Wednesday, March 26, 2008

This Weekend: Chicago and D.C.

We're off to Chicago tonight for two days of shooting. Looks like it's going to be bad weather in cool locations.

On Saturday, we drop in on Melissa's wedding in D.C. I can't wait to stay in the Tabard Inn again. What is it about old hotels that I find so relaxing? Melissa being Melissa, her wedding is synchronized with the cherry blossom weekend. Wow.

Be sure and pick up the T: New York Times Style Magazine on Sunday. It's the travel issue, but if you need another good reason, you'll find our shots from Xilitla.

If you're going to be in Brooklyn, Thursday night could be a weekend in itself. There's the opening party of Brownstone Brooklyn's very own photography gallery on Bond Street from 6-9, followed by Sunset Rubdown at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple, with a mission: Sunset Rubdown need you for a polaroid project. Have fun!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Thomas Holton Rocks

I just love this photo essay "The Lams of Ludlow Street." I saw it first in Aperture, this month it is at Sasha Wolf Gallery in Tribeca. Social documentary, alive and well.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

On location: Northern Ireland

If it could only be this beautiful everyday....

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

In honor of St. Patrick's day, we've uploaded some craic. You haven't lived until you've tasted, and tasted, and tasted Irish butter.

See more here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Photographers in Film and Literature

I've been thinking about the role of the photographer in literature and on film.

Portrayals of photographic artists can tell us so much about how we approach the literary or filmic artist’s work of representing reality. Ideological viewpoints, national and local identities, and the boundaries of otherness uniquely manifest in those characters responsible for recording the world around them. By following this recurrent character in literature and film, we can begin to understand what counts as realism, what serves as memory, and what is recorded as history during the 155 years from the first fictional photographer, Holgrave, in Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables (1853) to today.

In “Hiawatha’s Photographing,” Lewis Carroll, 1857, describes the process in a poem which opens:
Took the camera of rosewood,
Made of sliding, folding rosewood;
Neatly put it all together.
In its case it lay compactly,
Folded into nearly nothing;
But he opened out the hinges,
Pushed and pulled the joints and hinges,
Till it looked all squares and oblongs,
Like a complicated figure
In the Second Book of Euclid.

This he perched upon a tripod -
Crouched beneath its dusky cover -
Stretched his hand, enforcing silence -
Said "Be motionless, I beg you!"
Mystic, awful was the process.

That's a photo of Alice of the Wonderland fame by Lewis Carroll. (1858)

Before the movies stole the spotlight with extraordinary photographic characters (we'll get to them later) there was the stage. Two plots, entirely dissimilar, involve photographic evidence: The Octoroon, a melodrama by Dion Boucicault, 1859 and The Wild Duck, Henrik Ibsen, 1884. In "The Octoroon," the playwright speeds the plot along (I guess collodion glass plates were just too tedious for 19th century audiences!) by inventing Polaroid a full 88 years before Edwin Land introduced the process in 1947 (and, sigh, 150 years before it's possible demise in late 2008).

Scud. Just turn your face a leetle this way--fix your--let's see--look here.

Dora. So?

Scud. That's right. (Puts his head under the darkening apron. ) It's such a long time since I did this sort of thing, and this old machine has got so dirty and stiff, I'm afraid it won't operate. That's about right. Now don't stir.

Paul. Ugh! she looks as though she war gwine to have a tooth drawed!

Scud. I've got four plates ready, in case we miss the first shot. One of them is prepared with a self-developing liquid that I've invented. I hope it will turn out better than most of my notions. Now fix yourself. Are you ready?

Dora. Ready!

Scud. Fire!--One, two, three.

Women photographers have a complex literary history of their own: as conventional romantic objects of the narrative gaze, but armed with cameras, pointed at history. In W.E.B. Du Bois's 1919 short story, "The Comet," included in the collection Darkwater, the two last people on earth in this almost-romance are a black man from Harlem and a woman from the Upper East Side, who stops by her place to develop a roll. In Milan Kundera's Unbearable Lightness of Being, 1984, the diffident Tereza is a dissident photojournalist. In a very watchable version of Hamlet, set in NYC circa 2000, Ophelia, played by Julia Stiles, has a darkroom/studio on the Lower East Side; she carries Polaroids instead of flowers. Here's a clip montage:

And can we forget Julia Roberts shooting Natalie Portman (with the wrong lens and format) in her Avedon-esque studio in Closer? Or Nicole Kidman as Diane Arbus in Fur? Clearly, shooting medium format provides the women in the movies with an expressive opportunity that complicates a Hollywood tragedy, or even a Shakespearian one.

Two recent articles bring up the popular figure of the photographer in the movies. In the most recent Aperture, David Campany's "From Ecstasy to Agony: The Fashion Shoot in Cinema" considers the portrayal of the fashion photographer in films, from Funny Face to Blow Up, while this month's American Photo has a tribute list of photography in the movies. I'll close for now with my top-five list of (male) photographers in the movies:

Blow Up
City of God
Rear Window
Funny Face

I'm off to watch The Wire (check it: B'more police use 35mm film) and Rear Window as "research:" photography as surveillance.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

PDN 30

Did we tell you yet? Jessie and James were named one of PDN's 30 emerging photographers to watch in 2008. Here's what they had to say about us:

You can see some of the other photographers, a distinguished company, in PDN's gallery.

We shared our page in the issue with photographer Emiliano Granado who said these truths about the honor and expectation of being in the PDN 30. From an interview posted today on An Art Producer's Perspective:

"APP: PDN's 30 is a great nod to your work how do you see it impacting the future of your career?

EG: It's basically that. A great nod. My career is going to be made by me. With hard work and great images. I definitely don't think PDN 30 is going to catapult me into the photographic stratosphere by itself. I think the PDN 30 acknowledgment is 50% recognition of great work produced, and 50% an unwritten contract to keep producing great work.
The PDN editors have put great trust in each year's recipients. I definitely think they choose photographers who show great commitment and professionalism to elevating their work - we've just started, this isn't a lifetime recognition award! That list loses significance if the photographers stop being relevant after a couple of years. Simply being on the list will NOT keep your career going, so it's important to keep grinding and hustling!"

It's been three months since James and I found out that we were on the list. I remember Holly Hughes, PDN's editor, calling us as we wrapped up a still life shoot for Budget Travel. I answered the phone, thinking it was the photo editors from BT checking in at the end of the day. But it was PDN, fact-checking a crucial piece of information: how long had we been photographing as team?

That is not a question with an easy answer. We have been taking photographs together since our first date. We decided to start shooting professionally as "Morgan & Owens" in May of 2005. Like so many other happy couples, we marked that event by going up to the Brooklyn Court register our business.

I've read every PDN 30 issue cover-to-cover since 2000, when as a photo editor, I dug through it for new talent. Several of my friends have appeared in its pages. PDN's editorial page on this, their 10th anniversary, revisits the reasons for showcasing new talent in their pages: "to provide emerging artists with a sorely needed venue to exhibit their images, to create a reliable source for the photo community to seek out these talents, and to engage other aspiring photographers in thinking about what it takes to succeed in this profession." I've turned to them for all of these reasons. Which makes us even more psyched to be included, as you probably noticed if you were at the Boat after PDN called us back:

Thank you to PDN for acknowledging all the hard work that goes into making pictures. And a special thank you to all of you who supported us, posed for us, taught us, and cheered us on.