Thursday, June 17, 2010

This time it's personal

The thing I find most interesting about Fraction #15 is that the portfolios are generally very personal. Bryan Formhals, Geoffrey Ellis, Jane Tam, and Todd Walker used personally meaningful locations as launching pads to explore a sense of place. Joerg Colberg and Christy Karpinski based photographs on their career/work experiences outside of photography. Melanie McWhorter and I focused on our immediate families. In every case, the photos could be tied directly to the photographer's daily life.

As far as I know there was no effort on David Bram's part to coordinate the work. He simply asked a range of bloggers to submit whatever they wanted, with the sole caveat that it not yet be widely seen. The fact that everyone chose a portfolio with a close personal tie is pretty interesting. It tells me that this type of work is out there but perhaps photographers tend to sit on it while focusing on other portfolios. In this case, Fraction provided the forum to draw it out.

Fresh Nails, Geoffrey Ellis, from Fraction #15

I don't think getting personal is the only avenue to meaningful photography. Some photographers —Larry Sultan, Mitch Epstein, Sally Mann, Nan Goldin, e.g.— make their personal lives a conscious part of their ouvres while many others —Cartier-Bresson, Sherman, Gursky, Soth, e.g.— don't. Either way is fine, and no one is under any obligation to blur the boundary.

But think about it. Wouldn't it be fascinating to see the private daily photos of someone whose work is normally not very personal? The birthday parties and baby pictures and old hometowns? The inner life? Seeing these photos would be like reading the personal journals of a famous novelist. I'm sure such images exist buried on contacts by, say, Winogrand or Salgado, but they may as well be invisible. When something like that sees daylight, as it did by chance in the recent Fraction, I'm pulling up a seat.

Spurred by the Fraction portfolios, Melanie McWhorter and I had a chance to explore this whole issue further in a chat with Alex Hunley of Duckrabbit Digital, and photographer Michael Koehler. The conversation —found here— ranges from the nature of personal photography to hidden images of ducks and rabbits.

Looking through Melanie's work beforehand, I found one picture that didn't make it into Fraction but was perhaps my favorite, this shot:

Melanie McWhorter

It reminds me of this one which I found in a very old library book yesterday:

Tod Papageorge, from the exhibit Vision and Expression, 1969,
George Eastman House

Quick quiz. Look closely at both images. What do you see, a dog or a bush?


wolf said...

two dogs

Blake Andrews said...

Two dogs in the bush is worth one in the hand.

Ben Murphy said...

is it a cat?

Fraction Magazine said...

I asked nothing other than "send me work" from the seven photographers featured in #15.

The idea behind this issue was to allow the bloggers and critics to "put up or shut up". And I think you "put up" really well.

I am quite proud of this issue and have received several positive emails and quite a few "great issue" comments in person, especially at Review Santa Fe.

Thank you for being a part of it.

david bram