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November 05, 2004

Staged Stories, Interiors, High School Portraits, and the Passing of an Architecture Giant

* Ezra Stoller, one of the last century's leading architectural photographers associated with modernism, passed away the other day.  There is a widely linked NY Times obituary online, but the Boston Globe's architecture critic Robert Campbell has written a more extensive obituary.  An excerpt:

"Mr. Stoller did fine color photography, but his genius was for black and white. He was a master of chiaroscuro, the abstract patterning of shadow and light, in a manner that sometimes evokes Hollywood films of the noir era. He almost always worked in very deep focus, with every detail from the foreground to the horizon pin-sharp. And he had a way of making photographs that work in more than one way.

''My photos," he once commented, ''tend to be confusing. I show a great many vistas." By that he meant that one could often find, in a single photo, a number of different framed views. An example is a shot of the Salk Institute in California, by Louis Kahn, where, Mr. Stoller said, ''there are I think nine separate areas you can view through, nine vistas."

Many of Stoller's best photographs depict architecture with a kind of optimism and elegance that might almost be seen as quaint or nostalgic now, were it not so expertly executed.  Some photographs from Stoller can be seen at the Morehouse Gallery site and Stoller's Esto Agency website.  People in New England can also go see an exhibit currently running at the Williams College Museum of Art, which will run through December 19th.


Kennedy Airport, Ezra Stoller image

* Austria based and US educated photographer Chloe Potter takes photographs "based on themes from horror stories, mysteries, and true stories"...much of it evokes the self-referential and pseudo-narrative photography so popular in the 1990s that seems to be on the wane these days. Potter, though, seems more committed to her material than most who dabble with this stuff, and as a series, the saturated color, crisp detail and simple moody compositions make for a mostly gripping series of photographs. 

She also has the benefit of largely avoiding the overwrought pretensions of the leading lights of this genre...and her dedication to detail and craft make the artificiality of some of the more stagey images manageable.  Some of the photographs do seem rather affected, especially in the commercial portfolio, which points to how fragile the conceit of manufactured stories can be.  (seen at thingsmagazine.net)


Chloe Potter image

* Jona Frank has an exhibition of "High School" portraits currently showing at the Foley Gallery in New York, with an endorsement from a pretty fair documenter of the young and troubled in Gus Van Sant.  The documentation of teenagers and their struggles with conformity and role-playing has been going on forever (and will keep going on), so I'm not sure what makes Frank's portraits so appealing, especially given how these types of faces continue to be coopted for commercial purposes...maybe it's the understated formality and color palette Frank uses, so at odds with the heavy use of flash and more glaring color that's the norm in most commercial photography currently. 

The teenagers on display in Frank's exhibition seem to be providing more to the photographer than the quick and dirty pose of attitude, and for me at least, the portraits work well as a result.


Mariya,-Claudi-D321,-Vampir 2004, Jona Frank portrait

* Todd at Gallery Hopper has been doing what his blog says he should be doing: hitting the galleries, and he's been providing a number of good write-ups on the exhibitions he's seen lately.  One of the artists he saw is someone I've been meaning to mention on this site, as I came across her work early in the summer: Wijnanda Deroo, whose oddball interiors from a variety of locales are generating a fair amount of buzz on the gallery circuit (and, if my local photography school is any indication, on the school circuit as well..I've seen quite a few people producing square interior shots making interesting use of negative space). 

She has an exhibition at the Robert Mann Gallery with a reasonable selection of images, and an even more comprehensive selection on her personal website (which also demonstrates her use of the square for still lifes and other types of photographs).


Wijnanda Deroo image

* Interesting exchange between a cinematic photographer and a photographic filmmaker: Jeff Wall and Mike Figgis have an email conversation, with the batting around of many ideas about differences between the filmmaking process and the process of making photographs (with more discussion about the former, since Wall seems to come across as a frustrated filmmaker, which is evident in the types of images he produces).

I always enjoy intellectual discussions of this sort, though Wall's and Figgis' criticisms of far superior filmmakers (and artists) like Jean-Luc Godard and Lars Van Trier seem odd and ironic to me, given the portentous tendencies of their own work and approach to producing art.  Stimulating reading nonetheless. (seen at Green Cine Daily)

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Tracked on Nov 9, 2004 8:48:35 AM


Hey, thanks for the kind words about Gallery Hopper, and the link.

I've been meaning to get to that Jona Frank show for a while, now. It interesting that you mention the commercial aspect of the portraits, I'd thought they had a edge of advertising contrivance to them. There's a sense of manipulation in the depth of field that lends an unnatural feeling to them, as well.

Posted by: Todd W. at Nov 4, 2004 5:34:31 PM

I really enjoyed this post as I am particular to photographers who use children and teenagers, esp sally mann, Anna Gaskell and Larry Clarke, and its great to be shown some new faces.

Posted by: marlaina at Nov 8, 2004 10:23:30 PM

If you are interested in images of adolescent girls searching for identity, please check out my site. Thanks, Ellie

Posted by: Ellie Brown at Nov 21, 2006 11:00:39 AM