Vivian Maier’s photography has had a seismic effect on the art world since it was discovered a few years ago. The poignant story behind the work enhances its appeal: Maier was one of the finest street photographers of the mid-twentieth century, yet she kept her work hidden and died in poverty. In fact, she worked as a nanny for her entire career, living with a succession of suburban families and becoming increasingly eccentric. Her employers knew her as a shutterbug, but it was only after her death that the amazing quality and breadth of her work was discovered.
Maier’s photography, and her fascinating story, would never have come to light if not for John Maloof, a young Chicagoan who happened across a trunk of her negatives at a local auction house. In the absorbing new documentary Finding Vivian Maier, Maloof traces the story of his find, and the obsessive quest he went on to solve the mystery behind the treasure trove of images Maier left behind.
The film, which is both unsettling and delightful, offers a compelling, bittersweet portrait of a very complicated woman. A veritable Mary Poppins figure to some of the children she worked with, Maier was abusive to others. She was extremely wary of men, in a way that suggested she might have been abused herself. Often she refused to give her name and occupation to people, referring to herself as “the mystery woman” or “a kind of spy.”
“Photography invaded my life,” Sebastião Salgado says during a TED speech on Genesis. An activist and former economist, Salgado’s demeanor is telling of the forty years he’s dedicated to capturing and witnessing the world’s most devastating tragedies. In 1994, Salgado was in Rwanda, documenting the genocide of the Tutsi, which would later be published in Migrations (2000). It was this that led Salgado to crave a project where his focus was not the tragedy of humanity, but instead, the beauty of this planet. The result is Genesis, his most recent and, he says, final project as a photographer.
Published by Taschen, Genesis is the result of approximately thirty trips on foot, light aircraft, boats, canoes, and hot air balloons over almost a decade. Some may view Genesis as a tangent to Salgado’s previous work, however, Salgado states that his mission has not varied and is instead simply approaching the same message from the opposite end.
It is a remarkably positive statement for a photographer who has spent his life following devastation. Biblical landscapes and portraits of those unadulterated by modern society span a mammoth 520 pages, voicing the beauty that still exists on our planet. According to Salgado, “Forty-six percent of the planet is still as it was in the time of genesis”.
PLANET previously introduced Bus Travelers by Richard Renaldi, a series of work that encapsulates Renaldi’s fascination with people and their idiosyncrasies. Taking this fascination further, Renaldi has been working on a project since 2007 that explores what would happen if two complete strangers were asked to physically interact with each other for a portrait. Taking the subjects out of their comfort zone, the strangers would stand intimately, while Renaldi disappeared behind an 8 x 10 large format camera. Thus began, Touching Strangers, Renaldi’s newest body of work.
Photography is often seen as a one man show but in Renaldi’s case, this is hardly true. The series is yet to be finished however, and relies on backers like yourself to publish the book via the Aperture Foundation. From now till August 5th, 2013, Touching Strangers can be pre-ordered on Kickstarter, which is scheduled to be released spring of 2014.
Those who support the campaign, will receive a special Kickstarter edition of the book, bound in cloth with special design and production features separate from those that will be distributed in stores. Signed and edition prints of his work are also available.
Like memories suddenly resurfacing, Italian photographer Roberta Ridolfi shares rediscovered images from a trip to Andalusia last September. “It’s amazing how editing can change the meaning of an edit,” she says. The edit indeed has a lighter mood compared to the original. Ridolfi finds inspiration from classic cinema, as if foretelling of her chosen title for the original series, Texas Hollywood. As if to emphasize this natural psyche, the way she describes how she became a photographer, is like reading the opening of a story: “My uncle had an old Nikon he bought in the 70’s he hardly ever used. For some reason he thought I could do something with it. Next thing I knew, I quit university and enrolled myself in a photography course. One thing led to another.”
Roberta currently lives and works in London as a fashion photographer.
Most may be familiar with Misha Taylor as a fashion and portrait photographer whose undeniably seductive and grappling work has graced the pages of magazines such as V Man. In a rare instance, today, Taylor shares with PLANET a very special personal project he has been working on.
Taken in Durban, South Africa, these images reveal a reality that often goes unrecognized in mainstream media– the effects of Chinese trade agreements on the youth of Africa. Ice cream vendors on the beach fronts of Durban sell 9mm replica pistols that shoot plastic BB guns made in China to young children. Regulations in China forbid the sale of such items within its own country’s borders, subsequently forcing exports to countries like Durban, where a less controlled government sees them sold, not only without regulation, but to those as young as six years old. On the one hand, Misha tells PLANET, “what is happening isn’t all bad”– indeed, Africa needs investment that can boost education and development and China needs Africa’s natural resources. However the emerging economic and political power of China on Africa has been a dual dance of good and bad.
The gallery walls came tumbling down in the 60’s and 70’s when a generation of land artists stepped outdoors and used nature as their canvas. For Robert Smithson, the doyen of the Earthworks movement, whose “Spiral Jetty” still protrudes from the shore of the Great Salt Lake, art was meant to engage with the outside world in a way that it couldn’t when cooped up inside. “A work of art when placed in a gallery loses its charge,” he stated in that earlier era.
It’s a shame Smithson couldn’t be there for Doug Aitken’s projection of movie images on the façade of New York’s MoMA for 2007’s “Sleepwalkers.” It was a case of art finding its way outside the museum’s walls but with the added twist of actually becoming the museum’s walls. Delineations between inside and out, real world and representation, never felt so fluid.
As a multimedia innovator, Aitken has built a reputation for reimagining time and space. Few artists come better equipped to capture the kaleidoscopic fever dream we know as life in the present day. With his latest installation, “Altered Earth,” he sets about creating what’s being billed as land art for the electronic age, and in 21st Century fashion, the results are disorienting and overwhelming.
If you live in a city, in a place where you can look into other people’s windows through your own, it may be irresistible to indulge your voyeuristic impulses. We all love mysteries, and what could be more mysterious than a parallel life witnessed in glimpses through glass? Just ask Jeff Jeffries, the character played by James Stewart in Hitchcock’s masterful Rear Window. Laid up at home with a broken leg, Jeffries gets so involved with his Greenwich Village neighbors that he gives them inventive nicknames like “Miss Torso.”
With its crowded-together buildings and social diversity, New York City is the perfect locus for a film like Rear Window, or the similarly voyeuristic Dirty Windows, photographer Merry Alpern’s 1995 book of images secretly shot through the window of a low-rent sex club. But not everything going on through those neighboring windows is tacky or suspicious. Witness Gail Albert Halaban’s beautiful new book Out My Window (powerHouse), a warm and lyrical study of New Yorkers and their windowscapes.
Ariko Inaoka is a photographer from Kyoto, who only shoots film to this day and has her own color dark room. PLANET is pleased to present Ariko Inaoka’s beautiful world full of light and wonder.
When photographer and past PLANET contributor Samantha Casolari told us she was headed home to Italy for summer vacation, we asked if she could send back some images from her trip. The collection presented here, intimate images that exude a sense of place, friendship, and the passage of time, are imbued with Samantha’s signature sense of color and mood. They are fitting remembrance of a summer just passed.
“I am an invisible man,” begins Ralph Ellison’s famous 1952 novel, in an opening that rivals “Call me Ishmael” and “Lolita, light of my life” for its compact resonance. The narrator of Invisible Man goes on to say that he’s “not a spook like those that haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood movie ectoplasms.” Instead, his invisibility is caused by race: being a black man in 1950s America makes him a blank canvas onto which people’s fears and anxieties are projected.
How do you photograph an invisible man? That was the challenge Gordon Parks took up in 1952, when Invisible Man was published. At that time, Parks himself was a highly visible black man. He’d broken through race barriers to become the first African-American staff photographer at Life magazine, and had written his own prose and poetry. He’d made an enduring and iconic portrait, American Gothic, in which a dignified cleaning woman symbolizes the shabby treatment of blacks in America.
The soulful images Parks produced, with inspiration from Ellison’s novel, are the subject of an intriguing exhibition, Contact: Gordon Parks, Ralph Ellison and ‘Invisible Man’ at the Howard Greenberg Gallery. At the time he made this work, Parks had just won a plum assignment to work in Paris for Life. He was leading a cosmopolitan life of glamor–but his passion and empathy for Harlem shines bright and clear in his Invisible Man series.