Category Archives: Photography

Photography as Urban Archaeology: The Practice of Joachim Schmid


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Film still from Discarded: Joachim Schmid and the Anti-Museum © Carnegie Museum of Art.

“I am an artist because there is no other description for what I do.”

These are the surprisingly telling words of Joachim Schmid, a Berlin-based artist who has spent more than 30 years of his career working with found photographs. The majority of his projects have involved gathering and re-presenting photographs—both print and digital—taken by the anonymous public. Oftentimes intentionally discarded by their creators, Schmid’s source materials would, but for him, disappear into the physical or virtual trash heap. Instead, Schmid’s “anti-museum” of forgotten, lost, and disused photographs, challenges us to reconsider not only our assumptions of photographic worth, but also how photography and collecting function as cultural practices.

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This Picture: Marilyn Monroe by Eve Arnold


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Marilyn Monroe during the filming of The Misfits, 1960 © Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos.

Two women—a superstar perched perfectly still during a studio photo shoot, centered against a white seamless, as the second figure walks into the frame, the edge of the backdrop bisecting her head and torso. Each is holding a prop (an attribute?) that underscores their roles. One needs no introduction, while the other is photographer Eve Arnold, who spent two months on the set of The Misfits, Marilyn’s final film and their last session together.

I love Jaime Permuth’s astute reading of the image: “My first response is to the caption which accompanies the image. If this is Marilyn during the filming of The Misfits and the copyright of the image is ascribed to Eve Arnold, then who is the third woman holding the camera? If she is indeed the photographer Eve Arnold herself, then she has set up a second camera somewhere on set and has executed, of all things, a self-portrait with Marilyn.” He continues, “Another possibility: there is more than one photographer on set observing the interaction between the two women.” Continue reading

August Snapshots: This Picture Wants You!


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Hand pointing, light beams in background © SuperStock/Corbis.

August’s This Picture photograph has been, to my mind, one of the most enigmatic we’ve had so far. Depending on how you see it, the pointing finger can be accusatory, celebratory, or just plain puzzling. The responses we have received from all of you have risen gamely to the challenge of unpacking the meaning and associations of this picture. The four responses that stand out to me as the most intriguing are:

  • “What your retina records the millisecond prior to your eyeball being poked. ‘At least it’s not a sharp stick.’” —George Slade
  • Roy Lichenstein’s Finger Pointing (Corlett 126), 1973 as a rebuttal to. —April
  • “The first and most obvious reaction I have is to think of the famous 1917 WWI Army recruitment poster by Flagg. The image is both accusatory and motivational…it is identifying you (me) for action or lack of action.” —Mike
  • “Power. But does he have it, or does the viewer? Don’t let those light beams fool you…there’s something almost accusatory about that pointing finger. It’s almost as thought the finger is urging the light beam to move forward in an aggressive manner. Something disturbing and aggressive about this image.” —Becka Wright

Congratulations to George, April, Mike, and Becka! You are this month’s winners of the Program Manager’s Picks contest. Your prize (coming soon) is free admission to an upcoming World Premiere of The Invisible Photograph, which can be redeemed at one of our two remaining screenings, including our next one on September 19. Continue reading

This Picture: Guy Bourdin, Ad for Charles Jourdan Shoes


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Guy Bourdin, Ad for Charles Jourdan shoes, c. 1970, Estate of Guy Boudin, represented by Michael Hoppen Gallery, London. Used by permission.

I remember seeing this ad as an art student—it kind of had everything: a post-Carnaby Street, pre-hippie moment with mixed and matched colorful shoes and tights, presenting an edgy story and a sense of unattainable style.

It’s impossible to explain how unbelievably cool Charles Jourdan shoes were back then, and how coveted. None of us could afford them, but I was eventually able to buy a pair of red slip-on moonboots at a 70%-off sale at Macy’s. I wore them to death. Continue reading

This Picture: Barack Obama by Dawoud Bey


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Barack Obama, 2007 © Dawoud Bey, courtesy of Stephen Daiter Gallery.

Dawoud Bey’s photograph of the man who would soon be president was taken on a Sunday afternoon in early 2007, at Barack and Michele Obama’s Hyde Park home. The portrait is at once stately and informal. Obama’s hands are folded gracefully in his lap. He wears an elegant suit and white shirt, but no tie. He stares intensely into the camera.

The Museum of Contemporary Photography had commissioned Bey the year before to take a portrait of a notable Chicagoan. He had known the Obamas for several years, and saw them periodically at social gatherings. Impressed with Obama’s keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, Bey sensed a “growing air of expectancy” about him. Continue reading