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NYC STREET PHOTOGRAPHY COLLECTIVE CELEBRATES NEW GALLERY OPENING IN BROOKLYN
Brooklyn, NY, June 13, 2019 – The NYC Street Photography Collective (NYC-SPC) is pleased to announce the opening of Contact Gallery, its new home, community gallery, and workspace in Brooklyn. To celebrate the occasion, an opening reception will be held on June 27, 2019 with the works of 25 local photographers on display in the gallery’s first public exhibition.
NYC-SPC’s mission is to share the art of street photography with an underserved community in New York City. Contact Gallery is a space where this mission will be filled with life, as an educational space for people to exhibit, learn, and share work.
A series of exhibitions, workshops, and other events is currently under development and will be announced on the group’s website (www.nyc-spc.com) and social media channels.
The group’s monthly public meetings, open to anyone interested in street photography, will be held at Contact Gallery on the third Thursday of every month. Meetings give individuals the chance to share work, experiences, techniques, and whatever else helps people advance as street photographers.
Contact Gallery also hosts digital lab equipment including a scanning and a printing workstation that can be accessed and rented.
Opening reception Thursday, June 27, from 7pm-10pm
Gallery hours Friday to Monday, from 12pm-7pm
Show ends Saturday, July 13
302 Morgan Ave #B2 Brooklyn, NY 11211
About the NYC Street Photography Collective
NYC-SPC, a non-profit 501(c)3, is a collective made up of a small group of passionate street photographers that are dedicated to creating and sharing the art of capturing life in public spaces. The group was founded by Jorge Garcia in early 2015.
We offer members and anyone who is interested in the genre an opportunity to explore street photography with like minded individuals through engagement with a local community that shares resources and promotes individual’s work. We also regularly produce zines as well as organize exhibitions, talks, and events to highlight photographs from our members or talented photographers we discover.
Is there a particular South American angle on street photography? A specific photographic culture that presents a new dynamic only found in places like Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina et al?
Difficult to say, of course, if a dazzling ‘magic realism’ is at play in street photographs from this part of the world, but I like to think there might be. A certain Latino swagger that is discernible when compared to European street photography, or, indeed, North American street photography.
I am with two leading, and exciting, South American exponents of the art, Uruguayans Gustavo Rosas López and his street photography partner Gonzalo Gómez Gaggero. I want to try and discover if my theory has any resonance.
“I go for a walk without a previous idea,” Gustavo tells me openly when I ask the two men what they might go looking for on the street. “Trying to photograph what, in some way, excites and surprises me, from a small gesture to the most complex situation.”
Their collection is testimony to this attitude, often taken from unusual angles they offer a unique perspective of the world around us.
“I like the sense of humour and irony,” Gonzalo adds. “But also the drama and ambiguity. Surely this influences me when it comes to finding a situation to photograph. I have also noticed that I like the adrenaline that I feel when I have to take a picture very quickly or get close…to the subject. Not knowing what I am going to find generates in me a nice feeling, that has a playful component.”
Copyrightⓒ Gonzalo Gomez
Downtown Montevideo, an attractive blonde woman wearing fishnet stockings, black boots and a short skirt pivots. She looks back over her shoulder as if someone has called out her name: ‘Hey Rosita! Tu sabes que te quiero! (Hey Rosita, you know I love you!). The attractive woman is carrying a brochure, while an older woman carrying a bag is seen between her and a nun standing to our right as we look at the photograph – with her back to the photographer. The photograph is almost surreal. Perhaps the nun (whose face we cannot see) is looking in the direction of the voice and preparing to chastise its owner.
The photograph, and it gains something from being taken at an angle looking up and from the photographer being close, presents juxtaposition and a candidness – an exciting shot – that is nothing if not thought-provoking. It makes me think can street photography help us contemplate our place in the world? Three women on the same street but, obviously, with very different lifestyles.
“My first approach to photography may have been through film,” Gustavo informed me and, I have to confess, the above photograph does have a cinematic feel to it – though I have no idea if Gustavo or Gonzalo took the shot. “Since I was a kid I like to watch movies, and since then I have been curious about the images, their construction and their power to communicate emotions.”
Then Gonzalo chimed.
“My interest in photography began when I was finishing my degree in graphic design in 2007. Graphic design is directly linked to the post-production of photos. So, I became interested in what happened behind a lens, before processing the photo. When I bought my first camera in 2010, I went out to take pictures without focusing on anything in particular…until I felt the need to do something more personal, taking advantage of the opportunity the city gives…to go out and capture stories.”
The men met in 2006 when both were pursuing a career in graphic design, and later in 2010 when they were involved in some design work for a client. Gustavo showed Gonzalo some photographs.
“He showed me some pictures he had taken,” Gonzalo explained. “Of the coastal area of Montevideo. I found his vision of life on the streets of our city very interesting and coincidentally I was also taking pictures on the street.”
Copyrightⓒ Gustavo Rosas
Their work is impressive. In a beautiful close-up of, what looks like, a man down on his luck – perhaps homeless – who appears to be dozing, eyes-closed, while brilliantly just out of focus beyond him a couple kiss on the street. A beautifully captured moment of pleasure and pain – the two existential drivers of all our souls. When I see this photograph, I think, has the man closed his eyes because the snogging couple remind him of a former, happier time when he himself was in love? Again taken from a low position and close up gives the photograph a ‘life and dimension’ it would otherwise not have had.
If I am being honest, I might have focused on the kissing couple, and had the man on the street out of focus which would have have given the work less vibrancy and would have made it more predictable. This, for me, was the way to capture that moment, and is a good example great street work.
Both men are from Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, a relatively small nation of around 3.5 million people, and I was curious to know why the men chose to join forces as street photographers?
“Sharing the passion to capture moments of life on the streets, was what motivated us to generate a duo,” Gustavo explained. “We are also friends and in some way it is fun to share experience of the stories or characters that appear on the street.”
Copyrightⓒ Gustavo Rosas
The shared passion has paid dividends. There is an intriguing photograph of a car with a type of horror mask emerging from the dark interior, while a young person, just out of focus, rides past on his bicycle. It could be a movie poster for a new scare film. Again that juxtaposition, that eye that sees and captures that moment. The mark of great street photography.
Copyrightⓒ Gonzalo Gomez
In another photograph an elderly face peers from a dusty bus window, a metaphor for the journey of life? The face is in the corner of the photograph one step forward and that face would have disappeared from the frame – which, for me, was a great metaphor for the ageing process.
“I believe walking frees the mind,” Gustavo tells me. “One becomes more receptive to what happens in the street. I like to be close to the situation (depending on the possibilities).”
Meanwhile Gonzalo ponders how the art form is developing in Uruguay.
“We don’t have a notion of how popular it is in Uruguay,” He says thoughtfully. “Since there is no discussion…about this photographic genre. We know some photographers who practice it, but we are not sure that it could become popular at some point.”
Street photography, of course, is a global project, but I suspect that because of the historical, cultural and the political nuances of nations there are subtle differences out there.
In writing about Brazilian street photographer Gustavo Minas – who featured in the magazine in April this year – as well as Gustavo Rosas López and Gonzalo Gómez Gaggero it is almost like curating that South American flavour of street photography.
Whether it has its own resonance or not is, of course, up for debate. Suffice to say I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to have written about these street photographers.
His background is impressive. He has, in a word, ‘always’ been out there, pushing time and space around to create art. Initially as an assistant photographer and then as an assistant director working on music videos with Madness, Ian Dury, Dexys Midnight Runners and The Stranglers. An arena where soaring musical talent collides with exciting visual interpretations.
The street photography of Kim Aldis is not that different. Put simply, the mercurial translation of a moment in time emerging as a single frame of action ( stopped) in space. That iconic invisible fusion of the artist and their subject(s) in one specific photograph – forever locked together.
“I just like taking photographs of people,” Aldis says simply when I try to discover the man’s drivers. “It’s not really much more complicated than that. I think Saul Leiter had it : ‘I don’t have a philosophy, I have a camera’. So, I just take pictures.”
Is he being evasive, elusive, modest? Am I being paranoid? I, personally, find his street photography, at times beautifully and cleverly understated, but with an edge to it that can make it compelling.
Copyrightⓒ Kim Aldis
A woman, her face obscured by her hair, a pair of sunglasses on her head stares down at her phone in her hand. She is totally focused on what she is doing and completely oblivious to the photographer. The shot is taken from an interesting angle and Kim, in one frame, neatly captures the two main states of modern society. The ‘high quality’ focus needed for our periodic integration with our mobile phones, social media and digital equipment, while all around her the world sails on with its own agenda(s). Essentially the woman becomes a metaphor for how lost most of us are in the modern digital technology of the day : Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et al. She is hidden behind her hair and for these precious moments of her life she is at one with her device, in stark contradistinction to Aldis who while watching everything around him has zeroed in on her.
So how did it all get going?
“My mother, when I was about 15, decided I needed to work out what I wanted to do with my life,” He told me. “The two of us trooped up to London where she’d made an appointment for me with a careers guidance organisation. It was all very scientific; they asked me a lot of questions, threw all the answers into a computer which spat out some graphs and they decided I’d be good at architecture, landscape gardening or photography, pick one. Photography sounded like fun so she bought me a horrible little camera and a bunch of Paterson dev & print gear. I messed around a bit and had fun but the real turning point came when she bought me a subscription : Life Library of Photography, a fabulous series of books, one a month, from Time-Life who had been commissioning awesome photography for decades.”
There is something charmingly honest about Aldis’s work which I find intriguing. He has the ability to take quite straightforward photographs which when we look pull us into other, more fascinating, worlds.
Copyrightⓒ Kim Aldis
There is nothing more ordinary and/or everyday and/or candid than a man who has fallen fast asleep in a bus or train station, but it immediately and dramatically sparks our curiosity. Is he innocently waiting on a train/bus, is he just so tired he has found the nearest seat to slumber in, is he homeless? Perhaps he is waiting for someone?
It reminded me (at a stretch) of Estragon, who dozes off in Samuel Beckett’s classic play : ‘Waiting For Godot’. Estragon’s companion Vladimir rouses him but doesn’t want to share his dreams, perhaps they might be too dark and unbearable? As Vladimir tells his friend he does not want to listen to his ‘Private Nightmares’. We can only wonder what ‘private dreams’ this man is having?
“I’ll be forever grateful to my mother, who passed last year, for that subscription to the Life Library of Photography; so many really great photographs by so many really great photographers that it’s difficult to know where to start,” he states when asked about those photographers who have gave him inspiration. “In those days I don’t think we used the term ‘street photographer’. If you photographed people on the streets you were a reportage photographer or a photojournalist. Cartier-Bresson, obviously, Arbus, Weegee. Quite a few photographers who weren’t by any stretch street photographers – Bailey, Irving Penn and I loved Avedon’s work. During and after my college years, Brian Griffin was a great influence because he was busting conventions. More recently, Parr, Dougie Wallace for his utter fearlessness and his eye for the mad. William Egglestone, Saul Leiter, Alex Webb continues to astound. I was also very taken by the work of Dennis Hopper which showed at the RA a few years ago.”
We follow this with some discussion of a shot of some people in a car which is reminiscent of a series of car photos by Garry Winogrand.
Copyrightⓒ Kim Aldis
“Yes, of course,” Kim says. “That was a few years ago, 2007, I think? I’d just picked up a new M8 and was seeing how it worked in low light. This is still one of my favourite shots.”
I ask him about how he likes to operate on the street and he tells me that because of a lack of patience he likes to keep moving. But like all street photographers he is always looking.
“People and light, always,” he responds when I ask him about what he is searching for on the street. “What else is there? I’m less interested in composition, maybe because honestly I think it’s overrated. If your subject matter is right and if you tell your story clearly then honestly, pretty much anything works.”
In addition to his street photography Kim Aldis’ body of work contains some great documentary shots. A group of photographs taken in one of his local boozers called The Devon Arms are a set of my own favourite photographic groupings.
But we return to his street photography and one of my favourite shots, a mirrored photograph brilliantly based on the theme of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five.
Copyrightⓒ Kim Aldis
“This was at Paddington railway station in London,” He explained. “I was killing time waiting for a train back home, hanging around the entrance which is the only place smokers can go for a cigarette. It’s an attractively odd place because that’s all they do; smoke and hide in their phones, tucked away in their own worlds. I’d already taken a shot of the guys at the back; they were interesting in the way they were evenly spaced and oblivious but I’d wandered up the way to see what was going on there. And, then [I] saw a plume of vape smoke out of the corner of my eye. I took myself back and planted myself in front of the five of them, waited for the next plume, which took ages, and there it was. It’s amazing how you can hide in plain sight in situations like this. I was on a 24mm lens so I was pretty close. In the five minutes I was there, not one of them spotted me. Except the guy on the left found the shot on Twitter about six months later and had some nice things to say.”
The photograph, unsurprisingly, was shortlisted for the 2019 Street Photography International awards. But, for me, it summed up Kim Aldis : ‘Brilliantly understated moments of life’.
Who doesn’t feel that some street photographs have an emotional edge to them? If a street photograph moves us in some way then we can, and we must, say that it has something. Greatness, of course, is a loaded term and what separates out the great from the good and the good and the not so good needs consensus. Time also has a hand in this…
The street photography of Brazilian shooter Gustavo Minas are often gently amusing – a man appears to be trying to shake hands with a shadow – and/or intensely thought-provoking. For me, a winning combination.
Copyrightⓒ Gustavo Minas
Minas’ street work comprises enigmatic shots of real life, edged with beautiful touches of light, shadows, shades of colour, and, at times, rippling textures. Gustavo, in turn, has a keen sense of the light and shade, an eye for the unusual, and slightly off balance scenes of the everyday. Would it be fair to say – with just a hint of Magical Realism?
A photograph which is 75 per cent red, might be a boat or some kind of ball-shaped structure painted a nice shade of red. At first we might think, ‘So what?’ Then we see the legs, the hint of a red skirt and the beauty of the red shoes. The colour is obvious, of course, but there is one more trick to this photograph – the lady’s hand thrust out to the side, presumably, preparing to flick the ash from her cigarette. A secret smoke hidden behind a red structure of some kind. Red, a colour that denotes ‘stop’ or ‘danger’.
Copyrightⓒ Gustavo Minas
But what is it that drives the Brazilian photographer
“Light, 99 per cent of the time” Gustavo told me simply of what he looks for when he is out on the street, “Now and then I will follow some interesting character or stop by a shady scenario, but most of the time it is only light and the way it can transform anything into beauty – especially if there is glass involved.”
Guatavo Minas grew up in the small Brazillian town of Cassia, which he tells me, is in the interior of Minas Gerais state, Brazil.
“I went to university in Londrina,” He revealed. “It is in the southern part of the country, to study journalism. That is where I learned the basics of photography (speed, aperture, ISO), some dark room and about names such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa. After this I moved with some friends to the north of Brazil, the idea was to set up a bar, but it never worked. Then I spent a gap year working as a waiter in London, and finally, I got back to Brazil and started working as a journalist.”
By now photography had become a large part of Minas’ life.
“There has always been an interest,” Gustavo said. “Since high school when I used to photograph barbecues and my, then, girlfriend. But when I moved back to Brazil and started working hard with a newspaper in São Paulo (12 hour days, two weekends per month), I felt I should do something else in my life to relieve the pressure.”
For Gustavo, having succumbed to the art, he was soon looking to learn and improve his work.
“I enrolled in a one year course with Carlos Moreira*,” He continued. “A master who has been photographing São Paulo since the 1960’s, and this changed everything for me. He taught me to photograph for my own satisfaction and self-expression, and about how photography is fiction and creation above all.”
Copyrightⓒ Gustavo Minas
Taken from behind, a woman carrying an umbrella on a rainy evening appears to be looking down, at a mobile phone or an iPod, perhaps. There is another woman in the background while, amusingly, Spiderman appears to be swinging his way toward the first lady.
“The second lady in the scene, out of focus, is my friend Helena,” Gustavo starts up. “That night we had been drinking in a bar close to the El Born area in Barcelona (Spain). When we decided to go home, it was raining heavily and we couldn’t find or call a taxi. After half an hour we just decided to walk in the rain to a bus stop to try our luck, and that’s when it ‘happened’.”
Personally, I like this shot a lot. It is taken at night and once more on a dark and wet evening which creates its own shadows and light reflections from the street. The golden sheen and glare of artificial light bouncing off damp streets and the Spiderman swinging toward the lens does give the composition a surreal feel to it.
“The images I like best,” Gustavo explains, “Are the ones which are more suggestive and evocative, rather than narrative. I like some degree of fiction in my images, and I try to achieve this by different means – through framing, dark shadows or reflections, for example. I like layered images because they are a good representation of the chaos, energy and multiplicity of busy cities. But, of course, sometimes all I have is an empty street and someone walking by, and I’ll photograph that too. I try not to restrict myself.”
Copyrightⓒ Gustavo Minas
He talks a lot about glass and the way the light plays on it and how that, in turn, creates distortion in the sense of reflections. In one image Minas captures a morose gentleman through the glass of a café. A woman to his left, our right, stares out the window (who isn’t wondering about what she is thinking?), while the man stirs his coffee thoughtfully (what is he thinking?).
“This is probably one of the first photographs I took that made me conscious about how reflections work,” He revealed. “How they can be used to convey parallel planes and scenes in a single frame. I don’t remember if I was totally aware of this as I was shooting, but the fact that that silhouette behind me helped me to show the woman inside the glass was a big revelation at that time. Also, this image made me realise that shooting through the glass I could get really close to people and still be relatively unobtrusive. It’s one of the first images of my ‘Bus Station’ series.”
Gustavo Minas’ street photography is by turns, intriguing, amusing and, at times, quite captivating. Is there a ‘magic realism’ about it, so noted of South American culture and especially literature as for example : Isabelle Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Jorge Borges? Ironic, because it is in this moment, when I am mulling it over, that Gustavo tells me he has been reading Japanese magic realist Haruki Murakami for the last few years.
“Crazy,” He says, pleasantly surprised that I picked up on this aspect of his street photography. “How a literary influence can show in photography.”
The next project for Gustavo is the release of his book ‘Maximum Shadow Minimal Light’ which will be launched at a solo show at the Freelens Gallery in Hamburg on May23.
“The title of the book is another literary reference,” Minas adds. “Taken from a poem : ‘The Law of How’, by Brazilian poet Paulo Leminski.”
Maybe, in the end, there are connections, and strong connections, between literature and photography, but that is a debate for another day.
Meantime, for me, Gustavo Minas presents a street photography that, quite simply, deserves attention.
Copyrightⓒ Gustavo Minas
Copyrightⓒ Gustavo Minas
Copyrightⓒ Gustavo Minas
Copyrightⓒ Gustavo Minas
You can find out more about Gustavo’s Minas’ book and its launch HERE
Jonathan Higbee and Anthology Editions are excited to announce the release of Coincidences, the first book of Higbee’s street photography, in Fall 2019. The book will comprise of over ten years of Higbee’s work, and will include never-before-seen photos from the much-lauded series.
A self-professed love letter to New York and its moments of serendipity, these intersections of passers-by, billboards, construction, and more take on new meaning and life through the lens of Higbee’s camera. In Higbee’s New York, a dancer performs on a stage of trash, graffiti unfurls from a backpack, and giants walk the streets of the city. Each photograph captures the wit, joy, and surrealism of everyday life in a sometimes chaotic world.
Jonathan Higbee is a New York-based photographer who is often noted for his street photography, but his portfolio also includes fine art and commercial work. His photos have been exhibited all over the world, and have been featured in major publications such as Huffington Post, Daily Mail, and Buzzfeed. His unique vision has amassed a large social following, where the popularity of his “Coincidences” series gained popularity on Instagram. He was awarded the World Street Photography grand prize in 2015, a LensCulture Street Photography Award in 2016, and most recently was a 2018 Hasselblad Masters finalist.
Anthology Editions is an independent book publisher based in Brooklyn, New York.An imprint of the record label Mexican Summer, Anthology is dedicated to uncovering and presenting new narratives via thoughtful, exceptionally designed publications in the fields of art, music, and pop culture history.
Coincidences by Jonathan Higbee will be published by Anthology Editions
Roger Hicks,A great editorial writer, publisher of dozens of photography books,a gentleman whom I had the privilege of knowing in recent years, a contributor to our website, passed away on April 7th 2019. Our condolences to his beloved wife Frances & family. May he rest in peace.
Roger Hicks, A great editorial writer, publisher of dozens of photography books, a gentleman whom I had the privilege of knowing in recent years, a contributor to our website, passed away on April 7th 2019. Our condolences to his beloved wife Francis & family. May he rest in peace.
I’ve written elsewhere about the benefits (and drawbacks) of attending photo events and, generally, I believe it is advantageous to attend. Photo events can be a great place to see what kind of work is trending, make new friends and contacts, and buy photography! But they should also be seen as investments or lack thereof. For example, there are often fees to attend the event, travel, eat, drink, play, etc. Unless you attend a local event, which isn’t always possible for many, attending a photo event comes with significant cost. So let’s look a little closer at AIPAD (Association of International Photography Art Dealers), which is taking place in New York City this week (April 3-6, 2019).
I’ve been to AIPAD before and, in case I’d forgotten, two minutes inside the venue and it was all fresh again. Nothing changes and that is, perhaps, the biggest negative with AIPAD. Sure, some of the work changes, but a lot of it doesn’t. Or, rather, the particular photograph by Cartier-Bresson or Dennis Hopper is different but it’s still a Cartier-Bresson or a Hopper. The same galleries showing the same names (mostly dead white guys) and this is even truer when we focus in on street photography, specifically. Even the living “greats” of street like Joel Meyerowitz or Mark Cohen were harder to spot. Although, I did see a few very old images from Bruce Gilden.
So what does all this tell us? Well, a few things. One, street photography is hard to sell and the commercial world (AIPAD is mostly galleries and publishers) isn’t really all that interested. They are not disinterested because the work isn’t in itself interesting or aesthetically good etc., they’re not interested because the money isn’t there. The old Cartier-Bresson prints or even the forty-year-old Gilden prints tell us a little more of the story. In photography, what sells with truly stupendous pricetags (when it comes to street photography) is really big names and really old work. So, two, street photographs need to be blessed with time and fame. Even then, the Gilden and Meyerowitz prints were not exactly the hotcakes on the AIPAD buffet, believe me!
There are other things that bug me about AIPAD too! Let me get them off my shoulders while I’m on a roll. Namely, I dislike being charged to enter a place merely for the purpose of looking at things that I can then buy. Sure, I could also get a $4 cup of warm drip coffee or a “sugarless” scone for $5. At some point, I just felt like I was stuck in an airport being forced to look at a lot of overpriced, bad art while, simultaneously, haemorrhaging money! The gallery representatives were, at best, disinterested and snobby and, at worst, outright rude. Yes, I get it. Everybody coming up to you is trying to push their portfolio and score a gallery (although it should be noted that I was not doing this, I had no portfolio, no cards, and no camera). But even if I were doing so, what, exactly, do they expect? They set up this event, attract the “general public” (read: eager amateur photographers), charge admission, and then snub us for showing up! Now, let me be clear about something. AIPAD is a trade show. “Trade” means those who, by profession, buy and sell photography. And, in this way, it has always confused me, slightly, as to why the public is invited to such an event in the first place. The answer, of course, is that we will happily go and we will happily (or not so happily, as in my case) pay – even for the $4 warm drip coffee!
`AIPAD is not alone here. For example, in the watch world, (I’m a watch collector) Baselworld (one of the world’s premier watch trade shows) is also experiencing the same issues. It’s primarily a trade show that also invites the public and changes them a fee for the privilege of being ignored. That part is nothing new. It has always been a convention for “trade insiders”, not dissimilar from AIPAD. What is new is the fact that some of the major watch brands have stopped attending. In the age of social media and internet sales, face-to-face relations with retailers are not as critical to watch manufacturers, especially given the cost of “wining the dining” them for a week at Baselword in Switzerland. Not to mention the fees they too have to pay to attend such an event themselves. This year, one of the richest watch conglomerates in the world – The Swatch Group – just didn’t attend. The CEO of Swatch Group, Nick Hayek, had a very revealing tale about why he didn’t register his brands too. Essentially, he wanted change. He wanted to the convention to be less arrogant and snobby and to open up to the modern realities of the Swiss watch industry – which is booming. Hayek stated, “We don’t need a trade fair.” Indeed, trade fairs, especially those which also attract (and subsequently ignore) the public are starting to smell of dinosaurs.
So, as the watch brands drop out, Baselworld is becoming a bit of a dud. If there is no “trade” business going on, and there is nothing, really, for the general public, what is one left with, exactly? Well, a big convention poorly designed for the people who are actually in attendance – the watch enthusiast public (or small players from minor media outlets, etc). The same phenomenon is happening at AIPAD. Less and less, the show is about the contacts between those in the trade (at least from what I saw and heard) and more and more it is about capitalizing on the attendance of amateur enthusiast photographers looking to interact with galleries and publishers as a way of advancing their career. But this is not what AIPAD is providing – not at all. So, we go, portfolios or calling cards in hand, dutifully pay our admission, and then get humored, at best, or totally ignored. We get overcharged for the coffee and, in case we’ve forgotten, we get to see that virtually no one achieving gallery representation is anything like us. There are no emerging street photographers on the walls to inspire us. No, what we see if more Cartier-Bresson, more Winogrand, and more Model.
Now, have I got this all wrong? Many will say, absolutely. Some will even claim that I am nothing but a bitter photographer who is upset at not gaining gallery attention. Well, allow me to stop you right there. For the record, I’ve never sought gallery representation. In fact, I have virtually no physical prints of my photography. I’m a book photographer and I have two books in print with a good publisher, which is probably more than my work deserves. I’m not bitter and I (personally) am seeking nothing. Rather, I am perplexed. I’m confused about why I should pay to attend an event that offers me precious little other than an opportunity to shop for art which, largely speaking, I cannot afford. Sure, I’m being a little harsh, AIPAD did organize a few photographer talks and some book signings. But, again, really just designed to drain more money out of the enthusiast public in attendance. In the end, AIPAD is poorly designed for the bulk of the people who actually attend. For this reason, I don’t predict a healthy future for AIPAD. Like Hayek, I think it is time for a change. I think it is time for AIPAD to become a lot less arrogant and snobby. But I’ve been wrong before.
So, what would I like to see at AIPAD? I’d like to see more attractions and events designed to engage and interact with the enthusiast photographer and amateur or “beginner” art buyer. You know, those people who are actually attending AIPAD. Why not have a portfolio review center set up? It would be a hit among the attendees and it alone would, for many, justify admission fees. Maybe someone from each gallery could (descend to earth, if only briefly) and volunteer some time at the portfolio center to look at work and offer a few humble morsels of feedback. Why not have a box at your gallery booth where an aspiring photographer can drop her calling card. Sure, the box could be a black hole that empties into the Hudson River (and would almost certainly be so) but that’s not the point, it’s the gesture that is missing. No one attends with the actual expectation of signing with a gallery, but they do attend with the expectation of feeling that they have a chance to do so. What else? Well, there could be more talks and presentations. In this day and age, how does someone attract gallery attention, precisely? Is it really all about who you know? Galleries are often quick to try and dispell this nepotistic notion, but rather slow at revealing how it actually does work. Be transparent. Talk to us. Even a door prize would be great! Surely someone like Stephen Shore could cough up a print of that cheese sandwich we’ve all been looking at for decades! They say, “Build it and they will come”. But what if we come and there is nothing there? A question AIPAD would do well to consider before it’s too late.
“I have always known that total freedom was key to achieving
an authentic and deep photographic dialogue.” – Gil Rigoulet
Gil Rigoulet has spent some forty years behind the lens of his camera and the results are nothing short of brilliant. Indeed, he is one of those photographers that make you wonder why he’s not insanely famous. Yes, the work is that good. Go ahead, see for yourself!
Gil, you have spent your life around the camera. You have worked with a long and impressive list of names, even Henri Cartier-Bresson. What moment stands out from all of those years? What moment made you realize that photography was to be your passion, your vocation?
It is this need to see and know what to say that is important. This vision came early for me and was mastered over time. It was an instinctive vision and one full of humor, like all these photos taken in 1978 on Angleterrre. It was this year when I received a sign about my destiny as a visual writer, I was only 23 years old. I understood that above all it is a state of mind, a thought about what surrounds us; The scene that does not need a camera is a point of view. I put together a photograph that suited me, an extension of my way of thinking, and then I had this need to see constantly.
For many years you worked as a press photographer for La Monde, but also produced street photography in parallel. How did working in one genre help you in the other?
I was passionate about photos, making a living shooting pictures brought me a sense of balance. But the photos I took for a newspaper weren’t necessarily the topics I was interested in. I took time off for myself and traveled to fulfil my own calls for images in England, Rome, Czechoslovakia, Napoli, Poland, Greece, Morocco…etc. I have always known that total freedom was key to achieving an authentic and deep photographic dialogue… and most of the time I traveled alone.
I realized with time that this cohabitation with the press was not favorable to my photography.
Copyrightⓒ Gil Rigoulet
Copyrightⓒ Gil Rigoulet
Many of your great photographs are focused around bodies of water, pools, oceans, seas, etc. Why water?
Water has always been my element, I always swam. I would swim for two hours when I was in the sea – the happiness of being calm. In this vision at the water’s edge, I feel my body in this aquatic movement where I’ve melted away since I was very young: remembering holidays by the sea, and later by the pools. At the time, it was fun, we were hanging out with friends, we stayed there for hours, even without necessarily swimming, we met lots of people. It was noisy and lively, with my diving goggles I was going to find peace underwater, I was doing long apneas: I discovered these underwater bodies that were losing themselves.
I first began taking photos around the pool of Evreux, where I lived at the time. In the summer of 1984, Christophe, a Parisian friend, joined us at the pool of Evreux with a small amphibious device, the Baroudeur (HDS) manufactured by Fujica for families on vacation. A true wonder of a camera that could go down to 5 m of depth and had a very beautiful optical quality. I borrowed it for summer. Then I bought four of them, over time, and they have not left me in 30 years. With this Fujica I was finally at ease to mingle with the swimmers, above and below the surface. I followed these bodies that floated and suspended, others wandered, they all intermingled in a slow ballet. The water unveiled and imposed their unconfessed sensuality.
My gaze slid into this aquatic intimacy, as free as the water itself!
It is not prohibited to make photos freely in the pools. I continue this series but in private pools since 2014.
Susan Sontag once remarked that even the most mundane of photographs become more interesting with the passage of time. How do you feel the passage of time has affected your work?
Time loosens the mind, allows us to see what we did not know was before our very eyes. I will not say that the most banal photos become interesting over time! It is rather the gaze that matures. What seems more critical to me is how the constant formatting that we undergo in our construction, in our education, then to only have it separate us from who we are in our professional lives.
I made photos in the spirit of the trends I belonged to in the 70s and 80s. Looking at my contact sheets 20 years later, I discovered some of my best pictures long after making them. Some series emerged and were exhibited 30 years later!
Copyrightⓒ Gil Rigoulet
Copyrightⓒ Gil Rigoulet
As someone who worked for many years without social media, how do you feel about the way in which we consume media today? Is Instagram a positive, negative, or neutral force on photography?
At one time we just needed to be known in a professional environment and it went fast. It was always like that. Currently, I rarely work with the press. I work more with galleries, publishers, cultural institutions and museums. The interaction with social media is weak for them, it can often be mere communication.
Instagram is an ocean of images, we can get lost and have to suffer this incessant flow. But if your photography is mature it can be a strong communication axis that can develop our more usual networks and generate global reputation.
In many of your photographs the people seem to be at least tacitly cooperating. That is, many of your photographs do not seem to be true candids. How do you interact with your subjects? Do you ask people to pose?
In my street photographs, there is no contact with the people I photograph, rarely people interact with me. In Naples, it happened once with two Italians in a car who played with me. For the Rockabilly, I followed them for four months and the idea was that they forget I was there.
In the street or in a swimming pool, I go to the essential, it is the people who interest me. I photograph in a zone between 1.5m and 2m, it is a zone of tension, the people barely perceive me or do not pay enough attention to me, everything goes very quickly. What guides me are the acts, the expressions, those things that reveal a situation and enter the perimeter of life.
I also remain as neutral as possible, I do not release any complicated, negative waves. I feel the frame of my picture and my camera triggers instinctively. It’s a game in thousandths of a second where the consciousness has to be preceded. We are in the present and experience this fleeting photo. I never have problems with people, if I have to speak very quickly with them, I will, but it is rare. It all depends on your behaviour. You have to be master of all these situations. Do not hesitate.
I notice that you also did a lot of work with Polaroids. What was it about this format that captured your interest?
I always liked the square format and the Polaroid. The unique object, being able to show a photo made with chemistry. It must be said that all my photography is on film. In 2014, the Molitor pool reopened after 25 years of closure. I wanted to redo the photos in this mythical place that I had photographed in 1985. Unfortunately, it became a private hotel and I could not redo photos as before. I had to bring models to take the pictures. I used the Polaroid in this project as a nod to the 80s.
What equipment have you used over the years? How important has gear been to your experience as a photographer?
For all the reporting work in the press I had a range of lenses and several cameras.
But for my street photography, I have a Nikon FM2, TITAN. It is light and strong; it is a 35mm that I have had since the 70s. I shoot on TRI-X movie film.
A lot of people are much more aware of being photographed these days. Some countries, such as France, have even tightened up the laws around candid street photography. Do you find it more difficult to photograph in public today as compared with the 70s and 80s?
Everything has been disrupted in the world of photography on many fronts, there has also been, for twenty years, a wave of trials in the courts that made it clear that one could ask money from newspapers for use of photos. The right to own one’s image is reinforced. As a journalist, we managed to stop showing faces, and instead took pictures of people from behind, or we had to have authorizations for closed spaces. But that has limits also. France has become a hard country to photograph but with a phone everything is possible. And there are more and more photographers who are now interested in the street. It has become obvious that the 70-80’s were a time of happiness for this genre.
Copyrightⓒ Gil Rigoulet
Copyrightⓒ Gil Rigoulet
What comes next for Gil Rigoulet?
Currently, I am mainly busy sorting through my archives that I am beginning to show. The work is titanic … I just spent a full year scanning the images I made of France!
Otherwise, I work on series that are important to me and that I have been pursuing for the past 30 or 40 years, such as the body and the water, or landscapes from a moving car.
I also just completed a very aesthetic and intimate color series – a 3-year-long project on the Molitor swimming pool in Paris using a Polaroid SX70. And I went back to photographing the streets in London last summer. I am also working on a black-and-white series of portraits using a 6X7 medium format.
The main thing now is to show all this work in exhibitions and books. I am also preparing to give workshops.
Gil Rigoulet was the first journalist to work with the newspaper Le
Monde beginning in 1984. Their collaborations lasted more than twenty years. He worked side by side with Henri Cartier-Bresson on a supplement for them called, Portrait of the Everyday Life. During his career, Rigolet has collaborated with numerous publications such as Geo, Grands Reportages, Elle, Figaro magazine, The Sunday Times, La Republica, La Stampa, and El Pais. He continued to work for the press until 2007. Rigoulet now works on his personal photography projects, some of which were photographed decades ago but are only now being exhibited.