AIPAD – April 2014

AIPAD – April 2014

The annual AIPAD Photography Show at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City once again brought us a mixture of both the classic and contemporary. And this year, in addition to my usual visit on the Friday afternoon I also attended the Press Previews on Wednesday, and I’m glad I did because there was so much to see and take in, it honestly becomes too much for just the one visit. So what stood out this year? My friend Monica Cipnic and I were particularly taken with the very cinematic and sultry style of husband and wife duo Formento & Formento (he is Hawaiian-born photographer BJ Formento & she is British-born stylist Richeille Formento) at the Robert Klein Gallery from Boston. The Formentos’ images were certainly some of our favorites out of all the contemporary photographers on display, and although I had seen their work before… it was even better close up.

Lori & Amy, Lancaster, CA © 2010 FORMENTO & FORMENTO

It’s safe to say with a show like AIPAD, you’re guaranteed to find a generous dose of the B&W masters, including the likes of Ansel Adams, Richard Avedon, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and more. And then there are the current (i.e. still living) photographers whose work has already earned them plenty of well-deserved attention, from the authentic self-documentary work of Jen Davis at Lee Marks Fine Art based in Shelbyville, Indiana…

Jen Davis's New Book at Lee Marks Fine Art

To the acrobatic and stunning endurance of Stephen Wilkes with even more of his iconic Day to Night series at the Peter Fetterman Gallery from Santa Monica, California.

Day to Night, Pont de la Tournelle Paris © Stephen Wilkes

If I were to pick a particular theme or through-line that stood out for me this time, it was the galleries with select and very specific images shown in a grid or group format. I personally find that very pleasing. Last year, you may recall that one of my favorites was the Car Poolers series from Alejandro Cartagena at the Kopeikin Gallery and this year I found some more examples…

Perhaps one of the most interesting were the more obscure Calendar Cards, a larger version of the Carte de Visite that I found in Gallery Fifty One from Antwerp, Belgium. These Calendar Cards are larger than the Carte de Visite, more like the size of a tarot card, and were really quite beautiful.

Calendar Cards in Gallery Fifty One

They became more and more intriguing the longer you looked at them. You’ll notice the attention to the Head and Hair, sometimes to the point of obscuring the actual face or abstracting it altogether, and it is the sign of Aries that is connected with the Head, Hair and Hats. There were a total of 50 Calendar Cards on display, one shy of the gallery’s name…

Or how about some Octopus for a interesting Headpiece?

Also in Gallery Fifty One, photographer Barry Rosenthal led me to this beautiful set of six B&W square prints by Nigerian photographer J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, who just died this past February at the age of 83, from his fabulous series simply entitled Hairstyles which includes almost 1,000 different hairstyles that give an image of the African Woman.

Hairstyles at Gallery Fifty One © J.D. Okhai Ojeikere

While we’re on the subject of beautiful African Women, Aries, Heads, Hair, and Hats… I want to mention one of our local galleries KLOMPCHING, co-owned by Darren Ching and his wife Debra Klomp Ching, making their 2nd appearance at AIPAD this year. And not just because I know them, I really did feel they had a wonderful group of artists that were not only strong individually, they also complimented one another really well, in both subject and color palette – the result was aesthetically very pleasing. And one of my favorite set of images was by British photographer Jim Naughten from his series Hereroes, portraits of Herero tribe members in Namibia: residents still wear Victorian era dresses and paramilitary costume as a direct result of the German colonization in the early 20th century. Ironically, Jim studied photography at the Bournemouth Arts Institute in England, and I went to school in the same seaside town!

Darren Ching at Klompching Gallery seated in front of Hereroes © Jim Naughten

But what about mixing vintage with modern, and we come to an interesting take on the classics with a series by Kenyatta A. C. Hinkle entitled The Uninvited Series at the Jenkins Johnson Gallery (New York & San Francisco) in which the artist reconstructs narratives from the late 19th and early 20th century West Africa, using ethnographic photography previously used on postcards and Carte-de-Visites (there are those cards again!). Using “disease” as her metaphor, she then adds her own “viral” drawings on top of the old photographs to represent the exploitation and “disease” that was perpetrated on black women during the French occupation of Africa.

Bienvenue (Welcome) © 2014 Kenyatta A. C. Hinkle

Not all sets of images or grids were in plain view; some galleries had hidden gems around the corner, including this next B&W series entitled Stars of “Ocean’s 11” Stage a Fight by Hollywood celebrity photographer Sid Avery courtesy of the Monroe Gallery in Santa Fe.

Stars of "Ocean's 11" Stage a Fight © Sid Avery

From groups of photographs, let’s segway now into photographs of groups, and we have not one, but five (yes 5) of Neal Slavin’s group portraits from the PDNB (Photographs Do Not Bend) Gallery in Dallas, Texas. I happen to love Neal’s distinctive work and featured him last year in my February 2013 Newsletter, since it is the Aquarius who identifies with Groups more than any other sign.

Neal Slavin's iconic group images at PDNB Gallery

Neal wasn’t the only photographer giving us group images. For example, in the 978 Photo Gallery (the first gallery solely dedicated to art photography in China) based in Beijing, there was a pair of whimsical images from Yu Xiao’s Nursery Rhymes series.

"Little White Boat" From Nursery Rhymes Series © Yu Xiao

And in M97 Gallery based in Shanghai, I found this image by Wang Ningde entitled, Some Days No. 8.

"Some Days No. 8" © Wang Ningde

Now, not all photographs displayed in groups or grids were restricted to portraits, there were others of inanimate objects that were just as effective, including Marc Yankus’s series The Space Between at ClampArt. I had recently attended the opening for this show and was very taken by the beautiful colors and texture of this latest work. The image below shows gallery owner Brian Clamp working a potential sale with a series of Marc’s prints.

Brian Clamp showing Marc Yankus prints to prospective buyers

And then there was Jeff Brouws’s series of 12 Coaling Towers at the Robert Mann Gallery.

Jeff Brouws's "12 Coaling Towers" Series

Followed by Bernd & Hilla Becher‘s Grain Silos, courtesy of the Bruce Silverstein Gallery.

Berndt & Hilla Becher's Grain Silos

And a stark series of six B&W architectural prints by British photographer Graham Smith at Eric Franck Fine Art where I also loved this classic series by Norman Parkinson.

Series by Norman Parkinson

While we’re on the subject of fashion, but stylistically very different, I loved the suggestive simplicity of this geometric “hat” image by Guy Bourdin at the Michael Hoppen Gallery in London.

© Guy Bourdin

The job of a good photograph, or any piece of art, literature, music, for that matter, is to emotionally “move” us in some way. The word “emotion” comes from the Latin word “emotus” meaning “to be moved.” So what was it about this next image by Stan Douglas at David Zwirner that moved me?

Olde Curio Shop © Stan Douglas

The more you looked, the more you saw, and the more bizarre the medley of items and curios became. It literally transported me back to when my sister and I had to clear our mother’s house after she had died. We washed every single piece of china and glass by hand and then laid it all out for the appraisers.

Mum's China, May 2009 © Louisa J. Curtis

In closing – you may recall in my ChatterReport last year I mentioned AIPAD taking place during the month of April, the sign of Aries, and the connection to Accidents – and much of the photography we saw last year was related to accidents and disasters. Well, this year, to apparently prove my point again, although not willingly, and to tie in with my absolute hatred for cell phones and people who walk down the street without watching where they are going…. After I left the show, I walked with my friend Julia Smith to 53rd Street and Fifth Avenue (there’s that Number 5 again!). Midtown was crazy and crowded because President Obama was in town, and the streets were blocked with barricades and policemen.

Julia got on her bicycle and set off down Fifth Avenue while I went to go down into the subway, until I realized I was on the wrong side of the street. I crossed Fifth Avenue quickly, since the lights were about to change and stepped onto the NW corner of the sidewalk. As I did so, a young girl, who was coming down Fifth Avenue with head firmly pointed down and glued to her device’s small screen, walked right into me without slowing down and got her feet all tangled up in mine. But who went crashing to the ground? Me, of course; not her. I crash-landed on my knees, with my camera around my neck and my bag flying onto the sidewalk at the feet of a large policeman, who apologized for not doing a better job of catching me, after which we talked briefly about how much we both detested the cell phone culture.

Since it is the Year of the Horse - I had to show you The White Horse © Nina Korhonen from Lee Marks Fine Art

I went and sat on the church steps to recuperate for a moment. My knee was bruised, my clean pants were all dirty, and I was not at all happy. I called Monica, who was still at AIPAD and told her what had just happened and as I was doing so she told me she had finally run into Lori Nix (whom she had been looking for to congratulate her) because Lori had been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, which is a BIG deal. Lori was also my April 2013 ChatterArtist. As she told me this, I looked up and there was Lori literally walking along 53rd Street with her friend towards me! I climbed down the steps to greet her for the 2nd time that day and congratulate her on this exciting piece of news. Still furious about what had just happened to me, I stumbled down into the subway and made my way home to a large glass of red wine. The girl did apologize to me, but that doesn’t make it any better – I know it’s only going to get worse.

Open Show #7 @ the Bronx Documentary Center June 2013

Open Show # 7 © Louisa J. Curtis

On Wednesday, June 5, 2013 I took an intrepid trip all the way uptown to the Bronx to see the Open Show NY One-Year Anniversary screening. I admit that I can be a bit lazy sometimes about traveling to an event that is within walking distance (!) but this was well worth the journey, and luckily it was a beautiful evening for everyone to be sitting outside in this amazing city of ours, viewing photography at night. Now, you may remember that I have mentioned the Open Show in my previous newsletters – they are a global network of which Open Show NY is a part, but this was my first time attending. Radhika Chalasani is the lead producer, and we have known one another for a while, so it was good to finally go and support this event. Watch out for future dates, since I might even MC for them at some point! And to see more photos of the event go to the Open Show NY Facebook Page.

Radhika Chalasani © Dorie Hagler

The event took place at the Bronx Documentary Center, thanks to co-founders Mike Kamber and Danielle Jackson. The BDC is a lovely old building which houses a non-profit space for photography, film and new media. There is a cute little courtyard out back where the screening was held, along with made-to-order BBQ and affordable beverages. As I said, it was a beautiful evening, and although not as warm as when I was in Palm Springs recently, I was still transported back to that satisfying sensation of simply immersing us, the audience, with a series of photography projects, all documentary yet each one quite different.

Waiting for the Show - can you spot me? © Dorie Hagler
Tribute to Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros © Louisa J. Curtis

First up was Jason Eskenazi with a project he calls “Double Zero – an homage to B&W photography, film photography, that is, and a series of both negative and positive slides of those first half-frames we find on a roll of film, number double zero. Jason talked about how they gave him this feeling of “wanting to become something,” much like the chord of E.

Image from Jason Eskenazi series "Double Zero" © Louisa J. Curtis
Image from Jason Eskenazi series "Double Zero" © Louisa J. Curtis

Recently Jason has been living in Turkey, but his anecdotes from when he was living in New York and working as a security guard at the Met were totally hilarious. For example, he had a personal goal of seeing his own work hanging in the museum, at which point he would be “a guard, guarding his own work!” Jason openly admitted that he realized early on he did not belong in the editorial or commercial world of photography, so he figured out how to write grants enabling him to work on his personal projects and books. And so far, he said, it has worked out nicely for him.

Next up was a young Armenian photographer Diana Markosian and her project “Goodbye My Chechnya” on young Chechen girls who are living in a strict and changing religious environment, where many are still being kidnapped and married off without any say-so. Diana spent time living in Russia, and in Chechnya alongside these young women in their world, witnessing their lives firsthand, and photographing her experiences. Even with their growing religious restrictions on dress code, they still retain a desire to somehow stay modern, as captured in Diana’s favorite image from the series of a young woman inside a room at prayer, with her high heels carefully placed outside the door.

Image from Diana Markosian series "Goodbye My Chechnya" © Louisa J. Curtis
Image from Diana Markosian series "Goodbye My Chechnya" © Louisa J. Curtis

From her website: For young girls in Chechnya the most innocent acts could mean breaking the rules. A Chechen girl caught smoking is cause for arrest; while rumors of a couple having sex before marriage can result in an honor killing. The few girls who dare to rebel become targets in the eyes of Chechen authorities. After nearly two decades of vicious war and 70 years of Soviet rule, during which religious participation was banned, modern-day Chechnya is going through Islamic revival. The Chechen government is building mosques in every village, prayer rooms in public schools, and enforcing a stricter Islamic dress code for both men and women. This photo essay chronicles the lives of young Muslim girls who witnessed the horrors of two wars and are now coming of age in a republic that is rapidly redefining itself as a Muslim state.

The next presentation was a multi-media piece entitled “Riding The Dog: America From The Bus” by Brooklyn-based photographer Brendon Stuart, which is the beginning of what will be a much larger edit and hopefully installation down the road. Brendan has been traveling around the country by Greyhound Bus to see who still travels by bus, and what is the experience like? I loved this piece, even in its initial “raw” form, there was great music, and a mixture of stills and video, but it was when we heard a series of sound bites of the passengers talking and joshing with one another, and the bus driver delivering his cryptic announcements about “not smoking in the toilets” or “peeing in the bushes,” for my money, he really got everyone engaged with a perfect combination of multi-media “experience.”

Image from Brendon Stuart series "Riding the Dog: America by Bus" © Louisa J. Curtis

Last but not least we had another Brooklyn-based photographer Spencer Platt, with his “Tegucigalpa: Violence and Grief” – a report from Honduras for Doctors without Borders or MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) – although it was getting a bit late by this time so sadly not everyone stayed for his presentation – their loss! In contrast to other documentary photographers who take months and months and sometimes years to document a particular project, Spencer is a “wire” or news photographer for Getty Images so he loves a deadline, that’s what he’s used to, so this piece was basically shot in a matter of days. Get in, and get out. Take the photographs without getting involved. When Spencer spoke afterwards, he said he likes to be anonymous as a photographer, and that we need more emphasis on the “subject” rather than on the photographer.

Image from Spencer Platt series ““Tegucigalpa: Violence and Grief” © Louisa J. Curtis
Image from Spencer Platt series ““Tegucigalpa: Violence and Grief” © Louisa J. Curtis

From the MSF website: In Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is providing medical assistance to vulnerable people facing extreme violence and a lack of access to health care. Many of these patients are young people who live on the streets and suffer the most from what the MSF staff call an “epidemic of violence”.

And here’s an article by Chris Wilkins, Deputy Director of Photography for published July 25, 2012.

Onlookers from the Street © Dorie Hagler

Palm Springs Photo Festival April/May 2013

Where to begin? I mean, it’s one thing to write a report on a one-day visit to a photo festival or an event, but when it’s the Palm Springs Photo Festival which I just attended for the 1st time, that’s a whole week’s worth of writing! I truly had a wonderful time; I viewed a lot of incredible photography, I reviewed a whole bunch of attendees and volunteers, I met lots of new people and spent extended and quality time with some already familiar faces in a much warmer and sunny environment! On the day we all arrived (Sunday), it was the hottest April 28th on record in Palm Springs, as in “ever” reaching a whopping 106 degrees! They said it would be hot, but even the locals had to admit that it was a lot hotter than usual for this time of the year!

Palm Springs Palms © Louisa J. Curtis

The large group of faculty, sponsors and volunteers (as well as many of the attendees) were split between 3 hotels, the Hyatt Regency Suites, where most of the action took place including the seminars and portfolio reviews, the faculty lounge & lunches and sponsor tables. Some of the faculty stayed at the more “artsy” Korakia, which is an adorable little Mediterranean & Moroccan style pensione where the dinners were held each evening as well as the opening night reception, at which I ran into what appeared to be most of ASMP’s either current or former national board members, including Gene Mopsik, Blake Discher, Judy Herman, Gail Mooney, Jenna Close, and Shawn G. Henry. Later in the week I became acquainted with the very whacky and yet wildly informative world of Colleen Wainwright when I attended her seminar on social media. Also at the opening reception, among many others, were Lauren Wendle, Publisher of PDN Magazine & Vice President of the Nielsen Photo Group, along with the magazine’s chief Editor, Holly Hughes.

Korakia Pensione © Louisa J. Curtis

The 3rd hotel (where I was staying) the Palm Mountain Resort, was sort of in between the other 2, both in size and location, and to be honest, it was my favorite. A little bigger than the Korakia, not as corporate as the Hyatt, and very laid back – plus it had the best pool! All I had to do was walk across the lawn… I swam every day – I was in heaven!

View from my hotel room at the Palm Mountain Resort © Louisa J. Curtis

Here I am preparing for a long day ahead in my Palm Springs office!

Each night there was an outdoor networking dinner for the “faculty” hosted by different sponsors and culminating in a fabulous Moroccan Feast on the last evening, served family style by our wonderful waiters who had gotten used to the crazy crowd by then – these communal dinners were so much fun, and were accompanied each night by delicious wines from small select California vineyards. At the very first of those dinners (Monday) I was seated at a table of approximately 8-10 people, and what are the chances, but we discovered that 6 out of the 8 of us were Leo’s. How crazy was that? In case you were wondering, and I know you are, those 6 fabulously creative people were Sarah Rozen, Photo Editor @ Women’s Health Magazine, Susan Jones, Director of Photography at AGE Photostock, Nancy Glowinski, Photo Editor for Reuters, Frank Meo, The Photo Closer, Queen of the Alternative Process photographer Jill Enfield, and yours truly Louisa J. Curtis of Chatterbox Enterprises – quite a sextet!

Networking Dinner with the 6 Leo's © Louisa J. Curtis

After each dinner, everyone either took a shuttle bus, or stumbled down the street and around the corner, to the Palm Springs Art Museum, where we were treated to our evening slide shows, and photographer presentations. It has been a while since I was able to immerse myself in photography without a bunch of other “daily life” distractions, and it was the 1st time I had been away in a while, so it really was part vacation for me as well. What I also enjoyed was not only meeting a lot of new contacts, but also getting to know a few people on a deeper level than previously when we have simply run into one another at an event. I saw old friends such as my buddy Alexandra Bortkiewicz, Photography Director at Alamy in the UK, consultant Sherrie Berger, who amongst many other things handles PR for the prestigious Lucie Awards and the Lucie Foundation, and I even ran into the very charming Photo Editor at People Magazine Darrick Harris, who will be one of my panelists at PPE (Photo Plus Expo) in New York this October.

Moroccan Feast at the Korakia © Louisa J. Curtis

But what about all of the photography that I saw? Some of the evening presenters during the festival were Jill Enfield, who spoke about alternative processes, but she also shared with us some interesting family history and stories as well. We saw Stephen Wilkes take us step by step through his “day to night” process, along with Andy Katz, who not only showed images from his beautiful book on wines, but his family vineyard also provided the wines we were drinking that same evening. French photographer Mathieu Grandjean, Director of Open Show in Europe, was in town to tell us more about that – and many of you may recall I mentioned the New York branch in the last newsletter. It was also Mathieu’s birthday that day, so he was presented with a birthday cupcake, candle and all. Frank Ockenfells III kept us entertained both at dinner and with his creative celebrity portraiture, while Ralph Gibson showed something like 300+ slides while transporting us through his enormous and fabulous career retrospective!

Image from Chris Rainier presentation at the Palm Springs Photo Festival 2013

Aside from the evening presentations, there were also lunchtime sessions and afternoon symposiums each day, and one of those I attended was given by National Geographic photographer Chris Rainier. I certainly knew his work, but it was wonderful to hear him speak as well as seeing a retrospective of his travels all around the globe, documenting the vanishing cultures of our world. In one of his glorious stories he referred to “where the green meets the blue” – a beautiful expression of simply where this island ended and the ocean began. Beyond that was the unknown. I took a few photos of Chris during the presentation, and later on I had to chuckle to myself, when in his darkly humorous presentation on the last evening, diehard B&W film photographer Roger Ballen, who was born in New York but made his home in South Africa (both photographers have South Africa in common) since the 1970’s, summed up his work by saying “the light comes from the dark” and that it was all about the “integration of visual relationships” – so Roger, if you’re reading this, please note the visual relationship between Chris’ arm and the bow and arrow in his image on the screen!

Chris Rainier presenting at the Palm Springs Photo Festival 2013

Roger Ballen speaking about the Cat Catcher at the Palm Springs Photo Festival 2013

I saw a lot of photography that is documenting either cultures or land that is vanishing, or simply causes that speak to universal and global issues. One of those was James Whitlow Delano, whose book project Mercy invited a diverse group of photographers to submit images that spoke to the theme of “mercy” through their eyes. James resides in Japan but has spent much of his time working in Malaysia, specifically documenting the “little people” whose lives are being disrupted and whose rainforest is being systematically destroyed by the logging companies, all in the name of “Green” bio-fuel. Bit of an oxymoron really, destroying the planet to grow “green fuel”… I mean, what’s wrong with that picture?

Image from James Whitlow Delano presentation at Palm Springs Photo Festival 2013

Photojournalist Ashley Gilbertson with the VII Agency spoke from the heart and we all felt it. He showed images from the wars (chiefly Iraq & Afghanistan) he has witnessed first-hand, but it was his haunting series of Bedrooms of the Fallen that was so poignant and touching. He admitted to having to gone through a lot of therapy himself, much like the soldiers, but he was also passionate that the public needs to better understand that not only are they suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) but many of them return and commit suicide because they cannot live with the lingering memories of death.

Image from Alison Turner's winning slide show entry "Reflected Identities"

Before each of the evening photographer presentations, we also viewed 4 short slide shows, comprising the finalists in the festival’s Slide Show Contest. The entries came from all around the world, the contestants paid no entry fee to participate, and the final selects were an interesting range of subjects and origins. The overall winner was Alison Turner, whose beautifully haunting series Reflected Identities certainly caught the judges’ attention. One of my own particular favorites was by Marjorie Salvaterra, whose wonderfully whacky “tongue-in-cheek” entry entitled Her takes an imaginative look at what women go through as they get older and definitely struck a humorous chord with me. She was also named one of PDN’s emerging photographers earlier this year, and I can see why. Another prizewinner, this time the top pick from the Portfolio Reviewers was Melissa Pierschbacher, although I did not get to review her work, I can certainly see why she won! I had a few “favorites” from the photographers that I did review, starting with Massachusetts-based food photographer Elizabeth Cecil, whose delicious work certainly caught the hungry eye of several of the reviewers, followed by Vancouver-based Torrie Groening, who integrates her fine art drawings and paintings into her exquisitely crafted photographs, Washington, DC-based photographer Kristi Odom, with her sepia prints of endangered species, and Gregory Diamond, a recent graduate from the Masters Program at Brooks Institute of Photography, and 1 of the 4 recipients of the festival’s Emerging Photographer Scholarship (well deserved), who showed a fascinating series and interpretation about how the world views “brail.”

Marilyn from behind © Louisa J. Curtis

Another inspirational story was that of David Nelson, who used to be a sports photographer, but after being diagnosed with MS, instead of quitting, he said, “I’ll shoot fine art instead!” Although he is now in a wheelchair, he and his wife Margaret continue to travel around the country photographing over-sized signage in his series “Land of the Giants.” Now speaking of “giants” – pretty much everyone takes a picture of the Marilyn Monroe statue while visiting Palm Springs (myself included), and she was conveniently located right in the heart of the festival so most likely you walked past it pretty much every day, if not several times a day. And each time you walked past her, no matter what time of day, there was always somebody taking a photograph of them selves, usually standing in between her legs and underneath her crotch. It’s a very large statue! I mused as to exactly how many images would be taken of her whilst we were all in town? I even saw a local TV news crew filming a segment about her. So naturally, I had to do my own take and decided to shoot her from behind!

Apparently, it's not just Marilyn who is super-sized... © Louisa J. Curtis

Now, about those birds… One night, after one of our networking dinners and a few glasses of wine, a small group of us walked the “back way” to the Palm Springs Art Museum. The group included most of the 6 Leo’s, so we were loud and laughing and then I looked up in the sky above the mountain to our left and I saw a flock of birds flying in a V-formation. At least, that’s what I thought I saw. I immediately got the rest of the group’s attention and they all saw it for themselves, so it wasn’t just me who saw this, I have witnesses! We all stood there and gazed up at this beautiful sight – why so beautiful? Because they appeared to be illuminated from underneath and none of us could figure it out? I mean, in photography the light is everything, but where on earth was this light coming from? The city lights weren’t bright enough, there was no full moon… we couldn’t come up with a solution, but we all agreed they were wonderful anyway and Susan Jones aptly named them the “Firefly Birds.” Some time later when I was back in New York, I pondered back over this notion of illuminated birds and V-formations and my friend immediately suggested the most obvious notion and one I had surprisingly not thought about – until then. So what were they? A flock of illuminated Firefly Birds, a US Air Force secret training mission, or a bunch of Extra Terrestrials simply showing off and going for a celestial spin…

Alexandra Bortkiewicz, Louisa J. Curtis, Sherrie Berger & Susan Jones

More about those flipping birds… I can’t recall if this was the same night, but it may have well as been, or if it was on another evening, but upon arrival at the Annenberg Theater we were asked to kindly “flip the bird’ so that Jeff could take a group photograph of us all. He did preface this request with the story of how it all began with a couple of them flipping the bird and sending the photo to someone else, and then that person with his friends responded with their own version, and as it continued, each time the group in the phone photo got a little bit bigger – until this particular night, when Jeff trumped them all by photographing “the largest group of bird flippers on record” in the Palm Springs Art Museum – And here we are!

Quite Possibly the Largest Group of Bird Flippers © Jeff Dunas

They say things come in 3’s, so here’s my 3rd bird story… One day I was walking up the main street from my hotel to the Hyatt, and as I was passing one of the deserted storefronts, this somewhat straggly-looking and slightly suspicious character beckoned to me and muttered something about photography and a bird. I chose to ignore his enthusiastic gestures saying that I had to be somewhere (really Louisa?), and off I went. The next day, I was walking in the exact same spot and there he was again, only this time I saw what it was he was referring to. There, hovering above the plants was a teeny tiny bright purple humming bird. It flew off before I could get a photo, but I realized that perhaps he wasn’t so crazy after all! Since I don’t have a photo of the purple hummingbird, I’m giving you a picture of a purple vintage car instead that Tracey Woods, Photo Editor at Essence Magazine, and I found one afternoon parked right there in the Art Museum parking lot!

Purple "Historical Vehicle" © Louisa J. Curtis

And finally, I want to say thank you to my pals Allegra Wilde of Eyeist and Frank Meo, The Photo Closer, for both encouraging me to come out to the festival this year, I am so very glad that I did. And last but by no means least, I want to give a special shout-out to Festival Director Jeff Dunas and his charming wife Laura (who celebrated their wedding anniversary while we were all there with them!) for hosting this wonderful event. Jeff and his amazing team of producers, sponsors and volunteers succeed in bringing both artists and technicians, creators and makers of beautiful, inspirational and moving images together for 5 whole days – everyone shares a passion for the art of photography and we all merged into one massive party in the hot desert sun! I also want to give a special mention to Associate Producer Michelle Gossman, and Faculty Captain River Jordan, who were both brilliant at taking care of us all. And Workshop Producer Nina Miller did an awesome job as well, along with all of the dedicated volunteers – you know who you are… Just to show how thankful he was, on the very last evening, Jeff invited all of his staff and volunteers to come up on stage and take their much-deserved curtain call.

Some of the many Palm Springs Photo Festival 2013 Staff and Volunteers

See you next year!

AIPAD April 2013

On Friday, April 5th, 2013 I paid my annual visit to the AIPAD (The Association of International Photography Art Dealers) Photography Show located at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. Although it’s a 4-day event, I generally find myself there on the Friday, not only to view the wonderful photography, but also to run into many of my friends and colleagues in the industry. One of the most noticeable changes this year, and perhaps due to the increase in the number of exhibitors, was that the café was no longer located at the back of the exhibition space. Instead, it was in a separate room near the entrance of the building. Although it was better for the exhibitors, who said they could at least disappear there for a quick break without having to continue to talk to people, from my perspective, I missed having the café near all of the booths, as that is where many of us would congregate for a break and run into one another. By having it located outside of the exhibit hall, the event felt a little more serious and less social. The upside is that I was better able to concentrate on the galleries without being so distracted!

Orphan Girl at the Cemetery, after Delacroix, from the Gordian Puzzles 2008 series, Vik Muniz courtesy of Contemporary Works/Vintage Works

My 1st stop was ClampArt to see my pal Julie Grahame and gallery owner Brian Clamp. And who should be chatting with Julie when I got there but Mary Virginia Swanson, the “Queen of Fine Art Consulting” herself, and who is always a delight to run into! Normally Julie and I would be walking the show together, but since she is now the Associate Director at ClampArt, this year she was working, so while I was there, I shared with both Brian & Julie my April ChatterArtist blog post with one of their artists, the wonderfully talented Lori Nix. It was also nice to see Marc YankusLandscapes/Cityscapes on display and while I was there, a young man purchased one of his little books.

Julie Grahame & Brian Clamp © Louisa J. Curtis

Shortly after my visit with ClampArt, I ran into one of my other buddies Monica Cipnic, the programs director for Adorama Workshops. In fact I just moderated an awesome panel for her last month on Presenting Your Work To Multiple Markets with Julie as my Fine Art representative! So Monica and I then spent an enjoyable afternoon walking the show together, running into yet more friends and examining as much photography as we could manage in about 4 hours! These shows can be both over-whelming and exhausting, and this year’s show had more than 80 galleries exhibiting, compared to last year’s 75. So it is difficult to see everything. We knew we had some specific stops to make, and then in between we explored the rest, to see what took our fancy, or caught our eye.

Charita II, 1996, Dawoud Bey at the Stephen Daiter Gallery

Every year, intentionally or not, there often seems to be some underlying theme(s) that can be seen throughout the show. In past years, it might have been a technical trend, such as Tilt Shift, one time there seemed to be a lot of Chinese photography on display, or another year it might be more subject-related. This year, I found a re-occurring theme of “overhead views” – especially at the Paul Kopeikin Gallery from Los Angeles, CA, – including work by Dutch photographer Katrin Korfmann and my absolute favorite of the day by Dominican Republic-born artist Alejandro Cartagena.

From the series Car Poolers, Alejandro Cartagena

Alejandro lives and works in Mexico, and Car Poolers is a series of photographs documenting Mexican workers traveling to or from their jobs. Each truck has its own mini-story contained within the flatbed (which resemble human sardine cans), even if it’s covered with a tarp, you wonder what’s underneath it! All of the images were taken from the same, or similar spot on a bridge looking directly down onto the road beneath, which gave the series a sense of structure. But what also made this series so successful was seeing them all displayed together as a grid on one entire wall – I found them very visually satisfying, and so did a lot of other people apparently, since on my 2nd visit to the same gallery we witnessed a young collector purchasing 2 of them!

Car Poolers, Alejandro Cartagena

Another recurrent theme we noticed was fire and destruction, and war-related images, starting with a series of rare vintage photographs of the Hindenburg at the Daniel Blau Gallery This gallery’s presentation was “Photojournalism in 20th Century America,” so it also fit nicely into the theme for my April ChatterBulletin, the sign of Aries (who is ruled by the Planet Mars, God of War) and Accidents!

Vintage Photos of the Hindenburg, Daniel Blau Gallery

Another fiery theme was British photographer Damion Berger’s Black Powder series on display at the Lisa Sette Gallery out of Scottsdale, AZ, in which he documents fireworks displays from all around the world, using glass plate negatives, multiple exposures and unusual combinations of focus and aperture.

From the Black Powder series, Damion Berger on display at Lisa Sette Gallery

And how about this next image Last Ditch Effort, 2013 also at the Kopeikin Gallery from a series entitled The Struggle to Right Oneself by Kerry Skarbakka – fits pretty well with my theme of Aries and Accidents!

Last Ditch Effort, from the series The Struggle to Right Oneself, Kerry Skarbakka

One more tribute to Aries (who also like to wear hats) we have Dutch photographer Hendrik Kerstens at the Danziger Gallery, who photographs his daughter Paula, reminiscent of the style of the famous Dutch painter Vermeer, yet using contemporary props for the costumes. This one had me doing a double-take when I realized that she had a tea towel on her head and some air conditioning duct around her neck!

Portrait of his daughter Paula, Hendrik Kerstens courtesy of the Danziger Gallery

Stephen Wilkes had a strong showing of his Day to Night series in multiple galleries including the Peter Fetterman Gallery where they had giant prints of both Inauguration, 2013 and Jerusalem, 2012, but I was particularly glad to have witnessed his hauntingly beautiful photograph Hurricane Sandy, Seaside Heights, New Jersey, 2012 courtesy of the Monroe Gallery of Photography, known primarily for their B&W photography, and yet his Day to Night series is in color, such as the Coney Island image below.

Coney Island, from the Day to Night Series, Stephen Wilkes courtesy of the Monroe Gallery of Photography

One of our less-violent stops was at the Catherine Couturier Gallery where Maggie Taylor was signing copies of her exquisite new book No Ordinary Days.

Maggie Taylor with Monica Cipnic signing copies of her new book © Louisa J. Curtis

And another interesting stop was at the Alan Klotz Gallery where we were introduced to Russian visual artists Valera & Natasha Cherkashin, who were showing an interesting series entitled Global Underground, of digitally layered images taken in subways around the world starting with New York in 2005, then Moscow, Stockholm, and after a total of 18 different countries and 27 cities, they are still going strong and working towards their ultimate goal of 50+ cities.

From the Global Underground series, Valera & Natasha Cherkashin

Another of my favorites, because it was so silly, simple and clever, was the series at the Robert Mann Gallery by Jeff Brouws entitled Surveillance Cameras, 2003. Not only was it funny to see photographs of surveillance cameras – but also the irony was made even stronger by placing the images in the top corners of the booth, where a real surveillance camera might have been!

From the Surveillance Cameras 2003 series, Jeff Brouws at the Robert Mann Gallery

Photoville – June 23rd, 2012

We’ve had a lot of hot, steamy weather in New York this summer already, and Saturday, June 23rd was no exception. This was the day I decided to venture out to Brooklyn and check out Photoville and although it was really hot that afternoon and a bit of a blooming trek, it was well worth the effort!

Welcome to Photoville!

I say trek, because no matter where you were approaching the location from, it entailed either a long walk, or a cab fare. Most people walked from Dumbo due west through the Brooklyn Bridge park and then down towards the piers where the photo festival was located. I thought I’d be clever so I took the train that appeared to be the closest stop to the festival location. However, what I had forgotten was that when you walk down the hill towards the water, you end up on the Promenade which is high above the street level where you need to be, and there’s no way down, except at either end.

Skyline view from the Promenade

Photoville view from the Promenade

"Becoming Visible: Portraits of Homeless Transgender Teens" Artist: Josh Lehrer

I had two choices – walk all the way back to Dumbo (not likely!) or walk to the other end of the Promenade and then down to the road and back along to the festival. And that’s what I did. But having said that, my mistake did give me the opportunity to get some cool images looking out over the river and down onto the festival site from above – and you know not everyone got those shots!

"Becoming Visible: Portraits of Homeless Transgender Teens" Artist: Josh Lehrer

Before they even opened, I got the feeling from their promotions and website that it was more of a “New York” community festival than some of the others around town and it really did have a very inclusive vibe. I mean if it’s a New York photo festival, then you want to see some New York photographers, right? And you did – both local and overseas but with a healthy dose of “local.”

Shipping Container Galleries

Now with the problem of “space” being a citywide challenge for festivals and art shows, someone came up with the brilliant idea to house the assorted exhibitions inside freight packing containers. The ones that had both ends open felt good, because there was a nice through draft, but the ones that had at least three sides closed were pretty hot inside!

©Luis Alvarez
Andre Feliciano's Greenhouse

But perhaps my favorite installation was not inside of a container, but a single small greenhouse in which there was a lovely display of brightly-colored plastic flowers – but then, as you moved in for a closer look, you realized that every single flower, every single blossom was made from miniature plastic cameras – brilliant!

Andre Feliciano's Greenhouse
Andre Feliciano's Greenhouse

After a couple of hours walking around the containers and chatting with a couple of my buddies that I ran into, I decided it was time to head back towards the train, this time along the designated path through the park. And this way I was able to view the other great idea from the festival organizers which was “The Fence” along which a whole myriad of really cool photographers had series of images posted on a plastic fabric background, so they were weather-proof – which was just as well, since we had a whole bunch of storms during the festival’s run.

The Fence featuring Alejandro Chaskielberg
The Fence featuring Barry Rosenthal

I really dug the fence, and even funnier, while I was walking along and enjoying the various series, I took some photos of the work I liked or photographers I knew, one of which was Landon Nordeman, whom I both know and whose work I love! And so there I am admiring his work on the fence, I look up and I see this guy looking at me and low and behold it was Landon himself, along with his beautiful wife Shannon and their adorable new baby Arthur! Too funny! So of course I took a photo of the happy family, the three of them together in front of the fence, which Landon subsequently said he very much appreciated as it was usually him taking the photos!

The Fence featuring Landon Nordeman
Landon with his wife Shannon and baby Arthur

Louisa J. Curtis – July 15th, 2012