May 21, 2010
May 19, 2010
Interview with Aline Smithson
May 19, 2010
Living in this constantly developing technical world, where we all tend to struggle between the draw of the past and the demands of the present, I can personally relate to your series, In Case of Rain. How did this series first evolve for you?
I was sitting in the living room of a summer house we spend time in each year. The house has been in my husband’s family since the late 1800’s and each generation has left behind summer passions—books, games, toys, magazines. I realized that my children, when not swimming in the lake or hiking through the woods, were disinterested in anything that wasn’t electronic—and as much as I tried to wean them away from their iPods, phones, and computers, I realized that ultimately it is a losing battle and the virtual world is now the real world for my children.
It also made me think about how many of those “summer passions” are now available on a computer screen. While creating this body of work, the Kindle was launched, and it only validated that that future generations will have very little that is tactile in their world, nothing to hold and cherish, nothing pass on to their children. And those thoughts have made me feel a sense of urgency about preserving the exquisite objects and texts that we had the privilege of having influenced our lives.
Have your children seen this series? If yes, how do they respond to it?
My son and I have discussed the series and he has concluded that at this point in his life, he is more interested in looking forward. The technological world is more exciting and important to him than things from the past (he does exclude books in these thoughts). As a DJ and music producer, he is excited about how the music world is constantly transforming and also excited to be in on the ground floor of it’s evolution.
This question created an interesting dialogue with my daughter. At 21, she feels like she has a foot in both worlds, remembers many of these objects from her childhood, but also feels like the pull of technology is stronger and more important in her world.
Where did you take these photographs?
I have photographed in Massachusetts, New York City, and in my own home in Los Angeles.
Looking at this project, my first physical reaction was feeling like I could actually smell the books! It was as if I entered a space that I knew, even though I obviously have never been there. My point is, I feel like people will immediately “enter” this space with familiarity and comfort. I wonder if our children and grandchildren will ever know that comfort. Is this series a way of holding this kind of space in time?
Exactly, but not so much the space, as the objects themselves. I would get lost in what I was photographing, put the camera down, and just start turning pages or enjoying the graphics, colors, and incredible printing quality, especially with the children’s books and games. In some cases, I felt like I was opening a tomb and looking at things that literally hadn’t been touched in 50 years. I think we are always drawn to what is familiar, even if it was something we were exposed to in our grandparent’s homes and not something we interacted with on a daily basis.
I think the way our children will find comfort will be very different, more passive, and less inclined to preserve things. How DO you preserve thousands of e-mails, texts, you tubes, Hulu, BBM’s? And what forms of communication will they share with their children. A few years ago, my parents gave me all of my thin blue Air-Mail letters I had sent them when I was in Europe when I was in college. When my own children were in Europe, I only received e-mails (and yes, I printed them out!).
How do you feel about the technological developments in photography? Are you for or against digital photography? Is change a good thing?
I own two digital cameras, and honestly have never used them. I will get around to it, but I love my ancient twin lens Rolleiflex and getting–to-be ancient Hassleblad, and I love toy cameras. Sometimes I feel like I make it very hard for myself, working with film, using the darkroom, continuing to hand paint images, when shooting digital would be so much more time and cost effective. But this is all personal. I celebrate anyone that makes images, no matter how they achieve them. I do feel as if there are two worlds of image-makers these days, and sometimes the worlds become very exclusive, which is a loss.
What concerns me more is the preservation of images. How do most non-professional photographers hand down their family photos to the next generation? Do they hand them a computer and hope that future generations will still be able to access them? How long will jpgs last on the computer or a CD. History is going to take a big hit in terms of recording our legacy. And the ironic thing is that people are photographing and communicating more than ever before. Everyone is a photographer if they have a cell phone.
What artists have inspired you over the years? Why them?
I have always been more inspired by painters – of course, Whistler is a favorite, but so is Deibenkorn and Rothko. A ton of fashion photographers inspired me when I was a fashion editor—Guy Bourdin, Paolo Roversi, Horst—so many. And as a fine art photographer, Matt Mahurin was an early influence. Now the people that inspire me are photographers that continue to make quality work drawn from something personal—Phil Toledano, Catherine Opie, Dave Jordano, Jane Fulton Alt, Kevin Miyasaki, to name a few. And even more importantly, photographers that have found a way to use their photography to give back, like Gloria Baker Feinstein, Kate Orne, and Julia Dean. And finally, photographers that do the hard work like Bruce Haley and other war photographers.
What would you say is your definition of personal success as a photographer?
The longer I pursue this photographic life, the more that answer comes down to the work. It’s not so much the exhibitions, the getting published, or the museum show any more, it’s creating work that keeps me awake at night, that makes me excited and stimulated and feeling passionate. As someone who writes a daily blog on photography, I find myself inspired by the incredible stories and images that photographers are able to produce. It’s pretty great to feel a part of such an amazing community of individuals that look at the world with a discerning eye.
Ultimately, I look at all of it as a success and appreciate how much it enriches my life.
After a career as a New York Fashion Editor and working along side the greats of fashion photography, Aline Smithson discovered the family Rolleiflex and never looked back. Now represented by galleries across the country and published throughout the world, Aline continues to create her award-winning photography with humor, compassion, and a 50-year-old camera. Her work has been featured in numerous publications including the PDN Photo Annual, Communication Arts Photo Annual, Eyemazing, Artworks, Shots, Pozytyw, and Silvershotz magazines. She has exhibited widely including solo shows at the Griffin Museum of Photography, the Oswald Gallery, and Wallspace Gallery in Seattle. Aline has been the Gallery Editor for Light Leaks Magazine, writes and edits the blog, Lenscratch, and has been curating exhibitions for a number of galleries and on-line magazines. She was nominated for The Excellence in Photographic Teaching Award in 2008 and 2009 and for the Santa Fe Prize in Photography in 2009 by the Santa Fe Center of Photography. She is a 2009 juror for Critical Mass, and will be a reviewer at Review LA in 2010.
May 14, 2010
May 13, 2010
All of your images are all so personal and intimate. How does a photo session typically begin with your family members and yourself? Are scenes photographed in the moment, staged, or reenacted?
I will sometimes see the light first. For instance, with the children, If I know I am brushing their teeth every night at a certain time I will try to bring them into the light. There are some with my mom where I asked her, or my husband Eran, when I asked them to redo things, so some are more constructed and some are totally spontaneous. I don't use the tripod anymore. I used to, but the kids can stay still now. The camera, some days it is ready, and some days
I just don't take pictures. Sometimes when I know in my mind I am ready to take a picture, I'll have it ready and I'll open a strobe or just put the strobe in the room, or if I have enough available light, I’ll use that. So sometimes I am ready, but I am not always on standby to take a picture. I'm really not.
How do your family members feel about being photographed? At what point did you decide to put yourself in some of the photos and not in others?
My close family, my immediate family, are okay with it. I mean, my mom loves being photographed. My husband loves being photographed. In the more extended family, there were people who didn't feel comfortable, so I didn't photograph them. With my kids it varies. Some days they will say 'leave me alone, I don't want to take pictures". Some days they like it and it is playful. It really depends on their mood. I started taking pictures of my family and myself at a very young age. I was 15, so it wasn't even a decision, it was just something I did very intuitively. Now, it is also very intuitive.
In your latest series, My Children, you photograph yourself during your pregnancy and also as your children are beginning to grow. Do you plan on continuing to photograph them throughout their childhood?
I do. For me, it is a longer project. I hope they will let me. As long as they will let me take their pictures, then I think I will probably photograph them on and off, forever.
Can you elaborate on your inspiration and intentions with this project? How does it compare to the work that you have done in the past?
For me, this project is an extension of my other projects because I will always photograph my life. Photographing the children did change the way I photograph in many ways. My work became more about extremes, since I feel that the experience of motherhood is a very total one, especially the first years, you are very quickly moving from beautiful serene moments to anger and frustration, you experience different spectrum of emotions within a period of eight minutes. The need to photograph becomes stronger since the passing time is so apparent, every week is different, every stage is fleeing. It's sometimes very difficult to photograph. They want me all the time, and it's never enough, and there is a choice to make. I feel the guilt for neglecting them, even if it's just for two seconds, to take, to make the photograph. I take the camera and I am not available for them, another reason (there are so many of them when you are a mother) to feel guilty. But the final result is that I photograph very quickly and take very few frames. Also many things I want to photograph, I don't. If the mother and photographer in me collide...the mother always wins….and many pictures are not being taken.
How do you feel about your work being compared to the work of Sally Mann and her Immediate Family series?
I have been compared to Sally Mann, I think because of photographing children and my family. I am okay with that. I love her work, but it is different from my own. I think my work, quite understandably, will always be compared to any work of a female photographer photographing her children and Sally is just the most well-known one.
In his article in The Guardian (UK), Sean O’Hagan talks about the fact that your adult family members “have the power of veto” over photographs you have taken of them, but your children “do not”. How do you respond to this?
It’s true, yeah it’s true, and I hope that they will grow to accept what I am doing: the fact that I am photographing everything around my life, and to embrace it, because that's who I am. I have no way to know right now, and I am much more careful and thoughtful than I was before in editing some images out, so I am taking it into consideration, and I hope that it will be a positive thing in their lives, an empowering thing. I am definitely trying to make it this way. But I know that they might, you know, rebel against it, or not like it, or they might not want to continue being photographed, so I am ready for that, more or less.
I myself have found that photographing through a moment in time actually helps me to get through certain situations. Do you find your photography to be therapeutic?
Oh yes, yes definitely. I can say that all of it is therapeutic and also there are many images that I never show, and even the unsuccessful images, for me, I guess the action of taking pictures and looking at them, is helpful and comforting and therapeutic, even, you know, the ones that are not "good" pictures. It is hard to define, but for me looking over my whole body of work is comforting so definitely, yes, I relate!
Elinor Carucci was born in Israel in 1971, lives and works in New York City, and has had internationally exhibited shows at the Herzlia Museum for Contemporary Art, Edwynn Houk Gallery, Fifty One Fine Art Gallery, Gagosian Gallery, London, among others. Her photographs are included in collections in the US, Europe and Israel. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the ICP Infinity Award (2001) and the Guggenheim Fellowship (2002). She is represented by James Hyman Gallery in London and her work is also currently being exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (NYC) as part of the exhibition, Pictures By Women: A History of Modern Photography.
May 7, 2010
I am an ironic formalist. My photographs induce tension between presentation and subject matter. These images use the structured visual language of formalism to investigate subjects that are beautiful, sentimental or comic.
The images in the Transcendence series were inspired by Victorian post-mortem photographs. During the Victorian era, victims of an early death were often photographed post mortem. The subjects were carefully posed and then photographed in radiant natural light. The resulting images are eerily beautiful. In these photographs the deceased appear to be sleeping peacefully. I recreate this approach. I remove each creature from the site of its demise and photograph it on a neutral surface. Like the Victorians before me I do not dwell on gruesome details.
As I photographed these animals and birds I began to notice intricate details of which I was never aware: the texture of a possum's tail, the elaborate patterns of birds feathers, etc. Photographs taken with a close-up lens allow for a level of specificity not available to the unassisted human eye. The creatures in these photographs are so common in suburbia that they often go unnoticed. For the most part, they are considered neither beautiful nor precious. Their deaths by the roadside are unremarkable. By photographing these creatures, I have allowed them to inhabit a liminal space. They appear neither alive nor dead, instead they float and drift in indeterminate blackness.
May 6, 2010
Often times I am asked to talk in detail about my series, Passing. It was created in response to my father's death in 2007 and it truly was my own form of "photo therapy", the term coined by British photographer, Jo Spence. Spence photographed herself during her battle with breast cancer. This courageous photographer paved the way for photographers like me to work through our pain...something I had never done before. Below is a video explaining how Passing was created.