Waiting 7 years after undergrad to attend graduate school in essentially the same field means you’re crazy, independently wealthy, extremely bored with your life, or desperately seeking some sort of artistic community because spending another day working in your current industry will cause you to develop some kind of really impressively eccentric hobbies, like lampshade hoarding, or breeding exotic animals in your closet-sized NYC apartment. In my case it was a touch of A, a sprinkle of C, and mostly D. When I came to Pratt, my minimum goal was to gain inspiration from the two professors I’d admired from afar and hopefully reshape my own work into something more polished and cohesive. Long winded Hallmark card later, one of the most impressive photographers I’ve ever encountered thus far in my life (full stop, not “in class” or “in Brooklyn” or “not shown in a major gallery”) just so happened to be one of my classmates, Seung Hun Lee. Seung Hun and I both went to SAIC for undergrad, albeit in different years, and immediately had that in common, along with a propensity for photographing vacant urban spaces instead of, say, people. I remember when we first got to know each other and were talking about affordable web hosting services – my first glance at his website, intended as a glimpse into the quality of the customizable template he’d used, turned into several hours of gawking at unbelievably stunning parking lots. Since that time, I’ve gotten to know Seung Hun much better as an artist and de facto older brother of sorts (as he’s perhaps several months older than I am) in our weird little grad school family, and his work has evolved into something haunting, eerily poignant, and undeniably masterful. He’s one of my favorite photographers, even removed from the context of our friendship. The following images were from his graduate thesis exhibition, held in May at Pratt.
DO YOU LIKE, UM, GOOD PHOTOGRAPHS?
powerHouse Books invites you to the Book Launch Party for:
Bacalaitos & Fireworks by Arlene Gottfried
featuring special guests:
Paul Moakley, Puma Perl, and Gail Quagliata
Tuesday, August 2, 7–9 PM
Drinks will be served
The powerHouse Arena · 37 Main Street (corner of Water & Main St.) · DUMBO, Brooklyn
For more information, please call 718.666.3049
Please join us for a slideshow and panel discussion with Arlene Gottfried and featured panelists Paul Moakley, Puma Perl, and Gail Quagliata. Bacalaitos & Fireworks introduces readers to a New York City long gone. This is the New York of broken televisions littered throughout the streets, burned-out abandoned buildings, neighborhood fiestas with pigs roasting on spits, and outcasts living in poverty. Gottfried offers first-hand testimony to the pain of alienation, neglect, drug addiction, and ultimately crime, prison, and death. Amidst these images of desolation, however, there is also evidence of the lively and intimate community able to overcome these obstacles.
About Bacalaitos & Fireworks:
New York City has been home to a Puerto Rican population since the mid-1900s, with the most noticeable migration boom beginning in the 1950s. As Puerto Ricans settled in New York over the years, they stamped the city with their culture, indelibly altering neighborhoods like the South Bronx, the Lower East Side, Williamsburg, and downtown Brooklyn with rhythm, style, flavor, art, language, and claro, Latino cuisine. Arlene Gottfried, herself a native New Yorker, grew up side-by-side with the burgeoning Puerto Rican community, never straying far from its influence whether living in Brooklyn or the LES. In the heart of the barrio, Gottfried began shooting pictures inspired by her friends, using them as subjects in apartments, on the streets, and in the park, in times of radiant joy and heart-breaking sorrow.
Arlene Gottfried was born in Brooklyn and graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She has freelanced for top publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Fortune, LIFE, and London’s The Independent. Gottfried has also exhibited at the Leica Gallery in New York and Tokyo, and at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., among others. Gottfried is the author of three books: Sometimes Overwhelming (2008) and Midnight (2003), both published by powerHouse Books, and The Eternal Light (Dewi Lewis Publishing, 1999). Gottfried lives and works in New York City.
Paul Moakley has worked for TIME as the deputy photo editor since 2010. Additionally, Moakley is a photographer, filmmaker, and writer. Moakley lives and works as the curator at the Alice Austen House Museum in Staten Island, New York.
Puma Perl, another Brooklyn native, lives and writes on the Lower East Side. Her books, Knuckle Tattoos (2010) and Belinda and her Friends (2008), have recieved rave reviews. Her work has been published in over 100 print and online journals and anthologies. Like Gottfried, Perl has watched the city change and has lived to tell the tale.
Gail Quagliata is a Brooklyn based artist attempting to construct an alternate universe. She received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in film/video, and is currenly an MFA candidate in photography at Pratt Institute. Gail writes for the “Artseen” section of The Brooklyn Rail each month and is the current guest blogger for “The Camera Club of New York.”
The Leica S2. Behold it. And if you happen to find, say, $33,000 sitting around somewhere and you’re like, “Eww, I don’t want this $33K,” you can go ahead and hand it over to me and I’ll behold the S2 for myself (with lens, thanks – I’m looking at you, Brad Pitt. It’s nice that you can play Mr. Photo Man with your fancy, pricey, tricked-out Leica S outfit, but you already have a day job, sir, so help a sister out, yeah?).
The funny thing is, for all the megapixels in the world, one of the most talented photographers I know essentially shoots on whichever camera she grabs out of a drawer of point-and-shoots. And she gets THIS:
Granted, Arlene shoots a good deal of her work on 35mm (R.I.P., Kodachrome, the demise of which inspired the trip that brought about the photo you see here) and would probably look at me crooked for placing digital capture (regardless of its 37.5 megapizels or 30X45mm sensor) on the same stage, even in the same arena, as film, and, while my brain, eyeballs, and old-school vocational photographic education all concur emphatically, my heart and my, I don’t know, ovaries? belong to this overpriced pixel-hog beast… Oh! S2, you fancy vixen.
Soviet Brutalist architecture is beautiful and strange, much of it like some odd abandoned spaceship, long-forgotten Hollywood Sci-Fi set from the 60s, or perhaps the fevered product of a very rigorously-minded architect on a great deal of hallucinogenic drugs. Frédéric Chaubin, when not editing Citizen K, has been taken with documenting odd buildings for some time, thus it seems natural he’d be drawn to these secular icons while traveling through the former Soviet Union. The images depict an era from 1970-1990 when the ideology of the time manifested itself in concrete and steel – and now, in most cases, it rots in its place, or stands alone in the landscape like a peculiar, somehow flamboyant fragment of a complicated, uncomfortable past. Chaubin’s CCCP (or “Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed”) is almost, ALMOST, dispassionate in its coverage of this strange moment in this region’s sociopolitical (topographical?) history. The buildings seem either openly unused or somehow inherently unusable in spite of the determinedly practical features, disagreeing so fiercely with both their natural surroundings and all preceding (and subsequent) regional architectural conventions. Maybe Leonid Breznhnev’s ghost is pissed he never got to use that strange UFO of a villa.
My thesis advisor, the wonderful Allen Frame, formally introduced me several months ago to the work of Neil Goldberg. I knew “She’s a Talker” (which much of the internet knows, and appreciates on a less, say, political level than perhaps the artist intended)
from my time as a Film/Video student at SAIC, but it took almost a decade for me to be exposed to Goldberg’s full catalogue (or, more accurately, find out who the awesome “men with their cats” video guy was, and see what else he could do). Much of Goldberg’s work is video based and largely silent, and it’s the sort of work that describes a deep love for and understanding of the medium – this is a man who made “Ten Minutes with X02180-A,” a single channel video of random strangers interacting with a “particularly fetching lilac bush” in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, for example, and my personal favorite, “Salad Bar, depicting intense close ups of people silently selecting food from salad bars. In his photographic work a similar love for the mundane (yet uncanny) is gloriously evident.
These stills from “Missing the Train” transcend their NYC-specific titles (each is labelled with the specific subway the subject has missed, at which station) and become, to the artist, something almost referential of an old master painting.
From the oddly poignant gesture of filling his deceased father’s Camry with brilliantly colored leaves to the simple act of capturing the iconic (yet commonplace) trucker’s arm while paused in his daily commute, Goldberg’s eye transforms small gestures and fleeting, subtle indicators of humanity into epic, funny, heartbreaking works of art.
Last Fall I has the good fortune of enrolling in previous Camera Club guest blogger Pradeep Dalal‘s “Expanded Documentary” class as a part of my MFA coursework at Pratt Institute. While I was definitely introduced to several artists who altered my own approach to image making, the work Pradeep exposed us to that I found most hard to walk away from was Casa Susanna. I can count on one hand (possibly three fingers) the number of times in my entire art school-attending life I’ve come home from a class to immediately, intently scour the internet for a book, then spend days wondering when it would show up on my doorstep. This collection of images was discovered quite accidentally in an NYC flea market by Robert Swope and co-edited with his parter Michel Hurst, who seem to have wondered why the owners would have discarded a collection so personal (and frankly expansive). At first glance, the work is rich in its banality – these seem to be simple snapshots or faded holiday greetings depicting, say, typical housewife-types, some less glamorous than others, engaged in silly chores or unremarkable, silly vacation fun with “the girls.” A closer look reveals they are, in fact, men, some more able to pass seamlessly as the (now rather dated) feminine archetypes their poses, clothing, and accessories proudly proclaim. The resort, Casa Susanna, seems to have existed in upstate New York in the 1960s as a safe place for these men to express their feminine personae. What drew me to the work was the urgency to document the normal. As many who have written about Casa Susanna (the book) have stated, transvestites in pop culture are shrouded in a veritable haze of stage lights, glitter, and feathers, but these ladies are, more often than not, altogether domestic and grounded – posed demurely for Christmas cards, in near-matronly cocktail dress, simply living out roles as average women, hardly a Cher or Jayne Mansfield in the bunch. There is something irrefutably real about these images, in spite of the sly subterfuge of makeup, wigs, and costume – perhaps it’s the dichotomy of a casual snapshot of something so carefully crafted and orchestrated.