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April 15, 2004

Anachronistic Photojournalism, and a Funny Fashion Story

Still not feeling perfect, so some quick nods to worthwhile stuff...

The latest issue of PDN has a feature on photographer James Whitlow Delano, who's had experience assisting or working with established photographers such as Annie Leibovitz, Joel Meyerowitz, and Deborah Turbeville before moving to Tokyo 10 years ago, which began his journey through various regions of Asia, photographing these areas in the throes of change. He works mainly with a Leica and a single 35mm lens, cites as his major influences Atget and Cartier-Bresson, and works in soft-toned black and white with a highly pictorial style.

It feels odd seeing such anachronistic photojouralism...Delano has a great deal of beautiful work in his galleries, but this clearly feels like the photographer as tourist...having spent time in many of the cities he's photographed, I'm not sure how much insight I really get into them from his images, and the most problematic images flirt with National Geographic style Orientalism. The PDN article makes it clear that he has strong opinions regarding the destructive changes of projects like the Three Gorges Dam in China, but he appears to prefer not to channel his opinions through his photographs. To his credit, the most interesting of his images seem to raise questions in the nature of the compositions and the distance he establishes from his subjects. And his images do look great. I was partial to the images from the Siberia and China galleries...you may have your own favorites.


James W Delano image, from Siberia series

And a funny story to add to the fashion and fiction post from yesterday...I mentioned the ambivalent relationship photographers with regards to their fashion work, and Philip Lorca diCorcia is certainly a photographer who fits in this category. An excerpt from a gallery talk given by diCorcia last year at the Tate relates the amusing story of how diCorcia managed to find a rather different way to photograph Sigourney Weaver in dealing with the ridiculous demands of fashion editors. You can click on this link to listen to the talk on your media player (fast forward to around 38:20 on the talk to hear the story), but for the multimedia phobic, here's a quick transcript (imagine diCorcia in his best world-weary New York voice):

"The way it happened was…I was coming back from someplace, and they called me up, and asked “Would you like to photograph Sigourney Weaver?” and I said “Oh, alright” (audience chuckles).

And they said…”Well, so what do you want to do?” ...and I was really working on something else, and I hate that question anyway...

So I was irritated and so I said, I don’t know, I’ll photograph her with a f**ing chicken!!” and the editor goes “BRILLIANT!” (laughter from audience, louder laughter from diCorcia)

So here you go (even louder laughter)..."


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