Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Box Count: Fifteen

Last week we crossed a major threshold, 1,000 photographs archived! And to celebrate, while poring over photographs of Montana, Mexico, Kashmir, Iowa, Wisconsin, and New York, we happily poured ourselves a glass of bubbly to commemorate such a happy milestone in the project.

Cheers to 1000 photos being archived!

I'm keeping my eyes peeled for images of pool halls for Andrew, while simultaneously making mental notes of repeated motifs. I'm leaning heavily toward photographs depicting food, kitchens, and market places... I feel like a gourmet photography show could be such a fun thing for us to do. I'm even daydreaming of organizing a potluck or enlisting food trucks at the opening, well this is just one place my mind has wandered.

And food art shows are so in vogue right now! We'd be piggybacking on Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine (2013), Peter Fischli David Weiss: Questions, the Sausage Photographs, and a Quiet Afternoon (2011), the forthcoming Check Please at Western Exhibitions. Then there are folks like Ken Fandell with his images of bananas and Cheetos, and Deb Sokolow whose show in the fall humorously told the tale of how some meat is made in Norway. Culturally, it's hard to ignore the rise in popularity of pop-up dinners, and foodie culture in Chicago, or maybe I'm just biased from my new obsession with the Chicago-based podcast Chewing the Fat. It just feels like a food show is begging to happen! Plus everyone loves potlucks and snacks, right? And we are living in one of the food epicenters of the world... like an  ice cream maker, my ideas are churning, and the product I'm sure will be a treat.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Finding Vivian Maier

Do you ever see a film that is so well-done, so interesting, and so pertinent to things you care about, that halfway through the movie you get anxious about the impending end? No? Well I do. And occasionally, one of these gems comes along that makes the hair on my neck stand on end within the first two minutes. Finding Vivian Maier was one of those movies, which comes along once in a blue moon. A film in which my metaphorical stars align and everything I seem to be interested in is addressed, seamlessly, in one fell swoop. From archiving, to museum practice, black and white photography, and tiny villages in France - this movie has it all.

via Nova Planet
For one, a bulk of the documentary takes place in and around Chicago, which adds a level of familiarity and personal interest to a tale of intrigue and mystery - placing me and my home right in the middle of the story. The story is so great, it makes you wonder how something like this could happen, and what treasures are still left to be uncovered. 

John Maloof with his loot via Avoision
A short synopsis:  in 2007 John Maloof, the director and filmmaker, uncovered a box of black and white photographs with negatives at an auction, purchasing the entire lot for a mere $300. He looked through some of the photos, and had a visceral reaction to the images knowing they were "good," that there was something about them that felt important. This knee-jerk feeling led him to methodically seek out and collect every box he could find of work by this same seemingly unknown photographer, to try to figure out who she was, what she did, and why her work was still undiscovered. 

This project reminds me so much of the Warhol time capsule project... it's eerily uncanny, yet unbelievably exciting! 

Maloof's journey led him to contact museums which initially turned him away (gasp!). He persevered, finding out that Maier was an amateur photographer in secret, while maintaining a job as a full-time nanny to support her work. He traveled around the country interviewing her former employers and their progeny, the children she worked for. Maloof even traveled to a small village in France where Maier's mother was from, reconnecting some of the subjects in her work to real place and faces. Maloof held Maier's camera in his hands, then held her mother's camera in his hands. Connecting a tradition and a family interest, into a line that makes sense in the world where Maier maintained perfect anonymity.

Maier's cameras via We Think Photo
The film was emotional and exciting, uncovering the mystery in a wonderful manner of show and tell. Giving a name to the work that so desperately needed to be brought to light. As more and more negatives are developed and enlarged, and more museums and galleries begin to support the work in the manner of hosting exhibitions - Maier's work is finally being seen, after years of gathering dust and begging to be discovered. There's something so wonderful and yet so melancholy about this story - one pregnant with possibility and also tinged with loneliness in its purest form. 

Artist self portrait via Chicago Now
I highly suggest seeing this film if it comes to your town, or seeking it out if you have a chance. I walked out of the theater inspired by my own reflection in glass, by the way the light fell on the world around me, by my own archival project with photographer, Herb Nolan, and by all of the works of art that have yet to be discovered. It's incredible how good this movie made me feel and how inspired it left me. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Box Count: Ten


We have reached a point in this project where we have a real stride in our step! With ten boxes completed, and only a few small piles of musical photographs left to file and archive, we will be a third of the way done with the this leg of the process. 

It's pretty incredible to see the breadth of the collection, and even this early in the process, my brain is starting to pull images that might work together for an exhibition. Repeated themes and patterns are starting to make themselves apparent in the most unlikely of ways. Images of food and dining are working their way into photographs of musicians performing and hanging out. From Tom Waits smoking cigarettes in a diner to Muddy Waters drinking from a pewter mug in his lobster wall-papered kitchen. Additionally, fashion is an ever present force in the collection. Afros, frenetic patterns, men in heels, aviator sunglasses and turtlenecks, if you can imagine it, they probably wore it. Not to mention images of long-lost hotels and boarded up night clubs, all nothing more than a memory, a moment in time. 

Once we wipe our hands of the musical photographs, we will move on to the "travel" category, which I am really quite eager for. India, Mexico, and Montana are all parts of a whole. It will be interesting to see the commonalities and themes that make themselves known as we review these works in a unified way.

Some other news, Herb discovered one of his photographs is up for auction at Kodner Galleries Inc. We're not quite sure how his work ended up in Florida, but he's in good company alongside Abe Morell, Ansel Adams, and Toulouse Lautrec (to name just a few). If you're interested in buying some of his work not from Kodner Galleries, feel free to reach out to me or Herb directly!