallery

The installation made a strong case for the book’s place of honour among the dealer’s rare and expensive artifacts, with a video showing its creation, from typesetting to printing to binding, in an old-fashioned process that even Gutenberg might recognize.

The star of the 10-minute video was Michael Torosian, a Canadian little-known outside the small world of rare-book collectors. Since founding Lumiere Press in a garage at the foot of his yard in the west end of Toronto in 1986, Torosian has published 18 handmade books on photography. Printed on his vintage letter press, they are themselves works of art, limited editions in which the editorial content, design and printing is executed with an aesthete’s eye, an artisan’s hand and a perfectionist’s oversight.

Michael TorosianTorosian’s 19th book, An American Gallery, was produced by special order for the Greenberg anniversary and includes stunning high-tech reproductions of the 25 photographs from the exhibit accompanied by the dealer’s commentaries. The book took almost 12 months to produce, slowed down only slightly by the fact that the photos had to be printed separately and then placed by hand into each copy.

Lumiere editions include three volumes on Dave Heath and one each on Lewis Hine, Edward Burtynsky, Paul Strand, Gordon Parks and others. Torosian also has published three books of his own photography work.

The title page of An American Gallery went through 53 different designs before Torosian was satisfied. The typesetting ate up half a year. He took months to figure out how to insert the photographs, which are a different thickness than a normal paper page, to ensure they didn’t cause the book to spring open awkwardly.

“You have to be focused: every day, every week, every month. You can’t just sort of go through the motions, because it’s very unforgiving,” he explains. “I guess it’s like someone who makes violins or something: There might be monetary incentive to turn out 100 violins a year, but if you can only really do 18 credibly, then you’d better stick to the 18.”

“No matter how well a conventional mass-market trade book is produced, in their nature as a physical object, they all look the same: this sort of blockish object. They’re interchangeable. But when someone picks up one of my books, it has the same pedigree as other books, and yet it’s a different species. And that’s what they’re responding to. It’s familiar but it’s outside the ordinary.” A number of Lumiere Press books are in the collections of rare-book libraries.

The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at the State University of New York currently has a remount of the Greenberg anniversary exhibition, including the Lumiere video installation, which will stay up until June 22.

Excerpted from Simon Houpt, Globe and Mail, May 17, 2008

Lumiere Press

Advertisements

Dog Works

Dog WorksA border collie who builds pyramids out of raincoats at sunset on stormy wet days? A dalmatian who fills tire holes with vegetables? A staffordshire bull terrier who arranges cow bones into circles? A beagle who hangs socks on a fence? A vizsla who organizes leaves into separate color piles in the shape of a cross?What explanation could there possibly be for these strange phenomena? Delve deep into these canine mysteries with Dr. Raymond Blake, a canine cultural heritage researcher and Penelope Winters, a spiritualist and diviner.

The extraordinary photographs in Dog Works document a wide variety of strangely beautiful canine constructions, while the accompanying text examines the motivation behind them from two opposing perspectives.

Dog Works

Are these dogs creating their structures as a result of inherited, breed specific, behavioral characteristics or are they responding creatively in a more spiritual and psychic way to unseen forces we humans have yet to understand?

For their inspiration, may we suggest a visit to our sister site, Red Star Cafe, to see the environmental art of British sculptor, Andy Goldsworthy?

Dog Works - Spiral

Ashes and Snow

“In exploring the shared language and poetic sensibilities of all animals, I am working towards rediscovering the common ground that once existed when people lived in harmony with animals. The images depict a world that is without beginning or end, here or there, past or present.”
—Gregory Colbert, Creator of Ashes and Snow

Ashes and Snow

Canadian photographer Gregory Colbert’s Ashes and Snow is an ongoing project that weaves together photographic works, 35mm films, art installations and a novel in letters. Included in the exhibit are over 50 large-scale photographic artworks, a 60-minute film, and two 9-minute film haikus. There is also a series of fine handbound books, printed on imported papers. With profound patience and an unswerving commitment to the expressive and artistic nature of animals, he has captured extraordinary interactions between humans and animals.

His 21st-century bestiary includes more than 40 totemic species from around the world. Since he began creating his singular work of Ashes and Snow, Colbert has mounted more than 30 expeditions to locations such as India, Egypt, Burma, Tonga, Sri Lanka, Namibia, Kenya, Antarctica, the Azores, and Borneo.

Nomadic MuseumLocated in the world’s only “nomadic” museum – built temporarily and specially for Ashes and Snow out of 148 abandoned shipping containers – this installation features Colbert’s massive, sepia-toned portraits on handmade Japanese paper, some up to 10 feet in length, of humans interacting with animals like elephants, cheetahs, and manatees.

Colbert originally conceived of the idea for a sustainable travelling museum in 1999. He envisioned a sustainable structure that could easily be assembled in ports of call around the world, providing a transitory environment for Ashes and Snow on its global journey.

Nomadic MuseumThe show first opened at the Arsenale in Venice, Italy, in 2002 and is charted to travel the globe with no final destination. The Nomadic Museum, the travelling home of Ashes and Snow, debuted in New York (March to June 2005) and then travelled to Santa Monica (January to May 2006), and Tokyo (March to June 2007). The show is mounted in Mexico City in January 2008.

The title Ashes and Snow suggests beauty and renewal, while also referring to the literary component of the exhibition—a fictional account of a man who, over the course of a yearlong journey, composes 365 letters to his wife. The source of the title is revealed in the 365th letter. Colbert’s photographs and one-hour film loosely reference the traveller’s encounters and experiences described in the letters.

Ashes and Snow

These mixed media photographic works marry umber and sepia tones in a distinctive encaustic process on handmade Japanese paper. The artworks, each approximately five feet by eight feet, are mounted without explanatory text so as to encourage an open-ended interaction with the images.

Colbert wants to remove the artificial barriers between man and animals, returning to an Eden-like point in time when the world was supposedly “one”. By presenting each image as a “poetic filmstudy” he’s trying to communicate the idea that nature doesn’t have a “style” but a “voice”.

Ashes and Snow

Ashes and Snow has no final destination, and the nomadic museum will continue to travel to points around the globe, each exhibit being simply a “port of call”.

Ashes and Snow

View the books online.

The following excerpt is entitled Feather to Fire, and is narrated in three languages by Laurence Fishburne (English), Ken Watanabe (Japanese), and Enrique Rocha (Spanish).

Hell at the Library, Eros in Secret

The lighting is bordello red, but the librarians insist that their X-rated exhibition is serious.

Hell at the Library, Eros in Secret, which opened at the National Library in Paris last month, offers a peek at its secret archive of erotic art, putting on display more than 350 sexually explicit literary works, manuscripts, engravings, lithographs, photographs, film clips, even calling cards and cardboard pop-ups.

Croix Rouge metro station

Visitors to the library can listen to a modern-day recording of an 18th-century “dialogue” during sex and watch a six-minute excerpt from a grainy black-and-white silent pornography film made in 1921.

The handwritten manuscript of the Marquis de Sade’s novel Les Infortunes de la Vertu (The Misfortunes of Virtue) is under glass here, as are 17th-century French engravings of “erotic postures”; English “flagellation novels” exported to France in the late 19th century; Japanese prints; Man Ray photographs; and a police report from 1900 that compiles the addresses of Paris’s houses of prostitution and what they charged.

To avoid complaints that a publicly supported institution is corrupting the country’s youth, no one under 16 is admitted.

“In an era where sexual images are a product for popular consumption, the library has decided to lift the veil on this world of imagination and fantasy,” Bruno Racine, the library director, said in an interview. “The library is a very serious institution, and the project was done with gravity. But we also perhaps are different from what you think — and there is humor here too.”

The items, on display through March 22, are drawn from a permanent collection created in the 1830s when the library isolated works considered “contrary to good morals.” They were put in a locked section with its own card catalog and given the name L’Enfer — hell. Many pieces have been consigned there over the years by the police for safeguarding, perhaps, and posterity.

The exhibition (and its 464-page catalog) comes at a time when France is struggling with a variety of societal issues: the limits of privacy for its public figures, censorship and the definition of good taste. A one-day scholarly conference at the library about the exhibition included a debate on the meaning of modern-day censorship. Library curators acknowledge that public morality is shifting.

President Nicolas Sarkozy himself is blurring the lines of public permissibility. His decision to revel in, rather than hide, his love affair with Carla Bruni, a model-turned-pop-singer, is, he said at a news conference last week, a break with the past and a sign that “France is moving forward.”

However, Ségolène Royal, the Socialist defeated by Mr. Sarkozy in last May’s presidential election, is calling for more decorum and discretion in public life. “Nicolas Sarkozy has chosen to turn private events in his life into public events, like Louis XIV: You have the king’s breakfast, the king’s lunch, the king’s bedtime, the king’s mistresses,” she said in a radio interview on Monday.

Even Simone de Beauvoir’s backside is not off limits from exposure and analysis these days. The decision by the weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur two weeks ago to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of that feminist literary figure with a nude photo of her (taken from the back in 1952) has been sharply criticized and just as sharply defended.

Florence Montreynaud, a historian and feminist author who runs an anti-sexism organization, protested the photo by offering the magazine’s director, Jean Daniel, a choice: apologize or bare his own bottom. She also said the magazine should publish the bare buttocks of Jean-Paul Sartre, Beauvoir’s long-time partner.

The fact that the cellulite on Beauvoir’s thighs and buttocks was airbrushed away added to the indignity. The media columnist for the newspaper Libération, Daniel Schneidermann, wrote: “The photo has even been retouched — the buttocks of Beauvoir — with makeup, to make them lose some kilos, some rolls of fat and to take off 10 years.”

The Paris metro system constructed a teaser for the show on its No. 10 line. Commuters passing by the closed Croix Rouge station get the most fleeting of glimpses of erotic engravings lighted up in shocking pink and partly hidden behind fluttering black curtain strips.

The newspaper Le Monde has run ads for the show (with a shocking-pink X) on its front page. The literary review Le Magazine Littéraire devoted its December cover to the subject, with scholarly essays on sex and aging, the last taboo of pedophilia and whether excessive public display of sex has made it boring.

Still, with France’s tough laws against pornography and one of the most aggressive law-enforcement campaigns against child pornography in Europe, the library has taken care to avoid falling afoul of the law. . . .

New York Times, January 16, 2008