Archive for February, 2011

Rachel Papo – Desperately Perfect

Desperately Perfect

All Images Copyright © Rachel Papo

Rachel Papo is an Israeli photographer who was born in 1970 in Columbus, Ohio and was raised in Israel. She began photographing as a teenager and attended a renowned fine-arts high-school in Haifa, Israel. At age eighteen she served in the Israeli Air Force as a photographer. She earned a BFA in Fine Arts from Ohio State University (1991-96), and an MFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts in New York City (2002-05).

Rachel’s photographs are included in several public and private collections, and were exhibited and published worldwide. She currently lives in Woodstock, New York, pursuing fine art photography and accepting commissioned projects. Rachel is represented by ClampArt Gallery in New York City, and her first book, Serial No. 3817131, was published by powerHouse Books. She has been awarded a NYFA Fellowship in 2006 and has won a Lucie Award in 2009. Her latest personal work, Desperately Perfect, is set amoungst young ballet students at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Desperately Perfect

‘Fifteen-year-old Katya is devastated. This week is the big international conference, in which dance professionals from around the world visit the renowned Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia. They will be allowed to get a glimpse of the young students during several of their daily ballet lessons. The demonstration for her class was about to start, when Katya was ordered by the teacher to leave the room. Why did she have to get injured the day before the conference? This was her chance to be seen by an international crowd, and she has worked so hard to reach this point. Her shoulder hurts, but she doesn’t care. She is used to this pain. If it didn’t hurt how would she get better?’

Desperately Perfect

Desperately Perfect

Desperately Perfect

‘In these times of reality TV and instant stardom, in a country that is constantly evolving towards western culture, there exists an institution in which the old ways are still practiced. From the age of ten until eighteen; twelve hours a day; six days a week; on the barre or in a classroom—for the students of this school there are no shortcuts.

This project is a look into the lives of a group of adolescents who, in their hope for a better, wider life, spend the majority of their youth in fierce competition. Based on my own memories of being a ballet student for nine years of my childhood, never being the best in class, these images emphasize the emotional side of these children’s uncompromising reality. They stretch their bodies further every day, desperate to stand out, while constantly being encouraged by their instructors to be uniform—identical to one another. Engaged in endless repetition of physical phrases, these students obsessively strive for a level of perfection that is always out of reach.’

Desperately Perfect 

 

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Todd Hido – A Road Divided

All Images Copyright © Todd Hido

‘Driving lonely roads on the outskirts of cities, Hido creates poignant images filled with inexplicable gravity, cinematic scenes of places that somehow exist in our collective memory. In these new pictures, Hido demonstrates his fluidity within the daytime realm, putting aside the harder edge that characterizes his night work by photographing through veils of rain or ice. Delicately, potently, embracing the beauty of the pictorial, Hido’s new pictures present an image plane that is often fully disintegrated, recalling impressionist painting. With an unquestionably modern effect, he often frames the compositions from inside his car, photographing straight through the windshield, using it as an additional lens and bringing a sense of timing and moment to these stationary scenes. Todd Hido’s photographs have been exhibited internationally, and are included in numerous museum collections, including the Whitney Museum of Art, New York; Guggenheim Museum, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.’

 

 

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After Hiroshige – Emily Allchurch’s Tokyo Story

Last month saw the launch of Emily Allchurch’s latest exhibition, Tokyo Story. I have to say that I greatly admire her work and in all honesty it would be hard not to. They are seductively beautiful in appearance and of such detail that a single image could hold your interest for perhaps hours. Working to reconstruct master painters her latest project is a set of ten images that reference Utagawa Hiroshige’s, One Hundred Famous Views of Edo.  It is a unique way in which she chooses to make her images, for they are not one photograph but several hundred, stitched togeather to create the final image.

Image copyright © Emily Allchurch

Image copyright © Emily Allchurch

Image copyright © Emily Allchurch

However, for me my interest lies beyond the technical aspects of the images.  What is most fascinating is the contrast between the woodblock prints of Hiroshige and the photographs of Allchurch. Both works exist in negative form and are infinitely reproducible and yet only one set has to date been widely reproduced. The tradition of printing within Japan during the lifetime of Hiroshige was to make copies available for distribution on a large-scale. Evidence of this is present in the prints themselves, in fact the very title of Hiroshige’s most famous set of images reveals this. One Hundred Famous Views of Edo is comprised of landscapes that many residents of the city would have been familiar with, if not by sight then certainly from stories and poems relating to them. These were the postcards of Japan.

In Meguro Drum Bridge and Sunset Hill, Hiroshige depicts the path to a Famous temple dedicated to the King of esoteric knowledge that leads over a Drum Bridge. The shape and the fact that it was constructed of stone rather than the usual wood made it a tourist attraction for the pilgrims. The site would have been well-known to many in Japan at the time. The Shogatsuya teahouse, famous for its sweet-bean soup is indirectly depicted in the image; the roof can be seen in the bottom righthand corner. To the left is Sunset Hill which provided an attractive view over the Meguro River valley. Do Allchurch’s photographs fulfill the same role?

The answer is of course no. The pictures have been described  as “a gentle social narrative for the city (Tokyo, previously known as Edo) today.” They certainly give a glimpse of the nation. Like the paintings of Hiroshige they are constructed of small details that each seem to have significance, although they certainly stop short of any serious critique of Japan. However all of it seems strangely futile set in the style that she has adopted. As a homage to the inspiring artist their aesthetic qualities drown out the significance of what is contained within the image. Whilst viewing them one cannot help but feel that this is not so much how Japan is but rather how we are encouraged to think of Japan. There are also the obvious differences in the production and reception of the images. They are, in the words of Allchurch, “to be see as artworks”. In the tradition of Western art this simply means that they are limited to only a small number of copies. It is perhaps ironic that a western artist should go to Japan to reproduce reproducible art using a means that is reproducible and create a limited set of art works.  

Image copyright © Emily Allchurch

Despite these observations I still enjoyed the photographs. If you happen to be in London then the exhibition is running until the 11th March at the Japan House Gallery, 13/14 Cornwall Terrace, NW1 4QP. If you can make time then they are certainly worth the trip.

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