Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Larry Sultan 1946 - 2009

Influential American photographer Larry Sultan passed away this week, leaving behind a great body of work and, with his 1977 project with Mike Mandel, Evidence, one of the great art photography documents of the late Twentieth Century.

Sultan and Mandel met whilst studying in San Francisco in the Seventies, and embarked on a project collating images from various vast scientific, industrial and governmental archives. After two years the pair published a book of 59 of these photographs - all uncaptioned - which, displayed as they were, painted an enigmatic, disturbing picture of post-Industrial America, which helped to introduce the importance of the idea of the found image as art. Removed from their original context and meaning, the images (sometimes hilarious, sometimes sinister or perplexing) are powerful and engaging in their own right, but also make the viewer question the kind of society that produced them.

For his next major project in the 1980s, Pictures From Home, Sultan turned his gaze on something far more personal – his parents. He spent a decade photographing his mother and father, both retired, in a series of colour-rich and hyper-realistic portraits. Often depicting his parents seemingly lost in their own home, whiling away the hours in a daze, the images were actually nearly all staged, and explored Sultan’s fascination with fiction and suggested narrative. As his father said of one of these images “you tell people that that’s not me sitting on the bed looking all dressed up and nowhere to go, depressed. That’s you sitting on the bed, and I am happy to help you with the project, but let’s get things straight here.” The cinematic style of the photographs proved incredibly influential on a whole generation of photographers such as Jeff Wall and Gregory Crewdson, who are still exploring its possibilities today.

This interest in perceived narrative then led Sultan to photograph the burgeoning porno movie scene in the San Fernando Valley in the 1990s. Here, innocuous suburban homes were being used as sets for all manner of adult movies, and this combination of staged sexual scenarios in mundane domestic settings was fertile subject matter for Sultan. Avoiding the explicit and gratuitous, The Valley is a testament to his skill and vision as a photographer as it manages to convey the seedy, lubed-up action of the movies whilst also making the everyday locations and props an integral part of the sexual fantasy. Remarking on one particular set, Sultan said “The furnishings and objects in the house, which have been carefully arranged, become estranged from their intended function. The roll of paper towels on the coffee table, the bed linens in a pile by the door, the shoes under the bed are transformed into props, or the residue of unseen but very imaginable actions. Even the piece of half-eaten pie on the kitchen counter arouses suspicion.”

Sultan also found time to shoot editorial for magazines such as The New York Times Magazine, W, and Wallpaper*, where he further explored the themes that fascinated him. In one particular fashion story for Wallpaper* from 2008, focussing on adolescent temptation and angst, he even paid homage to one of his most iconic shots of his dad swinging a golf club indoors, updating the image with a bored teenage protagonist practicing his putting.

Untitled, from Evidence, 1977

Untitled, from Evidence, 1977

Untitled, from Evidence, 1977

Untitled, from Evidence, 1977

Mom Posing For Me, from Pictures From Home, 1984

Dad On Bed, from Pictures From Home, 1986

Thanksgiving Turkey, from Pictures From Home, 1985

Los Angeles Evening, from Pictures From Home, 1987

Boxers, Mission Hills, from The Valley, 1999

Havenhurst, from The Valley, 2000

West Valley Studio #1, from The Valley, 2001

The Kitchen, Santa Clarita, from The Valley, 2001

Kitchen Window, from The Valley, 1999

Sharon Wild, from The Valley, 2001

From 'Set For Seduction', editorial for Wallpaper*, 2003

From 'Set For Seduction' editorial for Wallpaper*, 2003

From 'Unfinished Business', editorial for Wallpaper*, 2006

From' Unfinished Business', editorial for Wallpaper*, 2006


From 'Unfinished Business', editorial for Wallpaper*, 2006

From 'Arabian Nights', editorial for Wallpaper*, 2005

From 'Arabian Nights', editorial for Wallpaper*, 2005

From 'Arabian Nights', editorial for Wallpaper*, 2005

From 'Home Alone', editorial for Wallpaper*, 2008

From 'Home Alone', editorial for Wallpaper*, 2008

From 'Home Alone', editorial for Wallpaper*, 2008

From 'Home Alone', editorial for Wallpaper*, 2008

All images © Estate of Larry Sultan

Monday, 7 December 2009

Richard Mosse

An uneasy fascination with air disaster manifests itself in much of Irish photographer Richard Mosse’s work. In 2007 he created a series of powerful images of air disaster simulators ablaze, and more recently he has travelled to far-flung parts of the planet photographing the wreckage of crashed plans which, left to stand where they fell, have become rusted ruins in the landscape. Fascinated by “the ways in which we perceive and consume catastrophe”, Mosse has also produced work whilst embedded with US troops in Baghdad, documenting the scarred remains of the city. But it’s the aircraft series which is the most novel and interesting, exploring how we deal with disaster and attempt to avert it, or how we live with the consequences. As he says, “actual disaster is a moment of contingency and confusion. It's all over in milliseconds. It's hidden in a thick cloud of black smoke and you cannot even see it. But the catastrophe lives on before the fact and after the fact, as this spectacle. That's why I wanted to photograph the air disaster simulators; they are the air disaster more than the thing itself. We have built in our airports these enormous, absurd, phallic structures with kerosene jets and water sprinklers. They are monuments to our own fear, made within the pared down, hyper-functional, green and black and grey symbolic order of militarized space”

Shooting on a large-format field camera, Fosse is forced close to the wrecks and simulators, capturing these strange forms in vivid detail, finding a strange beauty which has resulted from destruction. The work is as much about the context as the objects themselves, and Fosse shows the work as large gallery-scale prints, making the photographs much more than traditional documentary work.

Untitled, from the Airside series, 2007

Curtis Commando, Patagonia, 2008

727, Santo Domingo, 2009

Untitled, from the Airside series, 2007

C-47, Alberta, 2009

Untitled, from the Airside series, 2007

707, Damascus, 2008

C-47, Yukon, 2009

Untitled, from the Airside series, 2007

Untitled, from the Breach series, 2005

Untitled, Iran, 2004

All images  © Richard Mosse

Monday, 30 November 2009

Tauba Auerbach part 2

Initially commissioned as one of a series of artists' games for Wallpaper* magazine, Field Of Vision favourite Tauba Auerbach's idiosyncratic playing cards have now been refined and produced in a deluxe limited edition by DZEK, a New York-based publisher of art and design editions.
Further exploring her fascination with language and mathematics, Auerbach has produced two different decks: the Functions Deck and the Shapes Deck. The Functions Deck replaces the standard suits with the mathematical symbols +, -, x, and ÷, and half the deck is black, half white. For the Shapes Deck the suits are represented by geometric shapes, and the picture cards show platonic solids instead of the usual 'royal family'.
There is a long history of artists designing playing cards - Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish, Dali and Alberto Vargas to name a few - but Auerbach has put such thought into her deck, she has almost invented her own playing system with all the added mathematical elements.
The two decks are beautifully produced and come in hand-numbered debossed linen boxes, each limited to a run of 250.

Available through www.dzekdzekdzek.com

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Txema Yeste

With his technical prowess and flair for experimentation, Barcelona-based photographer Txema Yeste's star is on the rise at the moment, and he's currently one of the most interesting and adventurous fashion photographers working. You never know which direction his next editorial is going to go in, which is great.
After studying photography in Birmingham and Barcelona (how's that for a contrast) Yeste initially entered the editorial world as a reporter and writer for Spanish magazines. He began taking photographs to accompany his articles, and was soon given the chance to shoot larger pieces and, eventually, fashion stories. Now he regularly shoots the main fashion for magazines like Vogue EspaƱa, V Spain, Hercules and Tush.
Like many photographers Yeste shoots commercial advertising jobs to pay his bills, but its his editorial work which is really exciting and bold. His images often pay homage to the allure and glamour of greats like Penn and Newton, but his willingness to experiment with multiple or blurred exposures and complicated lighting set-ups, alongside his working partnerships with forward-looking stylists such as Sebastien Kaufman, make his work feel really modern and innovative.
Below is a selection of his editorial work from various titles, so all photographs are untitled.

All images  © Txema Yeste