Thursday, December 11, 2008

One More Thing About Fazal Sheikh

Also, I think Sheikh is a good guy, because on his website, most of his work is accessible to be viewed and read in a variety of languages. This further convinces me that he is producing this work for the right reasons. This is NOT to say that he shouldn't be able to make a living making photographs, but I appreciate that considering he has the resources to do so, he puts his work out there for free so that more people may know what's going on even if they can't afford to buy his book. With regards to his work made in India, the text has also been translated into Hindi and Bengali. I think that's huge, because that is not often true of similar work- his subjects could potentially have access to the work themselves and understand the text, a consideration not often made in other cases.

Fazal Sheikh

I'm not sure I'm doing this right, because I've never quite figured out how to post pictures successfully, but hopefully this will work. Anyhow, Fazal Sheikh is someone the Deirdre recommend I look into it, and boy am I glad I did. It's an interesting response to photography that has been historically problematic. Fazal Sheikh makes photos of many of the same subjects that other 'war photographers' or photojournalists take pictures of, but he does it in such a different manner. He does just that- makes photographs, and you get that sense from his work.

Some of his subjects have included widowers and 'unwanted' children in India, as well as refugees in camps in Kenya, Tanzania, and Malawi. Rather than taking the typical photograph by storming the scene and making 'poverty pornography' of sorts, a viewer can tell that Sheikh's process is completely different because the photographs that result are completely different than other work of this kind. For me, the most marked difference is that his subjects are almost always looking directly into the camera and portrayed in a formal portrait. The viewer gets the sense that the person in the photograph was complicit in its production, that it was a true collaboration, and not someone stolen from this person. Sheikh also names every one of his subjects, thereby avoiding the 'nameless African starving refugee #347' syndrome and offers the potential for his work to do more than just continue to saturate us with photos that we are accustomed to seeing of those regions of the world. This is true of his book, Common Ground, which the Mills library has, which is his work from the refugee camps. I think his work often manages to capture a dignity where other photographers have often produced a generalized sense of pity.

His more recent work, taken in India, has a lot more text accompanying it, which also expands what it is capable of achieving. By reading Sheikh's words, we learn not only the stories of his subjects, but how he came to the work himself, and his placement in its creation. While his work is not flawless, and we still must be in dialogue about why we are so often attracted to making certain kinds of work (specifically work that focuses on poverty etc, instead of turning our lenses to other places) I still think Sheikh's work is tremendously important in this field, and introduces a much more responsible voice into this arena of photography.


Your posts made me really wish I'd attended the Eyebeam lecture. Damn. But I could only do five days at school that week- a 6th was pushing it, but damn. They sound amazing. I would like to be them and date them as well.

Things That Make Me Laugh...


It is a little bit silly that we are all scrambling to complete the blog entries (or at least the less internet-inclined ones amongst us) at the end of the semester.

Here is what I have learned: attending artist lectures and looking into other photographers' works that are grappling with issues I myself hope to work on was not supposed to be a chore, but something helpful along the way... This semester managed to get away from me somehow, and for that I'm sorry. I got to mess around with some pretty neat cameras, but I didn't really get to pursue the body of work that I was hoping to be able to produce this semester nor see many artist lectures. I will still never forgive myself for missing Hank Willis Thomas. Hopefully there will be other times... Anyway, in looking through several books and on several artists' websites lately, I've realized how much I could have benefited from doing that more throughout the semester. While I did try and take advantage of some of the library's resources and checked out books of work by Francesca Woodman, Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, Mary Ellen Mark, and Jeff Wall, I didn't manage to employ some of their methods as I could have in my own work. I think it's important to look at other people's work as you go along, like we saw in the Annie Liebowitz documentary, both to know what's already out there on your topic, but also to loosen up and try different methods and approaches to getting at a certain theme. I think my biggest problem is being inhibited in shooting and pursuing projects, and I think some of that could be ameliorated by allowing myself to try and utilise some of the methods employed by other photographers and see where it takes me.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ace Lehner Lunchtime Lecture

Ace Lehner is a grad from CCA who gave a lunchtime lecture last month. (One neat thing I learned is that CCA offers a program which allows you to leave with both an MA and an MFA in three years—which is what Lehner is doing). Lehner’s early work was preoccupied with making multi-faceted portraits of people using themselves composited several times in the frame in order to show their relationships with their various selves.

Some themes of Lehner’s later work:
-femme invisibility
-“queer failure”, failing/making things messed up on purpose as an expression of queerness
-the uncertainty of queer bodies: how it is harder to glean meanings from them

Lehner was also hoping to explore “the queer tomboy gaze” with work that consisted mostly of an exploration of her relationship with her girlfriend. This work brought up questions of how the queer tomboy gaze visually differs (or doesn't differ) from the historically hetero male gaze of the female body. To respond to that concern in some of the pieces, she put up barriers between the viewer and the female-bodied subject, for example a foggy shower door.

Eyebeam: Blowing my Mind, One Milk-Scanner at a Time

Kathleen’s entry about the Eyebeam folks was right on the button. The individual members seemed to be a perfect combination of snarky, unbelievably innovative, artistic, really accessible and down-to-earth. I wanted to get to know them, be them, and also go on dates with them. I was a little overwhelmed by how crazy-awesome their projects were (some of which I couldn’t really even comprehend). Some of the ones I remember included:
-interactive tours of parks in which phone numbers are posted to various locations for you to dial in and record a story about that spot or listen to one
-“We Think This is Art” stickers which people post in public places, photograph, then share, and make maps of the locations of
-building a womb at a party (liminal space!)
-a scanner which is a pool of milk or ink; a person lays down on a board and gets lowered slowly into it, then has a bunch of digital photographs taken of her per second until she is basically scanned into a computer in topographical layers
-a “cloud-car” (a car enshrouded in what appears to be a real cloud).
- all kinds of “webscraping”: re-tooling stuff on the web for your own artistic purposes. Example of this:, a site that turns 3 youtube videos into a triptych

But so much more!

“Don’t Stop Writing”: Ginger Wolfe-Suarez Lecture

Ginger Wolfe-Suarez is one of the artists featured in the Mills Art Museum this semester. During her lecture, she spoke about the research she did for her show about early twentieth century suffragettes. She was surprised by how little information she could find about these women and had to do a lot of legwork on her own to uncover information. She visited the houses of people who personally collected suffragette paraphernalia, looked up primary source documents, and spoke to a few historians. She encouraged artists in the audience not to feel daunted by a lack of information and that they could do their own research too if necessary
Also I just found this sentence in my notes that sums it up: "The artist's role in bringing stuff back into the collective consciousness" + "battling historical erasure"

Late Blog Entry (Sorry!): Jason Hanasik

Jason Hanasik is a CCA grad student that came and spoke at one of the Mills lunchtime lectures. He talked about how in this image of his mother and father entitled “Jeff and Jackie Hanasik,” his father exhibits body-language that transgresses traditional (stoic) maleness.

These transgressions are a theme in his later work dealing with his friends in the Marines. That body of work—the “He Opened Up Somewhere Along the Eastern Shore” one was deeply rooted in the personal experiences he had with these stoic, straight men who broke down in his presence in several instances.
Back to the family photographs, at one point I think someone asked if his family objected to any of the photographs of them and he responded that he didn’t think his family understood the images (though his father did object to one in particular, so Hanasik doesn’t show it). The whole visual literacy/being able to “get it” reminded me of questions brought up by the Shelby Lee Adams video.
Other things: there were some images—particularly some of his photographs of spaces in parks which doubled as locations for gay-men-hooking-up and also homeless camps but didn’t look like much more than some broken sticks and stuff—relied heavily on the context and an explanation of what they were about for the viewer to understand them. This isn’t necessarily a negative thing, just something I noticed. In general I admired his ability to recognize potentially problematic stuff in his own work and to contextualize it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Korean Activist Artists

I couldn't find any decent quality photos of any of the korean artist artwork online. So here is another painting by Hung Liu (And I like Hung Liu's paintings better than these artists). It was a hard lecture to listen to, mainly because of language barriers; each artist had to go through the translater. The most common answer or reason that all of the korean artists like making art is because it gives them a sense of freedom being a woman.

Hung Liu (Women Warriors)

Hung Liu who is the advanced painting teacher at Mills, and spoke at the Berkeley artists lectures along side the Korean Activist Artists. Hung paints chinese women warriors, from historic photographs that she finds. She has a great website, I suggest people should check it out.

O (

O is a Chinese female artist who broke the traditional rules taught in chinese art schools. The Chinese culture didn't think of photography as an artform. The chinese art schools are very male dominated, and O want to break the restraints her society put on her. O traditionally was trained as a painter, and then later on in her art career she decided she like photography better. In some of her photographs she combines graphic text which is used in Cultural-Revolution-era propaganda posters.


This is a picture of my dog that got hit by the car. I just wanted to show you guys how cute she is. In this pic. she has a rock in her mouth. We are still not sure at this point if she will ever be able to walk again. I didn't attend as many lectures as I wanted to due the constant care my little doggy has needed.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Stanley Greene

I went to go hear/see Stanley Greene last night at SFAI. I think that by far his work and his passion as a photographer has made the greatest impression on me from all of the lectures that I have gone to this semester. He is a photojournalist and made the disclaimers that it isn't a glamourous, exotic, well-paid adventure. His presentation of Chalklines- A Russian Opera, was a short film of stills from his ten years of documenting the war in Chechnya and its people. His work was an amazing body of portraits in this country and his presentation made it apparent that having to worry about snipers and bombs going off constantly is a serious stress that war/conflict/photojournalists have to contend with. He has started an agency for "photographers without borders" called NOOR, which he hopes 'will bring light to the darkest of places in the world'. It is a vital job that he holds and I don't think that it is appreciated enough what photojournalists of this caliber experience to capture the stories that they do. He spoke about one experience that haunts him, of men clubbing two figures, setting them aflame, then dragging them through the streets and then hanging them. He was brought in by these insurgents to photograph this act. These men and women suffer unimagiable horrors and risk their lives to bring us news. How can someone depict humans in such acts of evil and remain untouched? How can we?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Jillian Granger lunchtime lecture

Back in September I went to the lunch time art lecture featuring work by Jillian Granger. Her artwork, paintings mostly, are interesting in that they focus on her childhood memories. She painted whatever she remembered about her childhood, the way her room looked and how cluttered it was and I especially like the one where she imagined different designs appearing in the wallpaper. I think she saw tootsie rolls. Her work is mostly about memories and dreams, which I think can be both very interesting and difficult. It's interesting to see how someone's memory of something is affected by time and most of what she paints is from years ago and she has that long time to influence what she initially saw. She has paintings of how she remembered her grandmother's bathroom, and her mom's collection of horses, and her father's peanut butter crackers and, of course, the tootsie roll wallpaper; it would be interesting to be able to compare her representations with the actual things. Dreams are interesting for obvious reasons because dreams are crazy and it's fascinating to experience other people's dreams or at least what they remember of it and she seemed to remember a pack of Elmos swimming in a bathtub.

Better late than never...

These are the pictures from the assignment early on in the semester where we had to take 100 pictures and then just one picture. I chose a spot by the bridge in between the art building and the alumnae house (picture on the bottom right) for the 100 pictures. I wanted to choose a place where I could get a lot of pictures and by choosing the fence, I was able to get pictures of the creek. The picture I chose (picture on the bottom left), however, didn't take advantage of that. I placed the camera on the ground in the plants and took a bunch of pictures from a low perspective. I like to think this must be what it's like to be a bug. I think I set the white balance on this one to tungsten to see what would happen and I think it changes the mood of the picture. It was a bright day and that sunny feeling has been lost by the blueish tint, which is usually reserved for cop shows, but maybe this bug is feeling blue.
For the second picture (top picture) I chose this tank that looked like it was made from large Lego's that was sitting by this huge tree also by the alumnae house. I believe this was someone's art project, as they often seem to find their way to the foliage surrounding the art buildings, but this one is very easy to miss as it is so low to the ground and well concealed by the plants. This picture was also taken low to the ground and could be the perspective of a bug, but I like it because you almost miss seeing the thing even though it's staring at you right in the face.

Shopdropping: It is what it sounds like.

After the Eyebeam lecture, where the seven fellows and residents discussed what projects they were working on, they held a few workshops in which they divulged a few trade secrets. They had workshops on how to throw a good party, something about listening, and some others, but I was mostly interested in learning about shopdropping. Although, learning how to throw a cool party was kind of tempting, too. Shopdropping gives you the opportunity to leave your artwork in stores so as to share it with the public in a more personal way, for the person who finds it anyway, however, that person will probably be all kinds of confused. The guy's approach to teaching how to shopdrop was by teaching how to shoplift; I found that very entertaining. He told us how to act, what not to do and such, so as not to attract attention to ourselves. He had had a job looking for shoplifters, so he knew what behaviors would attract the attention of the security. We also shared our own ideas of what we may want to leave in stores; I thought it might be fun (for me and for the person who ended up buying it) to fill up the extra space in cereal boxes with extra toys. The kid who received that cereal box would think he won the lottery. While I really like the idea of leaving things I created in stores for other people to find and be entirely confused by, I probably wouldn't be brave enough to actually go through with it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Eyebeam: loads of fun

Eyebeam was by far the most interesting and fun lecture of this semester, despite its length. You knew right away it wasn't going to be anything like the rest of the lectures thus far, or like any lecture you've ever attended, when they started the day by exchanging profanities and discussing how they constantly curse during their lectures. No stuffy, pretentious self-proclaimed art aficionados here. The focus of Eyebeam is to bring art and technology together providing a safe and encouraging environment at their facilities in New York and also to extend their practices to the neighborhood around them. They have after school programs, in which high school students are allowed to use their equipment and space for their own projects and some of the projects that these people discussed required outside participation. One of them put together an event where people, kids mostly, created armor out of cardboard boxes only to destroy them in a massive street brawl. Another of them turned throwing parties into an art form and even held a workshop on how to throw a great party. One of my favorite of the projects discussed was the boozebot, which is a robot that provides party goers with drinks and conversation, and even compliments if you are lucky enough. One of their most impressive endeavors was passing out a fake (but very realistic) issue of the New York Times which proclaimed that the war had ended and issues such as global warming were being solved. It had an appropriate tag line that stated this is the news they wish to print. I was thoroughly impressed by how much work they had put into this project and how far they had taken it by distributing them to people on the streets ( for free, of course). I really enjoyed hearing about the different projects each fellow or resident was working on and how each seemed to incorporate community involvement, be it people in their direct neighborhood or from their virtual neighborhood. Their goal seems to be to bring people together through art and technology, whether to focus on important issues or to just find creative ways to party.

Debra Pincus

I have to agree with Weyam's assessment of the Debra Pincus lecture. If I learned anything from this lecture, it was that some people are so interested in the development of different fonts that they have based their entire career on studying the styles that have emerged from various places. Who knew font could have such an impact? In this lecture, however, she focused on just the Roman square capitals seen primarily on architecture and how those eventually developed into the more rounded uncials. (To be perfectly honest, as the lecture went on and she started to mention other font types, they all started to look the same to me and I started to create my own artwork on my notes.)

I, too, was astonished at the turn out for a lecture on font, when previous weeks had such vibrant and exuberant artists as Adrienne Salinger and Favianna Rodriquez, which were no where near as crowded as this lecture. I think that the most interesting aspect of her lecture (or the only part that stood out) was when she showed a slide of a tombstone that had integrated the uncials with the square capital. Following the lecture, someone mentioned this very slide and people gave some possible theories as to why this was done. When they mentioned this very slide, I had to wonder if this was the only moment of the lecture they actually remembered, which was the case for me. Debra Pincus also shared a little anecdote in which she watched a woman carve something (using the square captials) into a wall and the woman asked her why she would want to watch her do this. Why, indeed.

Girl Who Wed Another Girl

Girl Who Wed Another Girl: Pre-1950 Gay, Lesbian & Transgender Marriages in the U.S. is a small photographic exhibit that is currently at the San Francisco Main Library. This exhibit shows about 16 photographs, newspaper clippings, court documents and marriage licenses for about four or five documented same-sex marriages.
I think that this is a large topic that was just barely skimmed in this show. I think that with the extensive access to the local archives at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, that whomever put this show together could have found further material to further build the historical references that they were drawing.
I found the exploration of gender informative, specifically with the given time period. That women would literally choose to take male names in order to live as men, marry women and/or because at least one woman felt like she had always been assigned the wrong sex at birth really relevant to the times that we are living in. It is phenomenal that a man would be able to marry three times to different men and live as a wife to these men and not have the public know of his biological sex until his death.
Specifically, I felt that it was a good beginning to show some understanding of gender differences and how things have changed socially, if only for the worse. The women whom were investigated were charged with misrepresenting themselves, simply impersonation. However, the idea, at least at that time, that there was something "wrong" with same-sex marriage apparently wasn't as widespread as it is today based on how judges and juries settled these cases. However, the newspaper articles are rather limited and redundant. I would like to know what exactly has changed in our society, (the Cold War, Sexual Revolution?) that would cause us to go backwards, from acceptance to intolerance?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Debra Pincus: Old Fonts and Stuff

It still makes me laugh how a lecture on The Renaissance Rediscovery of Ancient Writing can be so full that people have to pull up chairs and sit on the floor of the aisles. On the one hand, I appreciate the passion and efforts of the Debra Pincuses (Pincii...?) in this world, but it still blows my mind how much their work is valued, as seen in the size of the audience and the fancy catered reception that followed. Or maybe my beef isn’t with how much this work is valued, but with the fact that other work should be equally (or more) valued?

The main thing I learned was that the rediscovery of ancient Roman typography was extremely important to the Renaissance. This one important artist (whose name started with a "B") changed how he signed his name from one Roman typeface in one painting to another (Uppercase to lowercase) and this meant something groundbreaking and profound about Renaissance humanism, what exactly I’m not sure.

The more important lesson: I am not interested in Renaissance typography. I also do not want to ever enter a field that requires me to specialize in an extremely narrow time period and place and to present new analyses of it for ever and eternity. So: steering clear of art history and English Literature. Check!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Call for Emerging Artists! (that's you guys)

I hope some of you will consider submitting your work! Talk to me for more info.

"Young Ampersand invites emerging Bay Area artists to participate in an upcoming group exhibition scheduled for June 2009.

Ampersand International Arts in San Francisco has invited young local art aficianados to curate the first ever Young Ampersand exhibition.

Choosing a subject familiar to all, the Young Ampersand curators with to explore individual interpretations of the idea of Home by artists living and working in the Bay Area."

• open to young artists
• all media expect film and large-scale installation will be considered
• each artist can submit up to 5 pieces
• deadline for entry is Friday, January 16th, 2009
• selected artists will be notified by Friday, January 30th, 2009

For more info email:

Or see me for more information.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Kate Pszotka Lecture at Mills (Friday Fun Time)

Kate Pszotka
Artist Lecture at Mills
Friday 14 November 2008

Unfortunately I entered the artist lecture late (apologies- didn’t mean to be disruptive) so I missed Kate’s introduction about where her work had originated and some of what she said about her work in undergrad. What I immediately identified with and was curious about was her exploration of place identification and attachment, as those are themes with which I am constantly preoccupied as I move about the earth.
Kate expressed her interest in objects that you move from place to place with, but that have no meaning outside of the sentimental significance that you attach to them. To get at this idea, she made a piece that spelled out ‘HOME’ with casted and mounted spools of thread. Interesting. It struck me how so many of us can ponder many of the same themes and yet pursue them and conceive of them so differently.
Kate was also very interested in mapping. An apt artistic vehicle for one dealing with place. One of the projects she showed was an Oakland murder map, in which she had posted a series of fluorescent-colored dots that marked out the murders that had occurred in Oakland in 2007. It wasn’t finished, as was true of a lot of her work. Also something with which I could strongly identify. Kate had a lot of cool ideas, all of which seemed to be about three steps away from being fully executed and realized. I know such territory well. It reminded me of the importance of following through on ideas, because I kept wanting to see more of what Kate was getting at, since the ideas were very compelling. I think the lecture was interesting precisely because she seemed to be fleshing out a lot of her ideas. I’d like to see what work she makes after the presentation and how she chooses to complete her mapping projects.

My Portrait of a Stranger Shoot

I went to the Lake Merrit farmer’s market yesterday to shoot my portrait of a stranger project. I sat down on the ground with that sign and read a book until people approached me.

It was interesting the kinds of people that approached me. They were mostly families or couples, only a few individuals. Several of the people I took pictures of either had gone to Mills or had friends at Mills.

Also I think that my appearance factored into people’s levels of comfortability around having their picture taken. For a lot of people (for whatever reasons) the way I look does not signify something dangerous or creepy. Maybe if my body had been presenting other signifiers, they would have felt creeped out. I think I was perceived in a non-threatening way (despite the angry look on my face in this picture) and this helped me garner photographs of strangers. Also, many strangers presented their kids to me to be photographed. That weirded me out—how willing people are to have images made of their kids.

Anyway, we'll see how it turns out.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Excerpted Story from This American Life_Reflections on Photography

Sorting through old links I came again across this amazing story from This American Life. I encourage you to check it out.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I have started to take some pictures for the stranger assignment and have been thinking about two photographers, Adrianne Salinger and Trevor Paglen (an artist I discovered at the Berkeley Art Museum).

Salinger frequently interacted with people she did not know. When she photographed middle-aged men in her home studio, Salinger seemed to somehow turn each photograph into a relationship in itself. It seemed that when Salinger photographed people she did not know, there was a compelling discomfort within the subjects' expressions. The photographs forced the viewer to question their initial reactions through the mysteriousness of a person portrayed as unknown.
Trevor Paglen's work is more abstract, with politically charged photographs documenting secretive sites, often linked to the CIA. In the exhibit, there was a powerful art piece that reflected the numerous surveillance satellites focused on Earth. Paglen's work tends to have a very eerie side to it. With many of his photographs, I felt like I was looking at something forbidden to me.

Here is one project I found on Paglen's website that I found very interesting:

I think it would be interesting to incorporate some ideas from both of these photographers. From Salinger, I really like the concept of viewing the photograph as a relationship between you and someone you do not know. From Paglen, I want to stress the strange feeling I get when photographing a stranger, like I am invading their identity.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Shirley Tse

Waiting at the place where America parts Eurasia. Iceland, 2004.

I went to SFAI to hear this lecture on November 12th. Tse is originally from Hong Kong and currently based in L.A. and works primarily as a sculptor and installation artist. One of the most interesting points she made was that she thinks of her materials as a huge part of her work. As she shifts and uses new material to create her pieces they say as much if not more about her work than the representational subject that she is trying to convey. She works mainly with plastic, Styrofoam and other man-made substances and it is their synthetic value that really informs her work as she juxtaposes it in natural landscapes. Her sculptures are also temporal, she'll use them for one show or a series of photographs and then discard them. Yet because her materials are ubiquitous, everywhere and they'll last forever, it brings into question the ethics of using materials that are indestructible and yet so damaging for the environment. I found it fascinating that she has done intense research about the history of plastic, its origination, use and place within our society. How she negiotiates precision and awareness in her work between the machine she uses to sculpt with, the form, the material and her hand is really something that I've taken away from this lecture, as well as applying background knowledge to inform one's conceptual work. 

Societe Realiste

On Halloween I went to go see this cooperative Paris-based duo talk about their work.  They came together in 1994 to produce experiments that they refer to as "machines". Their work consists of writing, art and design; they think that the final result isn't as important as the process of a kind of research/experiment. They have constant dialogues or as they say interrogations about their reoccurring obsessions. They call themselves maniacs, I suppose in their tenacious and unflagging efforts to dissect their obsessions and create new forms from their symbols. 
By staging their work they are able to distance themselves from their questions and explore how the political tones of their work play with the nature of public advertisements. By taking different glyphs, strata, maps and symbols, they are able to classify and connect them. One of their projects that does just this is the one where they use color as an alphabet, from international flags and by distilling the unique blues, greens, reds, etc. they create a new language with color that they separate into blocks of what looks like paint samples, but are really unified stratum. They do this similar form of analysis and restructuring with the symbols of money and with national boundaries on maps. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Kate Pszotka, Friday at Noon - Don't miss it!

Friday, Noon
The Photo Classroom
Kate Pszotka

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Rachel Heath

This artist, Rachel Heath, came up in conversation with Jessie about distressing negatives - but I wanted to share her work more broadly. Rachel doesn't distress her work. She works in 19th century processes like ambrotypes that are by their nature variable since you're painting the emulsion onto a glass plate.

Taryn Simon, The Innocents

Excerpted from the photographer's introduction:

During the summer of 2000, I worked for The New York Times Magazine photographing men who were wrongfully convicted, imprisoned, and subsequently freed from death row. After this assignment, I began to investigate photography's role in the criminal justice system. I traveled across the United States photographing and interviewing men and women convicted of crimes they did not commit. In these cases, photography offered the criminal justice system a tool that transformed innocent citizens into criminals, assisted officers in obtaining erroneous eyewitness identifications, and aided prosecutors in securing convictions. The criminal justice system had failed to recognize the limitations of relying on photographic images.

For the men and women in this book, the primary case of wrongful conviction was mistaken identification. A victim or eyewitness identifies a suspected perpetrator through law enforcement's use of photographs and lineups. These identifications rely on the assumption of precise visual memory. But through exposure to composite sketches, mugshots, Polaroids, and lineups, eyewitness memory can change. Police officers and prosecutors influence memory -- both unintentionally and intentionally -- though the ways in which they conduct the identification process. They can shape, and even generate, what comes to be known as eyewitness testimony.

Jennifer Thompson's account of the process by which she misidentified her attacker illustrates the malleability of memory. A domino effect ensues in which victims do remember a face, but not necessarily the face they saw during the commission of the crime. "All the images became enmeshed to one image that became Ron, and Ron became my attacker."

In the case of Marvin Anderson, convicted of rape, forcible sodomy, abduction, and robbery, the victim was shown a photographic array of six similar black-and-white mugshots and one color photo. The face that stood out to the victim was the color photo of Anderson. After the victim picked Anderson from the photo array, she identified him in a live lineup. Of the seven men in the photo array, Anderson was the only one who was also in the lineup. Marvin Anderson served fifteen years of a 210-year sentence.

In the case of Troy Webb, convicted of rape, kidnapping, and robbery, the victim was shown a photo array. She tentatively identified Webb's photo, but said that he looked too old. The police then presented another photo of Webb taken four years before the crime occurred. He was positively identified. Troy Webb served seven years of a forty-seven-year sentence.

The high stakes of the criminal justice system underscore the importance of a photographic image's history and context. The photographs in this book rely upon supporting materials -- captions, case profiles and interviews -- in an effort to construct a more adequate account of these cases. This project stresses the cost of ignoring the limitations of photography and minimizing the context in which photographic images are presented. Nowhere are the material effects of ignoring a photograph's context as profound as in the misidentification that leads to the imprisonment or execution of an innocent person.

I photographed each innocent person at a site that came to assume particular significance following his wrongful conviction: the scene of misidentification, the scene of arrest, the alibi location, or the scene of the crime. In the history of these legal cases, these locations have been assigned contradictory meanings. The scene of arrest marks the starting point of a reality that is based in fiction. The scene of the crime, for the wrongfully convicted, is at once arbitrary and crucial; a place that changed their lives forever, but to which they had never been. Photographing the wrongfully convicted in these environments brings to the surface the attenuated relationship between truth and fiction, and efficiency and injustice.

The wrongfully convicted in this book were exonerated through the use of DNA evidence. Only in recent years have eyewitness identification and testimony been forced to meet the test of DNA corroboration. Eyewitness testimony is no longer the most powerful and persuasive form of evidence presented to juries. Because of its accuracy, DNA allows a level of assurance that other forms of evidence do not offer. In the exoneration process, DNA evidence pressures the justice system and the public to concede that a convicted person is indeed innocent. In our reliance upon these new technologies, we marginalize the majority of the wrongfully convicted, for whom there is no DNA evidence, or those for whom the cost of DNA testing is prohibitive. Even in cases in which it was collected, DNA evidence must be handled and stored and is therefore prey to human error and corruption. Evidence does not exist in a closed system. Like photography, it cannot exist apart from its context, or outside of the modes by which it circulates.

Excerpts and photographs from two of the stories in Taryn Simon's The Innocents

» Richard Danziger

Wrongfully convicted of murder, Danziger served 12 years of a life sentence; he suffered serious brain damage from injuries he sustained when he was attacked by fellow inmates in prison.

» Ron Williamson

A former baseball player, he served 10 years of a death sentence for a murder he did not commit.

Photography's ability to blur truth and fiction is one of its most compelling qualities. But when misused as part of a prosecutor's arsenal, this ambiguity can have severe, even lethal consequences. Photographs in the criminal justice system, and elsewhere, can turn fiction into fact. As I got to know the men and women in this book, I saw that photography's ambiguity, beautiful in one context, can be devastating in another.

-Taryn Simon

Josephine Taylor

I went to hear Josephine Taylor speak at SFAI on November 5th.... She draws in ink mostly and showed some of the work done with only the sun and stencils on paper, that will be at her upcoming show at Catherine Clark Gallery in SF. 
Her lecture style was interesting. The symbolism that runs throughout her work becomes even more apparent when you hear how she dodges certain people or subjects that she herself brings up. I know that I wasn't the only one in the audience who was disappointed by her saying how profound an image was and how it is intergral to her  work and then not explaining it because of her work not being her therapy. It seems that that is exactly what her work is. 
She stated that her biggest breakthrough in creating her work was when she was a student at SFAI and she just began doing simple pencil drawings of her family. Family/childhood issues play a huge part in her work, including alcoholism, sexual abuse, violence and a lot of inappropriateness, vulnerability and inescapability that threaded throughout her childhood. All of these issues are either very subtly or overtly shown in her drawings. The fact that she blow up her drawings to show such intimate gestures exposes everything. I think that she struggles with her strength and vulnerable natures as a woman and it takes a lot of courage to put her personal life out there like that. I liked that she said that these huge drawings are a meditation for her, that she uses a very small brush to create. I also like some of the scenes, her family scenes that look like perfect family moments, yet they are caked with small dots of blood that you have to get really close to see and which she adds as a "finishing touch". This is one of the best local/emerging artists that I have heard and I'd  recommend going to her opening at Catherine Clark on November 22. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

Jason Hanasik, Or: I haven't been posting enough to the blog so I'm posting something now, but even if I had been posting I'd still write something

Jason Hanasik
7 November 2008
'Family Matters' and 'He Opened Up Somewhere Along the Eastern Shore'

So on Friday there was an artist lecture over yonder at the photo building, as well as a little Obama press conference teaser (but you had to go home to see the whole thing. Sneaky...)

Jason Hanasik paid us a visit from CCA to talk about some of his work, particularly focusing on his thesis project, 'He Opened Up...' This is a project depicting men in the Marines- predominantly his best friend Patrick and a friend of his Steven (whose brother died in Iraq) in various poses, locations, etc that centers around a discussion regarding prototypical 'maleness' and heteronormativity. The project aims to critique gender presentation and representations of the 'classic' male figure. Hanasik photographs his subjects in unlikely poses, such as the one you can see below that Deirdre posted the other day. They are not all so obvious however- my favorite photo was actually one of his friend Patrick casually standing in front of an open door; displaying indicators of 'prototypical maleness,' such as his strict haircut, but his posture, gaze, and relaxed nature invited questions about what was being challenged regarding male representation.

One of the things I appreciated about the lecture was his language. Hanasik was careful to speak about 'making' pictures, which I prefer to hear (rather than 'taking' which denies important elements of the photographer's agency and process in creating work), and tried to tease out the differences between questions regarding gender presentation, maleness, sexual orientation, etc- he noted where these potentially intersected, but also suggested where they might part ways. He also said something about "photographing people in the places we find each other." I appreciate the attention to detail in his language and the reflexivity this statement implied. He recognized the reciprocal nature of such work as well as his agency as a photographer, involved in a collaborative project with a participant, as opposed to the classic, 'detached' observer.

I'm beginning to lose it here. I don't have my right brain on. Too many sociology articles later... Anyway- I'll stop here, but leave off with a list of themes he presented that I found interesting:

-equipment's (i.e. specific camera) influence on work- what camera suits a particular project
-small town politics
-comfort of subject vs. comfort of photographer
-"learning images"
-big color, size
-"constructed documentary"
-essentializing of the "gay look"

Rolleiflex Twin Lens Digital Camera

At first glance this seemed to me a little like the retro-chic "rotary phones" that are actually push button, but this one actually functions like a twin lens reflex camera, only the capture is digital.
I don't know what the crank arm does, though.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Tattoos, Individuality, and Susannah Slocum

I mentioned Susannah's work in the discussion about Sarah's Hello Kitty tattoo. Once at her page on the Pecuniar website, click on 5 to start viewing the nautical star tattoo sequence. Her other series are included here as well - Bruces, vanity plates and more.


Artists on my mind - Carlos Diaz, Glynnis Reed

check 'em out - both carlos and glynnis make really interesting work - their names are linked to sites.

Invented Landscape 80F-NY (2005)

Carlos Diaz

Water No Get Enemy, 2008

Glynnis Reed

Anthony Golcolea

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Friday, November 7th

Please join us tomorrow, Friday the 7th of November for some art and some pizza (and a small celebration of Obama's election.) 12:00 noon in the photo classroom.

(x-tra credit available)


"I am a graduate student at CCA in the MFA Fine Arts program. I mainly work in photo, video, and installation. I am currently working on a project called He Opened Up Somewhere Along the Eastern Shore. This project looks at the liminal space between the gay male civilian and the heterosexual male Marine returning from war.

You can see a very small selection of the work at

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Photo Alliance

The next artist lecture that Photo Alliance is sponsoring will be Barbara Bosworth. Her lecture will be on Friday December 5th at 7:30pm at SFAI on Chestnut Street. You can view some of her work at
The Photo Alliance website is also a good resource for any Bay Area photographer. They have workshops that are $35 for students and can teach you valuable skills, like digital self publishing. I'd check periodically and see what new workshops/lectures they are having...Both the lectures and workshops could be great places to network and find collaborators. The Photo Alliance is also a non-profit and is a possible place to do an internship. There website is

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I went to Favianna's lecture too

I think Kathleen's review is right on, and I want to add a few thoughts on this lecture that interested me. Favianna Rodriguez's work is not limited to politics, she talks about social issues in a more personal way by telling the stories of her mother and grandmother's struggles as women of color and as immigrants.  In some of her work she expresses the joys and struggles in her daily life.  She is incredibly multi-dimensional in her work.  
I also really appreciated her approach to the femicides in Juarez. She said that the posters that depict women as victims weren't getting to the heart of the problem. Her poster highlights the role NAFTs plays in what's happening, rather than the mutilation and violence, and impoweers women to incite change. 

P.S. there was  a copy of the poster that says "we are not the enemy" in the Solidarity Lounge, but someone trashed it.

Brought to Light

Brought to Light: Photography and the Invisible, 1840-1900.
I saw this exhibit at SFMOMA and loved it. I don't know if it is for everyone but I found it absolutely fascinating. I love science and the natural world and this exhibition combines the two. It shows how scientific minds did numerous studies of the subjects that they were studying and through the then new use of photography could map out their theories and philosophies within their fields. There was the study that one man did of thousands of different shapes and delicacies of snowflakes. Another studied human and animal movement from different perspectives. Yet another was the group of dedicated astronomers who were able to "see" with a camera the millions if not billions of stars that the naked eye could and can hardly make out. These individuals literally mapped for us the constellations and galaxies that we now study and are familiar with that would have been impossible if not for the camera lens. One of the most shocking to see, not now but in the 1890s, was the x-ray image that showed the bones in the hand of the photographer/inventor's wife, along with her jewelry. It must have been bizarre for the viewer but also exciting once they recovered from the shock of seeing something that although commonplace for us would be mystifying to the uninitiated. It is up until January 4th, 2009. 

Bay Area Currents 2008

Oakland Art Gallery  is having their annual open call juried exhibition, Bay Area Currents 2008,  until November 21st. The juror for this show is the Curator of Exhibitions at the Rena Branstein Gallery, where we just saw Vik Muniz's work. There will be a talk there on Thursday November 20, from 6-8pm with most if not all of the artists in the show. One of the more interesting artists involved is the painter, Alanna Risse,, who does these very colorful paintings of bees, beekeepers and flowers....Robb Putnam, is another artist who is being shown there. He does these sculptures that look like cute mongrel dogs that are made of scraps of fake fur, garbage bags and other substances that make these strangely happy accidents that he calls art. He also does what looks like installations that consist of an animal (fake dog sculpture?) under a spotlight. Very fun and intriguing. To find out more about this show and the talk on the 20th, check out their website.

Favianna Rodriguez

Favianna Rodrigiuez is a local artist whose concentration is on printmaking and her posters address social issues she feels haven't received enough recognition. She has addressed issues concerning immigration, the importance of artists expressing their views and the apparent lack of female colored artists being recognized, and, of course, the effect of the war on people in the Middle East wherein her posters had a picture of a women with the text above her head reading genocide does not equal justice and the text below reading "We are not the enemy." Her posters always have very powerful images meant to support her opinion or cause and her posters have been used often in attempt to promote change especially in trying to change how people of color are treated within her own hometown. She created a poster that was put on the billboard outside of the West Oakland Bart in an attempt to stop gentrification in the area, and she was able to place it in a place where it would be seen by many people every day. I appreciated her belief that art doesn't have to be hung in a gallery in order to be considered art. She puts her artwork in public places so that every one can see what message she is trying to get known and I feel like her approach to getting her art seen is more accessible to younger people and people who don't really frequent museums and galleries. She said that her work is often criticized for being propaganda, but even if people look at it as propaganda, she is still able to get people thinking about pressing issues while getting to think creatively about issues that are important to her. One thing that made her talk and work so interesting is that she is from here and she is making art concerning issues that are prevalent to where we live, go to school, and work. She did the leave the lecture on a rather low note by reminding us that we do live in Oakland, the fourth most dangerous city in the world that has an ever-rising homicide rate, but at the same time it's art population is also rising, with which she was probably trying to get the artist's in the audience to remember the issues surrounding them when making their art.


Poladroid, mimicking the look of Polaroid.
Check this out, an interesting development, now that Polaroid is no longer manufactured.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Isidro Blasco

Currently on view at Black & White Gallery in Chelsea, NYC is a new series of constructed photographs titled Shanghai At Last, by the artist Isidro Blasco. The exhibition is conceptually built around the physical space and architecture of Shanghai and and is presented in impressive sculpture / relief-like constructions where the collaged photographs sit directly on top of a wood armature. About the exhibition, the artist has stated, "Every city has a different impact on my work. I try to respond to the way the city is affecting me through the way I respond to the space that I inhabit. By doing so, I connect my experience as an outsider who walks the streets and interacts with the city with my more intimate feelings about closed and private spaces".
Isidro Blasco was born in 1962 and currently lives and works in New York City. The artist recently exhibited The Truth at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, in Sheboygan, WI, La Construccion del Paisaje Contemporaneo at the Centro de Arte y Naturaleza in Huesca, Spain, and Substance and Light: Ten Sculptors Use Cameras at the Museum of Art, Munson-Williams Proctor Arts Institute, Utica, NY.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Headlands Center for the Arts

Last weekend (no wait, it was the weekend before), I went to the Headlands with some classmates from senior seminar.  There was an open house going on. We weren't able to see all of the studios, but there were a few that were really interesting. Ellen Fullman created a huge stringed sculpture that she can play kind of like a harp and a little like a piano. It looks really interesting, and is only made better when she plays it. It seems that a project like this could be really fun and interactive, but she takes it very seriously and it is very hands off. That's alright though. Most of the other artist weren't really into the whole event. It seemed like they would rather not have a bunch of people gawking at their works in progress, go figure.
There were several exceptions though.
Liz Hickok, who is a Mills alumna, uses jello to recreate things. Her studio was a lot of fun, everyone was just in a really great mood. It's hard not to look at her work and smile though. She's currently working on a jello installation of Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit project. The jell-o that is a part of this installation  gets melted and moldy as time goes on. It's really cool. She also had some of her past photography projects on the wall. Those photographs are beautiful, jell-o looks amazing all lit up. 
I feel like we talked about her work in class, but I don't remember. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I wanted to post a couple of artists who work with self-portraiture and whose work might be able to offer some inspiration for the unrecognizable portrait assignment.

Artists Cindy Sherman and Nikki S Lee both use self-portraiture to address different ideas of identity. Shown here is a photograph from Cindy Sherman's "film stills" as well as four images from Nikki S. Lee's portrait projects where she plays the roll of various cultural stereotypes.

Also shown here is Francesca Woodman, who uses self-portraiture as a way to create psychologically and emotionally charged environments.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Studio Portraits

With our lighting demo in mind for this Tuesday, I wanted to mention artist, Nora Herting. She has done a couple of portrait projects which utilize the tropes of the contemporary studio portrait. The image here is from her "Free Sitting" series. In her own words:
The subjects of my photographs are not the individuals depicted but the construction of the portrait itself. The studio portrait has a very structured set of parameters that form a stylistic equation. We are so familiar with it that we are blind to its constructs. I violate these codes in effort to bring them to the viewer's attention. By breaking the rules of the studio portrait, my portraits no longer fulfill their role as social symbols.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Other People's Pixels

Want your own website? Great web design doesn't come cheap, but with Other People's Pixels you can work with some really great templates designed to accomodate art portfolios, and they'll even host your site for a really reasonable monthly fee of $9 for students. Check it out. I was impressed.

Jennifer Fairfax

Check out her work at

Friday, October 17, 2008

Let's see if this works better

Losing My Blogging Virginity

I have been following this blog this semester, but less great at posting on it. And I still am unsure how. I have been sitting here for nearly 20 minutes trying to figure out how to throw up a link and photo to the Arab Film Festival on here, but I've been unsuccessful- so I'll just tell you that the Arab Film Festival's in town until next Friday, October 24th, and you should check it out...

That's the best I can do... I'll get better.

ARTSPAN in SF this weekend

There is going to be a city wide open studios event this weekend, October 18-19 in San Francisco. This is a really fantastic chance to meet new and more established photographers, painters, sculptors and mix-media artists. The last weekend to check out this event will be the first weekend in November.
Find out more at

Monday, October 13, 2008

Donna Brazile is not going to the back of the bus.

If you have a chance, please take a few minutes to watch just the 3 or so minutes of Donna Brazile's reflections on change and race in America. When I see footage of gatherings held in 2008 with folks shouting "Kill him," (about Obama), it's tempting to think that nothing has changed. Her reflections are not partisan - they're simply contextualizing where we are today.

Narrative tableau

Narrative tableaus really are not my thing, and I was taking pictures randomly over the weekend hoping I would luck out. Personally, I think almost anything could really be called a narrative tableau since a photo is a piece of time and we don't have the full story. The one with the bus is a random picture that I took over the weekend and tweaked with on photoshop that I think could be a narrative. The bridge was my sorry attempt to try to find those broken down piers in Petaluma. I think the perfect narrative tableau could have been me standing on that bridge with the camera in my hands and not knowing where to go. I could see where I needed to go, but I couldn't see how to get there and I was supposed to be "resting" so I didn't want to spend too much time looking for it. Stupid Petaluma Marina.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ginger Wolfe-Suarez lecture

Having seen her exhibition at the Mills art museum, I expected Ginger Wolfe-Suarez to talk more about her own work than to spend the majority of her lecture discussing other artists whose work inspired her own. Her focus for this project is on the women's rights movement of the early twentieth century and she visited private collectors who have acquired some of the only remaining banners and sashes that were used in the actual marches and protests to fight for equal rights. She borrowed artifacts from these collectors for her exhibition, including the actual poles that were used to carry the banners in the marches since the poles are some of the only surviving artifacts from this movement since most of the banners were destroyed. I did find it interesting to hear about some of the stories behind the artifacts and what they have been up to since they were originally used; especially found it interesting how one woman lets her cats use one of the original flags as a bed when it is not being used in demonstrations today. She did spend the last few minutes of her lecture showing images of her actual exhibition, but she spent little time discussing it or what she meant to convey with her choices, such as the choice to connect each section of her exhibtion with telephone poles. An interesting tidbit, I think, is that she created the chairs that were a part of her exhibtion, which shows how much control she wanted in how her artwork was perceived, and yet she didn't seem to spend much time talking about it.

Adrienne Salinger lecture

I found Adrienne Salinger's lecture very interesting because she not only discussed her art and her process in detail but she was also very funny and relatable, especially when she shared her strange obsession with teeth and dental instruments. I admire how she was able to incorporate the things she likes to collect into her art work. She presented images from the many collections she has made throughout her artistic career, each one as fascinating as the next. I think what made her so interesting was her excitement for each project she discussed. Just listening to her talk about her art and her subjects, you know that she really enjoys talking to and getting to know her subjects or collecting other people's things, such as baseball gloves, skateboards, and self-help books, and getting to know those people in an indirect way through their belongings. When an artist shows that kind of excitement and passion for their work, I think the audience or observers can't help but be swept up by it also, at least for me anyway. I was disturbed, however, by the fact that she invited strange men into her home to be photographed for her middle-aged man project. She said that photography forces her to step outside her comfortable, protective bubble, which is something that I can relate to, but in creating that project, she went way beyond challenging her comfort zone and started leaning toward reckless behavior. Overall, I found Adrienne Salinger very interesting and I will most likely look to her photographs as a point of inspiration in the future. 

Thursday, October 9, 2008

It's not that i didn't like it, it just made me want to barf

I meant to go to the Wolfe-Suarez lecture, but I ended up at the Campaign Party event in the Student Union.  They had a lot of free food for such a low turn out, it didn't seem right to just grab a sandwich and leave. 
I did go to the Salinger lecture last week, and one thing I didn't mention in class was my reaction to most her recent work, the baseball gloves.  I thought it was really interesting that instead of a camera she used a scanner. After she had worked with the 4x5 for so long, the scanner seems like a strange leap. I guess it allowed her to manipulate the images in the way that she did.  The level of detail was disgusting.  I mean, I was really grossed out by the aged and cracked leather, and how deteriorated some of them were. And some of them resembled a hand more than others. Those were the worst because they were like bloated, rotting, amputated body parts. I thought it was really funny that while she was showing the gloves to us she made a point about how in order for photographers to be taken seriously they either have to do a series of fifty images or make them really really big.  I'm she didn't only make one, because they just got creepier and creepier. No matter  how much I wanted to look away, I couldn't.  

Ginger Wolfe-Suarez

I heard Ginger Wolfe-Suarez speak last night at Danforth about her past work, research process and her current show As Long As You Live I Will Live. Some of the most striking points she made were regarding the need for artists to be a part of history. She shared the idea that the artist has a responsibility to make their voice public.  In her current exhibition at the Mills Museum, Wolfe-Suarez is acting as a voice for the Suffragettes, who fought for what they believed in. Reading from the journals and painstaking records from the period, shows how organized and passionate these women were in the face of brutality and ridicule. The courage of these women to fight for their convictions is truly admiral. Despite being tortured, beaten, raped, institionalized in both prisons and insane asylums these women would not be broken and would continue their fight for justice. I am grateful to these individuals, whom many historians deny ever existed and to Wolfe-Suarez for pursuing her research so that these women can receive some recognition for the work that they did.