Sunday, June 30, 2013

New York Confidential 2013

This time around, seemed as if half of Manhattan was under construction/renovation, and along with the incessant crowds, noise and heat, it made one anxious to flee the island for the outer boroughs which, not surprisingly, have long exceeded their saturation point for sopping up the excess overflow of flotsam and humanity. And regardless of borough, there's just no escaping the 90 degree heat and humidity which guarantees you end your day as one soggy, exhausted, sweat encrusted salt lick.

What was considerably more disappointing was the lack of photo books and exhibits that I could genuinely get excited about. I did get to see the much ado about nothing exhibit The Neighbors- and the controversy doth exceed the reality. First off, they look more like paintings than photographs due to their diffuse, unsaturated colors (shot through smog smeared windows), and are, if anything, so conservatively cropped with such a minimum of detail, that there's really little there, there for any kind or real controversy (let alone illegality), other than what some clever publicity campaign may seek to embellish.                                               

Photo: Charles Johnstone

What should be mentioned about this particular show however is that the smaller adjacent room harbored the best exhibit I saw while there- Charles Johnstone's Handball Courts feature a lovely series of square format color "portraits." Handball courts were as crowded and rowdy as basketball courts back in the sixties, but in the seventies they fell into disuse, and ever since (far as I know) pretty much exist as solitary, urban tombstones. Smashing a tiny rubber ball repeatedly into a cement wall with your hand is considerably harder than it sounds (try it), just as making these minimalist monuments look the cute and chiseled "perfections" they appear in this series certainly took more than the casual snapshooter's luck. An absolute joy to behold!

Photo: Charles Johnstone


The only book that seriously grabbed my attention was Gerry Johansson's Deutchland featuring small, B&W, square format photos featuring "architectural" landscapes of German cities listed in alphabetical order. Each of the small prints within the book are individually fascinating in their own subtle way which, in turn, make for one overall mesmerizing experience!

Photo: Gerry Johansson


I was hoping that Stephen Dupont's Raskols: The Gangs Of Papua New Guinea would be a keeper (I've posted on them here previously), but the maddeningly muddied contrast employed within the book is a sad disservice to these truly outstanding portraits! This is the second time that the contrast/print quality of a pH book has truly belittled the experience of the work involved... These powerful portraits deserve so much better (as w/Vivian Maier).


The one personal photo op of considerable interest this time around was Brooklyn Bridge Park, particularly the small mound of earth that constitutes the area directly under the... Manhattan Bridge. Bordering the East River in DUMBO, this miniscule swath of dirt, shore and greenery harbors a plethora of photo ops in all its little nooks and crannies with its constant, ever changing mix of visitors imbibing in a myriad of activities. Managed to spend a few afternoons there, and will hopefully have a few decent results to show for it.

Last and not least, I actually had the honor to meet up with the good professor himself, John Edwin Mason, as we enthusiastically reviewed The Brooklyn Fence exhibit and the state of mankind in general; and thanks to reader and pro photographer Michael Meyer for reaching out and meeting up despite the sweltering heat...

More to follow...

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