Looking at a photograph I ask, “What does the photographer want me to think? What does the photographer want me to feel?” What do they think or feel? Then I ask if these are impressions are fresh, possibly even unique. The latter is almost impossible, but worth pursuing. Sometimes a photographer finds a new way to look at a theme thought to be exhausted. The more common the object photographed, the harder it is to be intellectually innovative.
Secondary, but important, are the photographers decisions regarding craft. Were these the best solutions possible to express those ideas and feelings? Color or black/white, intimate or large scale, actual collage or digital construction, straight or photograph with text? I don’t care which process or processes the photographer employed, only that the choices successfully carry the idea, message, observation or emotion that the photographer wants to communicate and preserve. The final question one critical to this competition is whether the photographer has made multiple images that relate to one another in subject, mood, theme, or emotion. Can the photographer sustain a high quality of expression?
Anne Wilkes Tucker
Gus and Lyndall Wortham Curator of Photography
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
ABOUT THE JUROR
Anne Tucker is the founding curator of the photography department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Since 1976, she has curated almost 30 exhibitions, many of them with catalogues, including monographs on Ray K. Metzker, Joel Sternfeld, Brassai, Richard Misrach, and Catherine Wagner. She has also worked with international teams of curators to produce the exhibitions Czech Modernism 19001945, The History of Japanese Photography, and The Art of Photography, 19391989. The collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, contains 20,000 photographs made on all seven continents between 1840 and 2004.
The accepted entries, and their Artist Statement, are:
YOSHI ABE AT NIGHT
San Francisco, California
The essence of my artistic philosophy is simplicity, a personal perspective, and the purity of forms, and these three principles are all reflected in my photography. Simplicity is an appreciation of scenes or objects as ends in themselves. Not as anything symbolic, or literary, but simply as things-in-themselves. Everything has its own nature, its integrity, including the subjects of a photograph, and my aim or one of my aims in photographing a scene or an object is to bring that integrity out, to emphasize or underscore it.
I bring something unique to each and every subject, and that is my own personal perspective. This can change, being the product of a human and very fallible mind, and develop but there is a constancy in it that I would describe as Nippon-centric. While my thoughts and perceptions are deeply personal, and perhaps incommunicable, my artistic perspective is derived from a uniquely Japanese conception of art and sensibility.
Most important, from the outlook of a photographer, is the purity of forms, and this has much to do with the ability to see, with the choice of subject and scene. If art is the selective recreation of reality according to the artist’s own value judgements, then one must have the ability to see that which is worth recreating. While random objects, scenes, and events crowd out the vision of the artist, and impose themselves on the viewer, the ability to single out the important to home in on it is what singles out the artist as blessed with a unique ability. This is really a gift, one that needs to be nurtured and developed, and even trained: it must progress and yet still retain its freshness.
SUSAN BANK CAMPO ADENTRO
(Deep within the country)
Until recently, my work in Cuba has been focused on that aggressive, illusive mythical city of Havana . . . citadel of contrasts and contradictions. In 2002, feeling I was growing stale in Havana, I worked my way west to the tobacco growing region of Pinar del Rio province. My intention was to have a short vacation. The Campo Adentro project began as a coincidence, teaching me a valuable lesson as a photographer, to be open to following a new trail.
El campo is rich terrain for a photographer. I am working with people who apparently have never been photographed before. And I had never experienced or photographed farm life.
Initially I was able to live in their homes until the authorities forbid this; I live in a government owned facility at the edge of the valley so that I can walk the several miles that I walk each day to the farmers’ homes. I work in a barrio where three extended families have farmed for generations.
With time, they seemed to have accepted my ‘otherness’ as both photographer and extranjera (foreigner). Although my images reflect me as the observer, I, in fact, engage extensively with them as I work with them. Without this personal engagement, it would not be possible for me to achieve the level of intimacy which I hope these pictures show.
My objective with the work is to create beauty from poverty, but in no way to ‘romanticize’ poverty. I attempt to show in a respectful manner the raw essential details of daily living (there are no grand moments in my images!) and, at the same time, to dig deeper on a more intimate level. My intention as an artist is to transcend the reality of what is there, to reveal the hidden undercurrents of human nature and at the same time to make poetry from the banal.
I do not see this project as pure documentary work, but as a personal vision based on my experiences of being there over an extended period of time. I work as simply and as unfettered as possible, using a 35mm camera and black and white film. I feel a sense of urgency to capture what is there now as life in el campo will soon change. And despite the objections of my government, I will continue this project!
WILL MICHELS IWO JIMA + 60
In recognition of the 60th anniversary of the fight for Iwo Jima, The National Museum of the Pacific War hosted a reenactment of the historic battle. Eight months in the making, Iwo Jima + 60 involved over 320 living history volunteers, forty of whom flew from Japan in order to portray the enemy. After an hour long invasion, the Japanese forces defeated, five active duty Marines and one Navy corpsman raised Old Glory on top of Welge Point in Doss, Texas. Over 20,000 spectators witnessed these events.
The first formal portrait I ever took was of Daniel Wagner, a living historian who participated in Battle Stations: 1944, an event sponsored by the Battleship Texas, where I worked as the project architect in charge of the ship’s restoration. Initially I was strongly opposed to this reenactment, believing that it would be “A bunch of middle-aged, overweight men playing war.” I was wrong. Over time I realized that these volunteers were every day folk with a strong conviction for history. We have a common ground, as I believe that if we forget our past, brush it under the carpet, we are doomed to repeat it. War brings humankind’s ugliest side to the surface. In some small way, these events, these individuals, may help keep our past fresh in our minds.
I went to Iwo Jima + 60 as a contemporary photographer. I paid the twenty dollar entry fee, registered, donned a uniform and got down in the mud. I spent five days in Doss helping erect tents, meeting the volunteers and becoming familiar with the land. When photographing, I chose not to include concession stands, port-o-lets or the throngs of people who came to watch. Instead I concentrated on the participants, their actions, their efforts. I photographed them digging their foxholes, eating K-Rations and relaxing. During the reenactment I photographed freely, without the fear of bullets. Using 35mm and medium format cameras, I set out not to mimic pictures of the past, but to make this event my own intending to blur the lines between past and present. I do not want to trick people into thinking these were taken on Iwo Jima. If one is observant, the hill is too small, the dead have ear plugs and cigarette packages contain the Surgeon’s General warning.
Lastly, this event and my photographs are an homage to a single image, Joe Rosenthal’s iconic and serene Old Glory Goes Up on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima taken 60 years ago. His image affected lives, including his own. It has inspired generations. It inspired me. Looking at his image, it is easy to forget that over the course of 54 days, on eight square miles of black sand, Japanese and American forces suffered over 48,000 casualties. Lest we forget.
PATRICIA SANDLER FAMILY OUTCOMES
Los Angeles, California
The series, Family Outcomes, has maintained as its focus the subject of people in my life, whether immediate, extended or chosen family, and how they have affected me in continuing and evolving ways. The central theme of this work is the notion that we are tied to our family and friends whether by experience or memory, and that our being in relationship does not end because of some arbitrary separation, be it distance, choice or death.
The initial part of this project, which remains ongoing, are the portraits of children, superimposed with words that reflect a subjective choice of a sliver of that person’s reality. These images are about the discrepancy that often exists between what we see and therefore assume, and what is objectively true. They are also about the question, “What is objective truth?” The initial piece in the series, “Family Outcomes; Harry”, came to me when I glanced at a picture of my uncle when he was 13 or 14 years old, bright-eyed and full of hope. In that instant of a glance, I heard the words, “changed by war,” because I knew of the roads his life had taken in Europe during WWII. I knew that he had come back, unable to express the horror he had witnessed, and changed indelibly from the young man he had been. What we cannot know when a child’s life is captured on film is of course where their life will take them. We witness them frozen in time, in a moment that ceased to be as soon as it was recorded. What I have chosen to do is to juxtapose this past, and this future into one image, as if to consolidate the totality of life rather then its different passages. In this process I also record my relationship with the subject and how their life has in one way or another affected mine.
The “Primer” aspect of this project was begun early in the project several years ago, but has recently resurfaced, finding its way back into my thoughts and images. In this case, family portraits of children are blended with images from a 1901 children’s instructional book, and then footnoted with my thoughts and observations which transcend or belie the innocent nature of the imagery. As in the portraits, we see an image of a child and we feel the sweetness or notice the resemblances. Perhaps we mourn the loss of years gone by. But again, the many other dimensions of lives lived come into play when we attend to our thoughts. In these works, my words have added perhaps the hard light of an adult’s reflections on what is remembered or awakened to in the middle of the night. A primer from the turn of the 20th century, written in earnest to teach young readers the ways of the world becomes a guidebook to the memoirs of a familial heritage.
These pieces are done by scanning old photographs and or pages, using various blending modes in Photoshop, and printing them on an Epson 4000 with Ultrachrome ink. I utilize these blending modes because I want a certain transparency involved, just as the layers of a life and the generations of a family bleed through into one another.
TO VIEW ALL THE IMAGES FROM THE PROJECTS EXHIBIT