Posts Tagged ‘Essays’


Saturday was an eventful day in Cleveland art and it also was my first class as a newly enrolled student at the Plum Academy. I transferred from being homeschooled in the arts, generally practicing artistic visual and verbal witchcraft in my garage, to a film watching dialogue engaging cultural participant. It was the PA’s goal of course to transform passive observers into active participants at ole Plum U.  And tonight I was transformed.

I, after battling for a parking spot on the Superior Viaduct against hundreds of Bridge Project goers, made it to class on time and filed into my chair to hear Deborah Stratman an acclaimed multi-discipline artist who also teaches at the School of Art & Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago, discuss and screen 2 recent film projects. The first being an interesting abstract mix of black and white grainy shadowy ameoba and nihilistic quotes about how boring life is that took your mind to dark corners of wonder and contemplation of the meaning of life and whether there is more to it all. I was left with the thought “If that’s all there is….then lets keep dancing…” It was short and fast paced like those kind of thoughts that dash in and out of the mind. Like do we go somewhere after we die or is this really it? Are there ghosts? The dark is scary either physically or metaphorically, darkness is unknown.

Picture 1The second film titled O’er the Land is a methodical and perfectly curated collection of scenes that brought together the zeitgeist of America and the concept of Freedom in a poignant and awesome way.  A film that brought together the civil war, high school football, military training, machine gun festivals all marked with pensive quiet moments of nature, the awe of the quiet and sublime. Nature out does man every time in power and glory. Yet that wasn’t the punch line, there was no punchline rather a reflective rhetorical presentation that opened more questions that it does answer. The film was ironic and humourous in its sheer truth and obscurity, like the civil war reenactments that at first seem like it meant to be about the civil war itself but then when it cut to golf carts and an ambulance with civil war players standing idle off the battlefield the scene is clearly about the reenactment. The ambulance there to help just in case some one gets hurt while “playing war”.

The movie, slow at times and pensive with Ansel Adams or Joel Sternfeld like framing. The production was as much about photography and referenced  past greats artists who have equally tried to define it. Fox Talbot, Adams, Sternfeld all marked manifest destiny in their own way at their time. Stratman dips into that historic bag in her approach .Each shot was tripod-ed and chosen like the way a photographer would use a view camera. She then  let the drama play out in the frame like a Harry Potter painting, truly a moving picture. The pictures were enhanced with the sounds and quotes.  They added complexity to the story.

The piece was great, better than any linear narrative because it took you to so many places yet with an underlying cohesiveness. The cathartic nature of the film at times was absurd with the documentation of the machine gun festival in Knob Creek Kentucky showing a sign that exclaimed, Machine Gun Rentals here. But ultimately was enlightening without judgement.  The players in the film were real and honest.

What I took away most from the film was not my admitted disgust with weaponry because that was an internal judgment when seeing the footage of gun-toting and not the aim of the film, was the story of Lt Col William Rankin. It was what I thought to be the underpinning and vehicle for the film. His story, about ejecting from a plane at 47,000 feet and his ensuing 45 minute drop back down to earth and survival through extreme temperatures and a raging storm, was to me, the point.  It was the question of being. Of as Rankin explains, surviving because of training. It was a great juxtaposition of the awe of nature and of our minds and bodies and spirits. It was a culmination of age old questions about existence. The scene was moving and riveting.

O’er the Land really  was the finest in what art can do. It gives you feelings and challenges views and is poetic with a message, it presents everything and nothing at the same time.  It has a clear agenda but the funny thing is your left with only a feeling and your mind reeling with its own questions and thoughts. If you get a chance to see it, do it. It’s on par with Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi in its poetic probing of american culture and psyche.

It has made a prestigious run through many film festivals including Sundance and Cannes. Here are a few links for some more info and Stratmans other works.





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Lets face it there are a ton of opportunities for emerging photographer/artists. I used to think that living in Cleveland would make it all but impossible to gain any recognition as an artist. Lately, I have been feeling a little different. The accessibility to like minded people and the digital studio space of a personal website opens up the art world to people living in even the most remote areas.  With that in mind I found a nice list of things an artist working in the medium of photography can do to make advancements in his/her career. It’s a extremely generous article from Amani Olu the director of the Humble Arts Foundation, an equally generous organization that offers grants to artists twice a year based on the strength of the individuals proposals. It too is a wonderful opportunity and venue to see and get involved in the fine art photography world.    The article is published here @ artlog.comemptygallery

Twelve Ways to Gain Visibility in the Fine Art Photography World

Amani Olu presents Twelve Ways to Gain Visibility in the Fine Art Photography World. Mr. Olu is a private dealer, curator, and the founder and executive director of Humble Arts Foundation.

Amani Olu presents Twelve Ways to Gain Visibility in the Fine Art Photography World. Mr. Olu is a private dealer, curator, and the founder and executive director of Humble Arts Foundation.

1. Believe in yourself If you don’t believe in yourself and your ability to succeed, then no one will believe in you. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true. Never doubt yourself. Take your work serious, be strong and be confident.

2. Have a well-organized portfolio Your edit should consist of no more than 12 images per body of work, 15 images max. No matter how great you believe your work to be, no busy person wants to look at 30 images. Showing fewer images give you the opportunity to show more, if requested.

If you are doing a studio visit, try not to talk too much about your work. Select no more than three pictures that have an interesting story. This allows the viewer to draw his or her own conclusions about the work. If they want to know your life story, they will ask.

For a solid, custom portfolio, I recommend House of Portfolios (houseofportfolios.com) for those living in NYC.

3. Print business/promotional cards The fastest way to look like a freshman is to not have a business/promo card. If someone is interested in your work and you don’t have a card, they are going to forget about you or call the photographer with a card. Don’t get caught out there. For cards, I suggest Modern Postcards (modernpostcards.com). They do great fine art printing, the best in the industry. There is also moo.com, which I hear is a good too.

4. Build a professional website I cannot stress this enough. It is important that you have a nicely, easily navigable website. Resist the temptation to go overboard. Less is always more. Facebook and Flickr do not count as professional portfolio websites. Again, take your work serious, and build a good website so people can find you and your work.

5. Find the best venues for your work Submitting blindly to websites, blogs, print publications, galleries, museums, etc is not a strategy. Locate the best venues for your work and find out how and if they accept submissions. This will increase your chances of being shown in places that are right for you.

6. Attend portfolio reviews/apply for contests/grants Every year there are a number of portfolio reviews. Portfolio reviews and contests/grants, which can be expensive, help to get your work in front of established museum curators, gallery directors and photo editors. Here are some I recommend:

Portfolio Reviews Center formerly Santa Fe (visitcenter.org/programs.cfm?p=Review) Powerhouse (powerhousebooks.com/portfolioreview09) Critical Mass (photolucida.org/current.php)

Contests/Grants Aperture Prize (aperture.org/apertureprize) Humble Arts Foundation’s GEP (humbleartsfoundation.org/grant/guidelines.html)

7. Subscribe to photography blogs It is a good idea to subscribe to as many photo blogs as possible. This will help you to stay in the loop. Blogs I recommend are:

I Heart Photo iheartphotograph.blogspot.com

The Exposure Project theexposureproject.blogspot.com

Women in Photography wipnyc.org

Shane Lavalette’s Journal shanelavalette.com/journal/

We Can’t Paint wecantpaint.com/log/

Ground Glass caraphillips.wordpress.com/

Amy Stein’s Blog amysteinphoto.blogspot.com/

To find more blogs, visit these sites and take a look at their links.

8. Be active in the art community It is always a good idea to attend art fairs, openings, etc in your town. If you live in NYC, then you should be seeing art in all five boroughs, not just Chelsea or the Lower East Side. Be sure to have cards. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to people you want to meet. Just picture the person naked and go for it.

9. Start/join a critique group There are numerous advantages to participating in a critique group. Crit groups can help you better articulate your ideas, obtain consistent feedback and allow you to further integrate yourself in the photo community. If you don’t know of a group, start one with your photographer friends.

10. Accept rejection It will happen, and a lot. Sometimes your work is not a good fit. Sometimes the curator, director, or whoever, just doesn’t like your work. It can be a number of reasons. Grow thick skin, don’t take it personal and move on to the next opportunity.

11. Be patient If you want success, you’ll find success. If you want money, you’ll make money. It’s really that simple, but please don’t expect it to happen overnight. It will happen; just stay in the race and one day you’ll have more opportunities than you can count.

12. Keep taking pictures Never stop making work. Never.

Well, friends, I hope this helps. At the end of the day, you have to do what is best for you. Good luck.

About the author amani olu (b. 1980) is a private dealer, curator, and the founder and executive director of Humble Arts Foundation, a non-profit that works to advance the careers of emerging fine art photographers. He recently produced and designed The Collector’s Guide to Emerging Art Photography, published by Humble Arts Foundation. His most recent exhibitions include the group show Revisiting America and solo exhibition Home Theater, photographs by Bradley Peters. In March 2009 he participated as a private dealer at SCOPE Art Fair. He lives and works in Brooklyn.

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Trying to make your way in the art-world is not easy. And treating it lightly is not the way to make doors open for you. I remember once when I said i took a job as a designer someone said, “that sounds like fun”. Pssht, right, revisions upon revisions, indecisive clients…picky clients, designers block, not getting paid…I could go on. Fun is not really fit in there. Well the same holds true for trying to make it happen in the complex art system. Last month, I made a critical amateur mistake. While I was following up on some outstanding emails and contacts that have accumulated the last few moon phases, I realized there was one email chain that had been left dangling, broken unlinked, unfulfilled. Now, I’m not saying it would of lead to anything and who knows perhaps my work is what shut down the conversation but I can’t help to think its what I did first that led to the excommunication.

I had been eyeing up a certain gallery for a bit. I am interested in the space, in the professional nature of the gallery and I enjoy and identify with the diversity of the program. I figured my work might work into maybe a group show there or at least I wanted to introduce myself as an artist to them.  I couldn’t find a submission requirement on the web page so I emailed a brief and what I thought to be professional introduction email inquiring about if the gallery was accepting submissions and if yes, what are the preferred requirements. Fair enough, simple, brief, polite. Well, my signature under my email contains 2 links. One is HMNA.com and the other, my personal work site. Curious of course the director read the email clicked the link under my name to my site and…..wah-wah, it didn’t work. I had forgotten a letter in wordpress…brandonjuhasz@worpress.com took him nowhere. Which is where my career is headed if I don’t slow down and take a little time to PROOFREAD >sob<. The director sent me a brief email response that said something like “your link doesn’t work”. At first I was like wait! Pounding on the glass of the photomat in hopes of getting the clerk to open up 5 minutes after they closed to pick up my prints…..I wasn’t submitting my site rather I was asking for the submission procedure. But I did list it, as an   appendix yes, but it’s still fair game. And on his behalf,  he’s busy and probably gets bombarded with emails daily and a little slip up like get you shot right off his radar while a more competent and detail oriented artist bleeps right on in my place.  And if I can’t get that right, perhaps I won’t get the submission right either. Needless to say, I haven’t heard back since that email equivalent to a “don’t call us, we’ll call you”.  And I’m left to bathe in the tepid murky water of my haste.

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I read an article in the New York Times recently about museum behavior.  How attendees generally breeze through galleries rarely looking anymore than the time it would take to read the label or description on the wall. It seems people subconsciously want someone to tell them what they should be looking for first, glance at the work of art second and then last bask in fulfilled glory as a person who has become enlightened. Like reading a manual or hearing a good joke with a quantitative punch line.  The problem is the best art has no punch line.

The other behavior in which I find most interesting is when patrons flutter around quickly snapping photos of the art with the intent to be viewed second hand, at a later time, and in a different location.  After all, photos provide evidence of an experience and validation of being. I’m sure I’ve said a million times, “ I’ve gotta remember this, let me get a photo.” As if the entirety of the moment wasn’t enough to remember.

Here is the disconnect I have been thinking about. While taking the photo for validation and remembrance what was sacrificed? What hit a nerve with me is, as an artist trained in the medium of photography,  how true the observation of people pillaging images is to us as a photographic culture. And how today with the proliferation of photographic digital mediums, a picture or act of photographing has replace the actual experience. Photography has become HOW we experience.  The image becomes the memory rather than the memory of the experience.  I read somewhere that this phenomenon is a “time-shifted” experience.  We go and see and take and then relive at another moment.  A byproduct of our increasingly filtered and diluted yet condensed modes of both communication and existences.   We live in a frantic society where we run from moment to moment stealing a facsimile of time that because of its visual yet 2 dimensional descriptive nature is a substitute for actually being there. Plus, it is easier to remember and recall from a photo then to have to let you self truly be in the moment.

I took some pictures this past weekend on vacation of a grove of 200 plus year old trees in a park on the coast of Georgia. The Spanish moss,  the filtered sunlight, the glow of the foliage, the heat, the smell, the air all created the moment. I snapped a picture.  When I got home to show off a handful of images I took, what I uttered was “Trust me it was gorgeous, the picture doesn’t do it justice.”

I used to take pictures constantly, I would always be out doing and going but I was always observing through my lens. I got to thinking about the experience as a personal photographer, making stories and waiting for things to happen.  It was great and I did SEE a lot.  I can tell stories of those times and I can look at the pictures. However was I really there, a part of it all, experiencing EVERY thing about the moment. I don’t think so. If I was there with out my camera perhaps I would of noticed smells or certain conversations, or other details not relevant to the image I was trying to make.  Or better yet I would have been a part of the story.  I don’t take my camera out much any more. I just don’t care to make those pictures. I’d rather be in the moment. The funny thing is that this evolution happened over time, it wasn’t a conscious decision. One day I realized I wasn’t taking my camera much with me anymore.

I remember a quote from Garry Winogrand where he was out photographing an accident or something on the street and while he was shooting he thought to himself he didn’t know if he should help or take a vertical.  As a photographer, how true is that. Talk about a mediated existence.  Contemporary society is very scary and perhaps its just an evolved way we make our way through the world. You don’t fail if you don’t try…right.  That’s why I think it is not by coincidence that we refer to the act of photography as “taking” a picture or better yet “ making” a picture because ultimately that is what photography is, making. It can never translate perfectly an experience but it can visually describe and live within itself.  But I feel it can never be a true substitute.

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Just goes to show you how innovation and good design just escapes most people, I had an old Eames LCW chair that had seen better days and had spent the last 2 years just collecting dust in my garage. Its counter part the “good son” complete with all the plastic glides and no seat bolt alterations resides in my bedroom. But this guy had been altered some time in its life and had lost a few of the glides and over all was the Lindsy Lohan of my furniture collection.  So I thought I would donate it rather than out right throwing it away. I mean to see an Eames chair in any condition on the roadside is sad.  So I drove that and 2 other chairs up to the local church donation. The man collecting was looking over my offerings. Standing there in front of a backdrop of scratchy tweed olive and brown recliners and gold aluminum glass topped dinning tables and various wooden captains chairs, he snatched up 2 of the 3 but declined the LCW. “We won’t be able to move that one” he said. My jaw dropped. Ummm, “Its a famous chair” I defended. It was designed by Charles Eames, manufactured by the Herman Miller Furniture Company?! All I got in reply was, “ Eames? Is he the car rental guy?” No I said, “Can I have a receipt?”

With that I closed my hatch and drove away.  I literally couldn’t give it away. Dang.  So I curb-sided the chair, walking down the driveway with it like the Green Mile.  I set her down to a wait her fate. A few hours later a car drove by, slammed on its breaks and grabbed the ole girl. Like a last second reprieve from the governor, the LCW will live on. Thrilled I left the front window and sat down, at ease knowing that at least some one appreciates good design.

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Old Is The New New



I just finished a Hi-larious read through quite possibly one of the most accurate depiction of a young man’s mind. I felt like every thought I have ever had regarding women ( that statement could be incriminating ) is distilled in the writings of Boner Party. I don’t know who writes the stuff but it is like a collection of my inner monolog from about age 15 till 30. Above all though I thought this is ironic snarky humor. An ironic point of view that penetrates a lot of our culture these days and it got me thinking about quirky T-shirts from the seventies, Magnum PI stashes and non-prescription Arvid Enged glasses and art. Is the ironic plundering of our pop culture past to formulate our contemporary culture a historical movement? What the fuck is up with irony, are we so unoriginal that all we do is appropriate to make some generic statement about our pseudo-individuality.

My thoughts on the subject are that we are truly on the doorstep of a new era of existence and again, things are changing so rapidly that grasping at and appropriating the past is a way of processing? I mean nostalgia and irony about the 90’s. It can’t be nostalgic if I still wear my favorite flannel and Doc Martins. Art is one of the biggest perpetrators of ironic implementation. I guess it’s because a poignant way to critique is through irony. And in times of turmoil I suppose relating to hypothetical “better times” is a way to be grounded. Like all I want to do is lay in my bed listening to 107.9 the End and play Rygar.

I guess my question is, is the current cultural movement one strictly of irony. Are we ironists? Or is this just a purgatory. A time to process and flesh out exactly what is next for us. I like art that relates to the past. After all you have to know your history. But really, are we OTT on the irony. Is our past our present? Is old the new new? I suppose what I really question is authenticity. To find something truly original, ironic or not. Oh well, I gotta go trim my beard.

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As if we needed another sign to tell us that the history  we have been trying so hard to hold on to and bring back in the form of politics, nostolgic TV shows and well frankly our collective youths, Kodak is ditching Kodachrome. I think they announced it last week but I stumbled on something wonderful from an unlikely source, Fortune magazine.  Not sure why I was there, perhaps I was trying to figure out how to turn the 20 bucks I have in my bank account to maybe 40? Anyways, the revival of Paul Simon’s homage to wunder-lust can mean in this day and age only one thing, either another attempt at a Simon and Garfunkel reunion or the swan song funeral procession for the great saturational era defining cellulose recorder.  Indeed Kodachrome is going to the great processing lab in the sky. Only this time it won’t be returning to the photo-mat in 24-48 hours.  But as the doctors read the DNR tag on the metal can Fortune gives one last chance to see the great films life flash before all our eyes. They have put together a 20 slide salute picked form the archives of the magazine.

What is interesting above the hyper real, period peice movie-esque because of the clarity and detail rarely seen in color from these times ( 30/40/50’s), is the cast of greats who have shot commercially for the magazine. Scroll through and there is a who’s who of American photographic greats, Ansel Adams, W. Eugene Smith, Walker Evans, and Robert Doisneau among others. The pictures bring to life our history in a time where we as a nation are struggling with moving forward.

But I will say I am a little nervous since I am on the eve of getting my new/old camerea in the mail, a Pentax 67. Kodachrome, Polaroid, I hope I can still get film, there is nothing like it. Ultimately, I’m not worried. We move forward.  And as much as I love the Sham-Wow guy, he could never sell OxyClean quite like Billy Mays.

Rest in Peace

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