Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Stephen Hawking shoot American Photography 25

Mackenzie Stroh's above photo is from the Stephen Hawking cover shoot for Discover magazine. I happy to say that this photo is an American Photography 25 winner. To see the winners check it out online:
It was good to see that some art photography was included among the winners, and also a few surprises- old dogs up to new tricks..
The book will be out in November 2009.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pitch Post

I recently received an amazing number of pitches from photographers in response to a mass email pitch request I sent out.
I keep postings about my job as Photo Editor to a minimum for a variety of reasons, one of which is that this kind of Advice-to-Photographers thing is covered already in extensive detail by photo blogs like A Photo Editor and Heather Morton Art Buyer. Nonetheless, this round of pitches seems worth mentioning.

The DO'S and DON'TS of pitching a photo essay/portfolio you would like to shoot

Include photos or sketches. Essential is some kind of visual that shows an example of what you would be shooting, or other visual possibilities. Next in order of importance is a well-defined concept, with suggested locations and/or companies mentioned. Specifics at this stage are critical. This shows you have done a little research, and given it some thought.

Know the magazine. If you think a photo essay on the barbers of Harlem or the nightlife of Singapore is right for me, you haven’t looked at Discover magazine.

Know more about the topic than I do. That is just irritating! For example, I got a pitch suggesting a series of photos that would help explain the different parts of String Theory. Like M- theory. The real problem with this pitch is that theoretical physics is not well explained by objects dependent on the physical world. This same photographer suggested making the photos as a series using a balding guy as a kind of stand in for Scientists.. This does sound like it could be campy and fun, but why would I show more balding guys than I have to? How would the scientists that read our magazine feel about this? I also hate the idea that at the very vibrating, meshing of reality, at the subatomic level, there is a paunchy salaryman looking back at me.

Overwhelm with a list of things you would like to photograph, like offshore oil platforms, aircraft carriers, research labs, the Pacific Gyre and NASA’s next scheduled launches.

Underwhelm by sending a mere link to an article on a topic you would like to shoot.

Photo here is of an edited pile of photographer's promo cards that are currently on my desk.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Butter Eaters

Butter. Cleopatra bathed in it. In "Natural History" (Circa 77 AD), Pliny the Elder calls butter "the most delicate of food among barbarous nations." Abraham served it to visiting angels in Genesis.

Since it is no longer made by shaking milk inside an animal skin, you can buy it in squares or blocks at the supermarket. And you can eat it! It is good for you. Shot this last Saturday in the kitchen.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Melanie & The Plant People

I'm a crazy about Melanie Bonajo, as you can see. The photos shown here are from her plant people project. This project is a collaboration with another artist, Kinga Kielczynska, about an imaginary cult in the forests of Eastern Poland where the members seek to reverse evolution by living like plants. They become more and more plant- like by controlling their bodies and breath. If you want to read more about it you can do so here:

Friday, May 8, 2009

More Melanie Bonajo

Above are three more images by Melanie Bonajo from her "Furniture Bondage" series. These remind me of a lot of work I've seen before, most notably Peter Fischli & David Weiss's early works, and Janine Antonini and other 1970's feminist artists, yet it feels completely fresh. When Bonajo talked about this work she spoke about the complicated feelings about owning stuff, feeling connected to, yet exasperated by it. She says she has dreams of burning all her things. The work here functions well on several levels. It is whimsical, amusing, and funny. Simultaneously it is dark and difficult- we are trapped, hopelessly caught up with the detritus of our making. We can't decide, are we in love with this stuff or do we hate it? Is it sexy, or repulsive?
Titles, top to bottom:
Lily 2008, 47x53"
Sara, 2007, 47x55"
Katja, 2007, 60x43"

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Melanie Bonajo

We went to see Melanie Bonajo give an artist's talk at Aperture last night. Bonajo is an artist bursting at the seams with ideas and energy who uses photography, but not exclusively. The photos themselves are often records of intimate performance. Above is a photo titled "After the Make Over". Following is a photo called "Action Hero 07 2004" from a series about failed Super Heroes- people with some kind of super power that is always going wrong. Some things I loved about the work was her refreshing lack of formalism, talent for performative sculpture, and delightful sense of humor. To see more you can go here:

Friday, May 1, 2009


This is a mock up for a shot I've been working on. I've photographed talc before, with some good results, however, it is extremely difficult to work with. In addition to the fact that talc is hard to manipulate, there is the fact that breathing it should be avoided. I did a lot of shooting while holding my breath, then running out of the room while the baby powder scented stuff settled.
I discovered the interesting properties of talc when trying to imitate in a photograph the look of stylized rain that one might see in a drawing or an engraving. I needed something that would make fine, long streaks. I tried all kinds of things; styrofoam balls, salt, etc.. Talc was perfect because it was so fine and light that it would fall slowly and follow air currents. I made some interesting abstract images doing this, but I think I want a shot that shows a recognizable context.
I like the tension of the material itself, a mined mineral with a rare crystal system that is used widely in the household and even on infants even though it has been proven to be toxic. If you want to read about some of these toxicity studies you can start here: