Visions: Tim Hetherington’s Theater of War

Visions: Tim Hetherington’s Theater of War

Visions: Images of Libya from a Fallen Photographer

Last week, an upcoming gallery show of work by the late photographer Tim Hetherington was announced, the inaugural exhibition of The Bronx Documentary Center that was founded earlier this year. The exhibition, titled Visions, is a collection of never-before-seen photos by Hetherington, a British-American photographer who lived in Brooklyn. He was a longtime Vanity Fair contributor who died in April while covering the conflict in Libya, along with fellow conflict photographer and Brooklyn resident Chris Hondros.

It is amazingly ironic that the announcement of the exhibition of Tim Hetherington’s work coincided precisely with published reports that Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the erratic, provocative dictator who ruled Libya for 42 years, had finally met a violent and vengeful death in the hands of the Libyan forces that drove him from power.

Hetherington was most famous for his Academy Award-nominated 2010 documentary Restrepo, which he filmed with Sebastian Junger in 2007. The film follows the Army platoon assigned to what was then the most dangerous posting in Afghanistan, The Korengal Valley, to clear it of insurgents and gain the trust of the local populace. In the course of the film, the platoon builds a new outpost they name after Juan Sebastian Restrepo, a comrade who was killed during the early days of the 15-month assignment.

On April 20, Hetherington was trailing rebels in the besieged coastal city of Misurata in Libya, when he and Hondros were killed in an explosion from a rocket-propelled grenade. He left behind 40 rolls of undeveloped 220mm film. The negatives revealed a fascinating mix of what Tim called “the theater of war,” men strutting with their guns, as well as landscapes, graffiti, and men firing guns and rocket-propelled grenades in battle. And a vase of plastic flowers in a bullet-marked room. Seventeen of the prints will be on display in the Bronx Documentary Center show as 36- by 30-inch prints hanging from the ceiling on two large wood panels, beginning October 22nd.

Tim Hetherington: Always a Few Steps Ahead

Long Story Bit by Bit: Liberia Retold

Award-Winning Photographer and Film Director Tim Hetherington Killed in Libya

The Death of Award-Winning Photographer Tim Hetherington

Oscar-nominated documentary-maker Tim Hetherington, co-creator of the Sundance-winning documentary Restrepo, was killed in the besieged city of Misurata covering fighting between Muammar Gaddafi’s forces and the opposition. A British citizen who lived in New York, Hetherington had covered conflicts with sensitivity in Liberia, Afghanistan, Darfur and, in recent weeks, Libya. Hetherington was in Libya to continue his multimedia project highlighting humanitarian issues during times of war and conflict.

Photo-journalist Chris Hondros, a US Pulitzer finalist who worked for Getty Images, was also killed. Hetherington and Hondros were among eight to 10 journalists reporting from Tripoli Street in Misrata. When shooting broke out, they took shelter against a wall, which was hit by fire. Hetherington died soon after arriving at hospital. Hetherington wrote in his last post on Twitter on Tuesday: “In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Gaddafi forces. No sign of NATO.”

Restrepo won the 2010 Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at Sundance, and was a 2011 Oscar Nominee for Best Documentary, Features. The movie is a stunning chronicle of one U.S. platoon, which was posted in one of the most dangerous valleys in Afghanistan. The film was made as part of Hetherington’s ongoing mission to bring the hardships of war into the public eye.

Diary is one of Hetherington’s most recent works, a documentary short film that presents a dreamlike composition of insightful juxtapositions about his war experiences, composed of carefully conceived montages and almost inchoate sounds. It is similar in spirit to his impressionistic documentary short Sleeping Soldiers of 2009.

Viewers can read more about Tim Hetherington in The New York Times here.

Restropo: 2011 Nominated Oscar Best Documentary, Features (Trailer)

Tim Hetherington’s Disquieting ‘Diary

Tim Hetherington: Sleeping Soldiers

Photo-Gallery: Visions/Tim Hetherington’s Theater of War

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Award-Winning Photographer and Film Director Tim Hetherington Killed in Libya

Award-Winning Photographer and Film Director Tim Hetherington Killed in Libya

Oscar-nominated documentary-maker Tim Hetherington, co-creator of the Sundance-winning documentary Restrepo, was killed in the besieged city of Misurata covering fighting between Muammar Gaddafi’s forces and the opposition. A British citizen who lived in New York, Hetherington had covered conflicts with sensitivity in Liberia, Afghanistan, Darfur and, in recent weeks, Libya. Hetherington was in Libya to continue his multimedia project highlighting humanitarian issues during times of war and conflict.

Photo-journalist Chris Hondros, a US Pulitzer finalist who worked for Getty Images, was also killed. Hetherington and Hondros were among eight to 10 journalists reporting from Tripoli Street in Misrata. When shooting broke out, they took shelter against a wall, which was hit by fire. Hetherington died soon after arriving at hospital. Hetherington wrote in his last post on Twitter on Tuesday: “In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Gaddafi forces. No sign of NATO.”

Restrepo won the 2010 Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at Sundance, and was a 2011 Oscar Nominee for Best Documentary, Features. The movie is a stunning chronicle of one U.S. platoon, which was posted in one of the most dangerous valleys in Afghanistan. The film was made as part of Hetherington’s ongoing mission to bring the hardships of war into the public eye.

Diary is one of Hetherington’s most recent works, a documentary short film that presents a dreamlike composition of insightful juxtapositions about his war experiences, composed of carefully conceived montages and almost inchoate sounds. It is similar in spirit to his impressionistic documentary short Sleeping Soldiers of 2009.

Viewers can read more about Tim Hetherington in The New York Times here.

Restropo: 2011 Nominated Oscar Best Documentary, Features (Trailer)

Tim Hetherington’s Disquieting ‘Diary

Tim Hetherington: Sleeping Soldiers

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Still Life Photography: Courting Surprise and Allegorical Meanings

Ori Gersht (Israeli, 1967 – ), Blow Up: Untitled 15, 2007

Marian Drew (Australian, born 1960), Lorikeet with Green Cloth, 2006

Edward Weston (American, 1886 – 1958), Bananas and Orange, April 1927

André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894 – 1985), Bowl with Sugar Cubes, 1928

Sharon Core (American), Early American: Still Life with Steak, 2008

Still Life Photography: Courting Surprise and Allegorical Meanings

In Focus: Still Life is a selection of photographs from an installation of wonderful still life photographs presently on view at The J. Paul Getty Museum Center for Photographs. The collection presents a survey of some of the innovative ways photographers have explored and refreshed this traditional genre. During the 19th century, still life photographs tended to resemble still life paintings, with similar subjects and arrangements. Beginning in the 20th century, still life photographs have mirrored the subjects and styles that have more broadly concerned photographers in their time.

In addition to early experiments of pioneers of the photographic medium, some of the works that have been newly acquired by the Getty Center are presented here: Still Life with Triangle and Red Eraser (1985) by American Irving Penn, Lorikeet with Green Cloth (2006) by Australian Marian Drew, and Blow Up: Untitled 15 (2007) by Israeli Ori Gersht.  Gersht loosely based his Blow Up series on traditional floral still life paintings. His arrangements of flowers are frozen and then detonated; the explosion is captured using synchronized digital cameras, with the fragmentary detritus caught in remarkable detail.  This contemporary approach to still photography belies the notion of still life as something motionless, as it explores the relationships among painting and photography, art and science, and creation and destruction.

This piece also presents the experimental video Still Life (2001) created by the English artist Sam Taylor-Wood, a three-minute short film that focuses on a classically composed bowl of fruit as it decays. Also, there’s a pen. Still Life has been said to be one of the most classical works in contemporary art, carving a permanent record for itself in art history with hardly any commentary. This is not just a Still Life; it is based upon a particular type of still life painting that developed during the 16th and 17th centuries in Flanders and the Netherlands, part of a classical genre that contains symbols of change or death as a reminder of their inevitability. Its focus was upon confronting the vanity of worldly things through often subtle signs of elapsing time and decay.

Sam Taylor-Wood’s film represents yet another step in that direction: the image, beautiful as ever in Taylor-Wood’s universe, decomposes itself. By the end of the short film, nothing is left but a grey amorphous mass. But upon closer inspection, one detail distinguishes this picture from its predecessors. The plastic ballpoint pen, a cheap contemporary object. One that doesn’t seem to decay and doesn’t seem to be a part of the universal process of self-disappearing life. Is this what is really left here to stay after we are gone, this nothingness, this ridiculous attribute of ourselves?

Sam Taylor-Wood: Still Life (2001)

Slide Show: Still Life Photography/Courting Surprise and Allegorical Meanings

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On the Street: The Annals of Outrageous Self-Invention, 1980-1990

Madonna, St. Mark’s Place, 1983; Lesbian couple, 8th Street, 1981

Alan and Charles Rosenberg, Central Park, 1985; Fingernail Extensions, 23rd Street and 8th Avenue, 1988

Pia Guccione, 8th Street and University Place, 1988; Phoebe Lègére Accordion, 10th Street and Avenue B, 1987

Tongues Down, Rafael Araujo, 7th Street and 2nd Avenue, c. 1987-88; Jenny Gift-Wrapped, 59th Street, 1982

Susanne Bartsch, Houston Street and West Broadway, 1987; Miranda Pennell, Columbus Avenue, 1984

Jan Long, Cooper Union Square, 1982; Julio Q, Broome Street, 1985

On the Street: The Annals of Outrageous Self-Invention, 1980-1990

Photography by: Amy Arbus

On the Street is a collection of photographs by Amy Arbus, which were selected from Arbus’s photo-column that ran in The Village Voice between 1980 and 1990, a page that documented New York City’s downtown area’s most vibrant, creative dressers and personalities (many of the photographs were also published in a book).  Amy Arbus has been photographing professionally for more than 25 years.  She has been a contributing photographer to the New York Magazine theater section, and her photographs have appeared in over one hundred periodicals, including The New Yorker, Aperture, People Magazine, ESPN, and The New York Times Magazine.  She is the daughter of the late photographer Diane Arbus.

Now that Manhattan is only habitable for the rich, many New Yorkers love to reminiscently look back to the mad and crazy ‘80s, when the Bowery could be quite dangerous and apartments were still affordable.  Nostalgia presently stalks the five boroughs, whether for acid-washed rap-fashion, Mudd Club art parties or coke in sleazy bars.  But back in the original 1980s-1990s, Amy Arbus found the subjects for her extremely unique photographs mostly by just wandering around the Village, looking for people who were wearing visually creative and unusual outfits, a lot of polka dots, or stripes, or everyone wearing hats in the summertime.  At the time, there was nothing else like it.  Now there are a lot of similar things, but back at the original time there hadn’t been any kind of record of the East Village scene when it was comprised of this particularly promising, hopeful group of talented, interesting people.

Describing her pictures from this 1980s-1990s collection, Arbus stated, “In terms of the clothes, I think they were fantastic and funny and outrageous and silly….There was no kind of judgment going on at the time.  Everyone wanted to be noticed, no matter what it was for.  That’s completely gone.  Being noticed is irrelevant now.  You have to make such waves to be a success at things now that dressing differently may make an impression, but it’s not going to get you a career.”

Included here are a number of Arbus’s vintage photographs, a video from  her documentary film On the Street, a full-screen high-resolution slide show and an additional audio-slide show of Arbus’s photography.

The Clash, Broadway, 1981

Slide Show: On the Street/ The Annals of Outrageous Self-Invention, 1980-1990

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Amy Arbus: A Documentary of On the Street, 1980-1990


Audio Slide Show: Amy Arbus’s On the Street/ Annals of Self-Invention

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Helen Levitt, Photographer Who Captured Decades of New York Street Life, Died at at 95

Helen Levitt, Photographer Who Captured Decades of New York Street Life, Died at at 95

Helen Levitt Died at The Age of 95

Helen Levitt, a major street photographer of the 20th century who captured fleeting moments of quiet drama on the streets of her native New York for seven decades, died in New York City at the age of 95. Ms. Levitt’s photography displayed a form of street choreography that expressed the everyday ceremonies of innocence. The masterpieces in Ms. Levitt’s body of works are her photographs of children living their enthusiastically improvised lives.

Ms. Levitt was intensely private, shunned the spotlight and seldom gave interviews. Comprehensive surveys of her career were held at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York in 1980 and later at the Laurence Miller Gallery in 1987. However, she remained relatively unknown to the general public even as late as 1991, when the first national retrospective of her work was organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and traveled to major museums.

Helen Levitt: Seven Decades of New York Street Photography

Helen Levitt’s street photography from New York spanned seven decades, photographs that were taken mostly throughout working-class neighborhoods in New York City. Levitt’s wonderfully candid black-and-white shots from the 1930s and 1940s, of urban children playing and ordinary people going about their daily lives, have inspired generations of photographers. Levitt was also a pioneer in color photography, starting seriously in 1959, when she received a Guggenheim grant to explore her familiar territory, but shifting from black-and-white to color. Levitt went back out into the streets in the 1970s with her camera. Forty of her color photographs were shown as a slide show at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1974, one of the very first times that photographs were formally displayed this way in a museum, and one of the first exhibitions of serious color photography anywhere in the world. That show was presented 31 years after her first solo exhibition at MoMA in 1943. Her work was also part of the famous Family of Man exhibition.

The acclaimed writer James Agee once said: “At least a dozen of Helen Levitt’s photographs seem to me as beautiful, perceptive, satisfying, and enduring as any lyrical work that I know. In their general quality and coherence, moreover, the photographs as a whole body, as a book, seem to me to combine into a unified view of the world, an uninsistent but irrefutable manifesto of a way of seeing, and in a gently and wholly unpretentious way, a major poetic work.”

Video: The Photography of Helen Levitt

Slide Show: Helen Levitt/Seven Decades of New York Street Photography

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You Can Read More about Helen Levitt’s Legacy Here.

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Weegee: The Photography of Night Noir

Wegee’s World Under the Cover of Darkness: Life, Death and the Human Drama

Weegee’s (Arthur Fellig) peak period as a freelance crime and street photographer was like a whirlwind of perpetual motion, running from the mid-1930s into the postwar years. John Strausbaugh has described Weegee as a man who after discovering photography became a man with a mission, an obsession, an addiction. Weegee prowled the streets of New York City incessantly, non-stop during the graveyard shift, taking thousands of photographs that defined Manhattan as a film noir nightscape populated with hoodlums and gangsters, Bowery bums and slumming swells, tenement dwellers and victims of domestic brawls, fires and car crashes.

He chronicled Harlem, the Lower East Side, Coney Island and the police blotter. He liked nights because he had the photographic turf to himself but also because the best bad things happen at night, under the cover of darkness. Vandals make their mark, hit men practice their trade and people get crazy.

Like a dependable trooper, he was always prepared. He prowled the streets in a car that was outfitted with a police radio, a typewriter, developing equipment, a supply of cigars and a change of underwear. He was a one-man photo factory: he drove to a crime site; took pictures; developed the film, using the trunk as a darkroom; and delivered the prints.

Weegee captured the night in New York at a time when it was lonely and desolate and scary. He wanted to show that in New York City millions of people lived together in a state of total loneliness. Weegee photographed the city’s achievers, its homeless, its hard times, its festivities, its freaks, its victims, its politicians, its celebrities, its ethnic areas, its playgrounds and dumps, its posh avenues and mean streets.

He gave it an enduring nickname, The Naked City.

Weegee: The Photography of Night Noir

However, along with the lurid disasters of crime, fire and car crashes for which he was widely known, Weegee was also strong on documenting human interest subjects, especially related to the city’s social problems and its helpless sufferers. From the years of the Depression through World War II, New York was a rude, crude town. There was little heat in the winter and way too much in the summer. Immigrants poured into the city and there was barely enough room to hold them. Native-born workers felt the competition for jobs and space and resented the newcomers. The melting pot was in a constant boil. Weegee contributed sympathetic portraits of people who were existing at the outer margins of society, including the city’s homeless, impoverished immigrants on the Lower East Side, ethnic minorities suffering racial discrimination, and transsexuals and prostitutes. His images shed considerable light upon many of the concerns of urban American society that were festering just below the surface.

Weegee often strolled from his tiny second-floor single room, which was located on a narrow and drab block of tenement buildings, over to the Bowery for both work and relaxation, usually at Sammy’s Bowery Follies. From 1934 to 1970, Sammy’s attracted what The New York Times once described as a mixed crowd of “drunks and swells, drifters and celebrities, the rich and the forgotten.” Weegee was closely attuned to the erotic excitement of the low life, so at Sammy’s, where entertainers past their prime sang for customers past theirs, he memorialized with his photographs the performers’ expanded waists, multiplying chins and rolled stockings with money tucked inside.

Weegee, who disparaged The New York Times as a newspaper for the “well-off Manhattan establishment,” called Sammy’s “the poor man’s Stork Club” and wrote in the PM newspaper in 1944: “There’s no cigarette girl, a vending machine puts out cigarettes for a penny apiece. There’s no hatcheck girl, patrons prefer to dance with their hats and coats on. But there is a lulu of a floor show.” He was quite drawn to glamour and the allure of exotic beauty, but he despised socialites and their social register concerns and matters. He loved to use his photography to embarrass the rich, making them look like freaks.

In 1945, Weegee published Naked City and soon thereafter moved to Hollywood, where he served as a consultant on the film made from his book and even played some minor film roles. In 1946, after the huge success of his book, he announced that he was through with news photography and was no longer interested in the seamy side of New York. However, his career in Hollywood as an actor and consultant essentially went nowhere, and he never really fit into what he called “The Land of the Zombies.” He returned to Manhattan in 1951 and until his death in 1968 eked out a meager living by hawking his books and films, taking girlie pictures, consulting on special effects for filmmakers (mainly in Europe) and selling reprints of those remarkable news pictures that he no longer took.

Weegee: Watchman of the Night

Slide Show: Weegee/The Photography of Night Noir

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Sam Taylor-Wood: Portraits of Moments with Crying Men

Sam Taylor-Wood: Portraits of Moments with Crying Men

Sam Taylor-Wood: Crying Men

Prior to being diagnosed with cancer eleven years ago, Sam Taylor-Wood was the darling party girl of Young British Art. Now, at the age of 41, Sam Taylor-Wood has become the British art world’s acceptable face: a mature artist with an A-list address book and, with her husband, Jay Jopling, a place at the new art establishment’s top table. Grown men have wept for her, but how will they remember her? She could have sat for Modigliani. Her long face, the slim figure, the strong, bony hands echo the left-field sensuality and elongated elegance of his models. There are hints of it in her own self-portraits, especially the strangely balletic Self-Portrait Suspended, which was made after she had filmed and photographed members of Great Britain’s Royal Ballet. This is a forgivable display of narcissism; a creative work that is evoked by a dream of swimming in air can hardly be a legitimate source of public outrage in the art world.

Taylor-Wood’s acclaimed earlier experimental short film, Still Life, in which a bowl of fruit was filmed slowly rotting away, is about mortality and life’s inevitable transience; her later work, Crying Men, is a treatise on the theme of sadness. Her new series of photographs in Crying Men attempts to capture the moment between the real and the unreal, the imitation and the authentic. By her use of celebrity actors as models, the viewer debates whether their tears of sadness (and therefore their emotions) are genuine. If the models were anonymous the question wouldn’t arise. It is a subtle challenge and typical of Taylor-Wood’s increasing degree of maturity as a visual artist.

Sam Taylor-Wood: Crying Men

BBC Interview: Taylor Wood about “Crying Men”

Pietà: An Icon of Exhaustion and Distress

In Pietà, Sam Taylor-Wood labors to support the draped body of Robert Downey Jr. Downey, laid out like Holbein’s Dead Christ in the Tomb, is presented in a manner that is so matter of fact, so drained of real importance, that the idea of death asserts itself with the chilled subtlety of a business card dropped on a dinner setting. Why him, one might ask, and for that matter, why her? Why ask, would be her likely reply. Taylor-Wood has appropriated widely in the past, from Atlas to Roman orgy scenes (updated to the present day) to Hollywood movies. Here, as elsewhere in her work, feelings of emotional and physical distress take the place of narrative. The Pietà becomes an icon of exhaustion and distress, in her hands. Or obversely, exhaustion and distress become iconic, if only by association.

Pieta: A World of Exhaustion and Distress

I Want Love: The Paradox of Love

Finally, seen from the bleak landscape of Taylor-Wood’s transient, sad, exhausting and distressing world, I Want Love, the Elton John music video produced by Taylor-Wood, becomes an awkwardly painful statement about the paradox of love. The desperate self says, “I want love, but I want nothing you do or say to affect me, I am who I am.” In its encounter with the other, the self wishes to affirm its absolute independence, even though its need for the other and the other’s similar wish give the lie to it.

I Want Love: Elton John, Acting by Robert Downey Jr.

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