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Posts Tagged ‘Black and White’

While putzing around on the Internet (which seems to be my day job) and keeping a semi-interested eye on this year’s Tour de France, I came across some old images of Eddy Merckx. Like many of you will know, Eddy Merckx isn’t just the owner of the coolest name ever, he was also the most dominant bicyclist of his generation. So dominant was he that his nickname was “The Cannibal”.

He also had a way of looking larger than life in pictures. His suffering was of religious proportions…

…his crying on the bed put every teenager to shame…

…and when he got his white socks dirty he didn’t stop at light grey.

I also think that the old guard knew the limits of effective advertising…

…while this picture above makes me want to write with a Bic pen, drive a Peugeot on Michelin tires to a BP station and drink an ice-cold Salvarani (or whatever that is), this picture of the poor (modern day) Schleck brothers only gives me a headache.

There are 28 logos between them just above the belly buttons. Imagine the horror if they were triplets! I mean, is anybody buying a Skoda because it’s the seventh company from Andy Schleck’s left nipple? I don’t think so either.

In any case let’s finish the post with a great picture by Stephan Vanfleteren of the older Merckx and let’s all have a Molteni in his honor.

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It was a typical midwinter spring day in Minneapolis, the real-life snow globe on the Mississippi, and I was in the middle of preparing for my Upstream show at Intermedia Arts ( which I possibly might have mentioned here, here, here, and here), when I got a semi-mysterious email from a fellow photographer named Ryan Herz. He complimented me on my Upstream images and sent me a link to a series of portraits that he shot at a mental institution in the mid seventies. The email was short, to the point and all caps.

The images were quite a revelation. They reminded me of images that made me want to become a photographer in the first place. I wrote him back and asked if I he could tell me more about himself and the images and here is what he wrote:

RYAN HERZ

I ATTENDED ART CENTER AND THE SAN FRANCISCO ART INSTITUTE. I HAVE HAD EXHIBITS BOTH LOCALLY AND IN SAN FRANCISCO, NEW ORLEANS AND NEW YORK. I WAS PART OF THE “OCEAN VIEW”
EXHIBITION WHICH WAS CURATED BY KEVIN JON BOYLE AND SHOWN AT THE CALIFORNIA MUSEUM OF PHOTOGRAHY,
THE LAGUNA ART MUSEUM, AND THE WESTERN HERITAGE MUSEUM. IN ADDITION TO MY GENERAL WORK, I HAVE COMPLETED THE ESSAYS “ROUTE 5”, “WOMEN ON DISPLAY”, “EDGEWOOD” AND
“DESERT CHRIST PARK”. I AM CURRENTLY WORKING ON RELIGIOUS ICONOGRAPHY IN YUCCA VALLEY, CALIFORNIA. FOR ME IT’S ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT BEING OPEN TO WHEN MOMENTS OF LIGHT AND SHADOW CAN TRANSCEND.


THE CHILDREN AT EDGEWOOD

In late summer through early fall of 1976, I had the privilege of being allowed to photograph at
Edgewood. The State was requiring I.D. photos for all the residents. The local school photographers would not take the job, I volunteered. Edgewood’s staff did wonderful work. The residents were very well cared for. There was love and happiness in unexpected supply.

The title and much of the inspiration for this work came from discussions with those who take care of these people, both before, during and since the photographs were taken. They are children, no matter what their age might be, their feelings right on the surface without façade.

The portraits were completed in three or four sessions. I had just a few minutes with each person.
This both forced me and freed me to be instinctual rather than manipulative. Always an improvement.
That, coupled with the intense humanity and the unfiltered emotions of the developmentally disabled,
gives the photographs their power.

RYAN HERZ


He also included a few 35 mm images that are more journalistic.




I’m not sure if Ryan Herz has a website but you can see more of his Edgewood series here.

Update: The book “Children of Edgewood” is available on Blurb.

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Dietmar Busse is (primarily) a fine-art photographer living in a one bedroom walk-up in that nondescript neighborhood around lower Lexington Avenue. His apartment has become the set of an amazing series of portraits that he calls “The Visitors”.

In the years that I have known Dietmar he has done some beautiful fashion work,

photographed NYC street-life,

hung out with barbershop beauties,

went full floral,

and documented where he grew up in northern Germany.

His work is intense and calm at the same time and always feels personal. Whenever I stopped by Dietmar’s place over the last few years he had rough prints of new mesmerizing portraits pinned up. I’m very happy that he agreed to be interviewed for The Heavy Light.

Dirk Anschütz: First things first, Dietmar. Why did you become a photographer?

Dietmar Busse: (Laughs) Well, after I finished high school I was not sure what to do. I signed up for Law School in Berlin and went for one day. At the same time I found out that I got accepted for a job in the south of Spain, that I had applied for earlier. I immediately hitchhiked to Badajoz only to find out that I really didn’t like my prospective employers. On my way back to Berlin I stopped in Madrid and met all these creative people, designers, artists, and so on and I became friends with a model and a photographer. I guess somehow I always wanted to be an artist but I never thought of photography as an accessible career and talking to my new friends changed that. I thought, I can do that. The model was friends with Michael Wray, an English photographer and I ended up being his assistant. We often had 2 or 3 shoots in a day. It was insane, but the great thing was that we did everything. Studio, runway, location, still life. I learned everything from 35mm to 4×5. I just received an amazing amount of knowledge in only two years.

DA: How did you decide to come to the US?

DB: After I finished working for Michael (I was exhausted), I felt that there was really not a lot to learn for me anymore in Madrid. I stayed for another two years mostly partying and building up my portfolio, but I knew I had to leave Spain and decided to go to Milan. Then a friend talked me out of it and convinced me to go to New York. I didn’t know anybody except one person who I had met a few weeks earlier in Madrid and who gave me his business card. I called him up and by coincidence his roommate had left and I had a room in New York.

DA: So, let’s talk about “the Visitors”. What made you start that series?

DB: I did so many different things from fashion, reportage, still life to glueing flowers on to myself for a few years. So here, I wanted to start a body of work that was cohesive and coherent. Something that was very focused. I wanted to work on something that I love. I wanted to work on something very simple. I love the intimacy of a studio as opposed to location and I figured, oh, I can do this in my apartment. I like being here and I like to invite people into my little world. I love being with people especially in a small setting and I love people that stand out in society especially visually. I love fashion and I asked people to dress up, so that gave me a chance to bring a fashion aspect into my work without dealing with magazines and agencies and all that.

DA: How did you get people to sit for you? Isabelle Toledo for instance?

DB: I worked with Isabelle Toledo before. I shot her for a magazine in the 90’s. I love her and love her work. It’s people like her that make it exciting to be in New York.

DA: How about Allanah Starr?

DB: Well, in the beginning of the project I would go out and ask people on the street, later I went clubbing to spots that are still pretty crazy. Allanah was referred to me through a friend at a nightclub. A lot of the casting was word of mouth. Or if I wanted to photograph somebody, I tried to find someone that knew that person, so they could make an introduction for me.

DA: Was there anything that surprised you during the project?

DB: No, not really. I guess sometimes I’m surprised by the results. During the shoots of this project I was working in a small studio, locked up almost, with people I really didn’t know. So, there’s an emotional response to that. Sometimes it’s awkward, sometimes it feels like a weird encounter. Sometimes it feels like it wasn’t a good shoot, and then I look at the contacts and they’re great. It’s very intense. I mean the work is intense, because I’m intense (laughs). Sometimes I look at work that I shot a few years ago and I’m amazed at how good it is and I can’t understand why I picked such a mediocre picture as my final selection or why I wasn’t happy with the photographs back then.

DA: What equipment do you use?

DB: (Rolls his eyes, laughs) I’m really not interested in the technical aspects of photography.

DA: Come on, you might not be a gear-head but you create a very specific and consistent look that could not be achieved with any old camera.

DB: Ok, I’m only interested in the technical part as far as it will help me get the results I want. With the set-up here I keep it to the minimum. I only thought about it in the beginning, now everything is always the same. I use a Hasselblad from the 500 series for the quality. I always work with one lens, an 80 mm. I use always strobe, never daylight. The light [an ancient “brown” Speedotron. DA] is always set up, I just have to push the on button and move the stand into position. I painted the background gray, it’s a wall in my apartment. I don’t think about it anymore. That way I can concentrate on the sitter. I don’t change the camera, the film, the light. During the shoot I don’t want to think about the technical part.

When I’m on assignment I always have to adapt to the given situations. Here it’s always the same. That said, I got a new lens recently for close-up work, a 120 mm Macro.

DA: Tell me about the double exposures.

DB: It basically started as an accident. I was printing in a rental lab and exposed a sheet of paper with two negs. First I threw it in the trash, but then I pulled it out again and took it home to look at it. I thought it looked a lot like photo school, but it also just looked right, then I went back to the lab and tried it with a few more negs.

The use of multiple negatives allows me to go past what you see through the viewfinder and explore a world of fantasy.

DA: How do you decide which images to combine?

DB: It has to feel right. I look. I play. What I have as landscapes in black & white is from my village in Northern Germany. So I have to see what’s there. Trees, or cows, or meadows. I look to combine images that have an integrity on their own, that don’t need help. I look at a portrait and I wonder what would he look like with an upside down tree in his face (laughs).

It combines two very strong and influential experiences of mine that are very far apart. My growing up on a small farm in Germany and my life in New York.

DA: You’ve shot some very different projects but there is a combining quality to all your work. How would describe your approach to photography?

DB: I see myself as a story teller. I like to show things that I feel. Photography for me is a way to communicate emotions. A photograph has to feel honest to me.

I’m always interested in showing beauty, even if it’s a fat man with pimples and only one eye (laughs).

DA: Thanks a lot for the interview.

Dietmar Busse’s website

You can also see for yourself where the magic happens, because Dietmar has an open studio this coming Saturday (Dec. 11th) and Sunday (Dec. 12th) from 2 PM to 8 PM
at
120 Lexington Avenue, Apt. 4E (@ 28th Street)
New York, NY 10016
(212)683-0865

All images in this post ©Dietmar Busse.

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