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Rob Skeoch – Interview on Street Photography and What it means to be a gritty outlaw

searching for china 2

Today I speak with pro photographer Rob Skeoch, whom I met through a street art show we’re having together along with sculptor Barbara Di Renzo at the Homer-Watson House and Gallery in Doon, Ontario called Inside/Out (Street Art Bombing).

Here’s Rob swimming with a shark somewhere.  Rob looks, oddly enough, quite at home, while the shark looks rather incredulous about things.

rob skeoch

Here’s the show poster:

Street art is a term that may seem rather nebulous to some, even myself (who has been labelled a street artist and is involved in a show about street art), but I wanted to take this opportunity to explore it more, via this interview with Rob (who also fulfills the qualifications for being a street artist in one way or another).  If anyone should know, it’s apparently us!

Here’s some of Rob’s photography hanging in the gallery, looking good and rather mysterious!

homer watson house and gallery show with rob skeoch

Sit back, relax, and enjoy my interview with Mr. Rob Skeoch!


How long have you been doing photography and what got you interested in photography to begin with?

Rob: I’ve been doing photography for most of my life. Starting in high school in the camera club that provided photos for the yearbook.

I always found it fascinating and there was nothing else I wanted to work at. It’s funny how something you first try in high school can still be interesting to you forty years later.


What was the first camera you owned?

Rob: My very first camera was the Kodak X15, a plastic point and shoot with a drop in film cartridge.

Kodak X15

I used this type of camera in high school, until I bought a Pentax F camera in my final year of high school.


What passions do you have other than photography that might surprise people?

Rob: I’ve only been interested in two things for most of my life, photography and scuba diving.There’s nothing as exciting as diving with sharks or any of the big fish.

Last week I was diving in the Red Sea and later this spring I’m in the Philippines, mostly shooting underwater video.


What is a “photo essay”?

Rob: A photo essay is just a story that you tell through a series of photos. Maybe it’s two pictures or maybe it’s a collection of 20-30 shots. If presented properly, in a sequence that makes sense you can make a stronger point than you can with just one photo.

(The following piece was taken from Rob’s photo essay, Streets of Steel, about the city of Hamilton, Ontario – Click here to view more of this and other photo essays by Rob Skeoch)

In a sense the photo essay is a connected group of photos that are telling a story through a similar point of view.

Street photography is usually just one photo so it tells a more limited story. A group of street shots don’t always form into a photo essay either sometimes they’re just a group of photos about a similar thing but each saying something unique.


What type of street photography do you feel that you do?  Do you ever stop to define it as a particular genre or sub-genre?

Rob: Right now my street photography is more linked to portraits on the street. It’s an area I’m planning to explore this summer.

These portraits are different than straight Street Photography which tends to be more random and might be more sophisticated compositionally than portraits would be.

(The following piece was taken from Rob’s photo essay, Searching for China – Click here to view more of this and other photo essays by Rob Skeoch)

searching for china rob skeoch photograph


Do you have any primary influences that made you want to be a photographer? (these don’t have to be other photographers per se)

Rob: There’s so many great photographers who work in the genre but some work worth considering would be from Eugene Smith or Peter Turnley.


How important is presentation with your work and how do you go about it?

Rob: Part of communicating through photography, whether it’s fashion or something from the street is how the viewer experiences the artwork.

If you take great photos and hide them in a shoebox, you’re not really communicating. It’s only by having your artwork out there that the circle becomes complete.

I’ve tried shows using different gallery techniques to get people looking at the show to really see the photos.

Right now my work is printed small so people have to lean in to see it. The small print size forces them to do that. Is it the best way to go? I’m not sure. A small print will rarely have the impact of a larger one but it’s something I’m exploring.

rob skeotch

Will I make 5×7 prints for my next show? Likely not as I want to try different ways to present the work. The great thing with small prints is they’re like jewels hanging on the wall, each one very intimate. Plus the smaller size makes them available to a greater range of collectors.

Photography has become a funny business for those trying to make money at it. The opportunities have never been greater for the real top level shooter while the middle of the road talent is likely making no money at it.

With so many photos being taken and so many genres of photography, it’s hard to find a thread that links everyone together.

Being curious is likely a good trait to have if you want to be an artist, but on the other hand limiting your interests might be needed if you want to rise above the level of hack and take things to a higher level.


You work with a large company currently.  How do you approach work differently for them than you do for yourself?

Rob: For me, I work at Sony in a demanding job, so photography is an outlet from that work, and street photography is my genre because I can do it anywhere

I don’t have to have much time set aside for it, can find a subject anywhere, and don’t need much gear.

If I’m shooting digital I likely only have one camera and a small zoom with me, and if I’m shooting film I likely have one or two lenses and an old Leica film camera.

Although I work in the digital imaging department at Sony, shooting on film is often a nice break from digital and then having to edit on the computer. It’s great to be in the darkroom instead. 

The other thing about shooting film is you get to use some of the all-time classic cameras now that they’re less costly because most people want digital cameras.

With the better cameras the “user experience” is so much at a higher level it just makes the entire process that much more enjoyable.


To see more of your work, where should people go?

There is more work over at robskeoch.com


Thanks Rob!

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My Top 10 Best Contemporary Photographers

Photography is about a single point of a moment. It’s like stopping time. As everything gets condensed in that forced instant. But if you keep creating these points, they form a line which reflects your life.

-Nobuyoshi Araki

Photography is a medium of contradictions. It is both ridiculously easily and almost impossibly difficult. Being able to see things is easy, as we need only open our eyes for stimuli to enter, but being able to capture a very specific and meaningful moment is the difficult part.

A good photo is comprised of many things, not only one must hit the shutter at the right moment in time, but the composition, color coordination, light and perspective play a significant role too.

A photographer is an editor of reality in trying to make sense of reality; he tries to distill the essence of his subject- a scene, feeling or persona, into a single, two-dimensional image.

The work of all photograph artists is about the nature of the photographic-the making of the images, rather than the taking of a photograph. As with much conceptual art, the process seems to be as important as the end result.

We’ve listed Top 10 Contemporary Photographers who are known for their passion, dedication and style. The photographers are randomly ordered and the order does not reflect any ranking among them.

Annie Leibovitz

The legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz is probably the most well-known and well-respected living American photographer.

Annie Leibovitz began her career as a photojournalist for Rolling Stone magazine in 1970, and was the first woman to be named chief photographer at Rolling Stone at her early age of 24.

In 1983, she joined the staff of Vanity Fair magazine and Vogue afterwards, where, over four decades, she has developed a large body of work- dramatic, quirky and iconic portraits of actors, musicians, athletes, writers, business and political figures, offering a collective portrait of contemporary art.

Her signature style is crisp, well lighted and perfectly tailored to these celebrity-fuelled times.

Visit Annie Leibovitz on Facebook

Leibovitz deliberately conceals her subjects behind concept and costume; celebrities become sculptures or theatrical players. Her interest is not in the unguarded moment, but the staged moment; not the inner life, but the outer life.

She has been designated a Living Legend by the U.S. Library of Congress and has received many honors including The American Society of Magazine Editors’ first Creative Excellence Award, the International Center of Photography’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Centenary Medal of the Royal Photographic Society in London.

Read our full article on Annie Leibovitz here


Lee Jeffries

Jeffries is a self-taught and self-founded photographer based in Manchester, England. His striking series of black-and-white portraits of homeless women and men has surprised the insular photography world.

His subjects came from London, Paris, Los Angeles, Rome, New York and other urban areas whom he gets to know by living rough with them; the relationship between them enabling him to capture authenticity and intimacy in his portraits.

Jeffries takes close-up head shots on his subjects, capturing the emotional expression of those who are often invisible to a majority of the population. He uses light and shadow in a religious way, and his images have been described as ‘religious iconography’.

Visit Lee Jeffries’ official website here

Lee has also been on a mission to raise awareness of, and founds for, the homeless. He has published two acclaimed fund-raising books,

Homeless and Lost Angeles and donated thousands of pounds of his own money to help those he photographs.

He has taken the gold, silver and bronze titles in the annual Amateur Photographer magazine competition over the last three years, but despite the recent recognition his work continues to be self-funded.


Timothy Hogan

American photographer Timothy Hogan is award-wining photographer well-known for his lighting mastery, craftsmanship and uniquely precise still-life images.

Over twenty years he shoots for international brands and advertising agencies in the beverage, technology, beauty, fashion fragrance and design industries including Chanel, Calvin Klein, Budweiser, Target, Tommy Hilfiger, Visa among numerous other companies.

His photographs integrate his impeccable eye for design, the California lifestyle with his passion of surfing and exploration.

Visit Timothy’s official website here

Creative and inventive since childhood, Timothy’s history of taking things apart yields a unique ability to create elegant solutions to even the most complex image request.

His work can be dramatic and his images filled with a wealth of symbols and a vivid play of lighting and colors.

He keeps things creative but takes a craftsman’s approach to setting up the shoot; this, coupled with support from the best producers, retouchers and studios, allow Timothy to produce incredible results in photography in the high-pressure advertising world.

Hogan is one of two Hasselblad Ambassadors in the U.S. with work featured in Communication Arts, Graphics, Victor by Hasselblad and many other publications all over the world.


Réhahn

A French born photographer based in Hoi An, central Vietnam, Réhahn Croqueville is particularly known for his portraits of Vietnam, India and Cuba.

His passion for photographic art started a crescendo line after his first journeying to the northern regions of the Vietnam making his way down; he published his first book ‘Vietnam, Mosaic of Contrast in January 2014.

It aims to show Vietnam in a natural and spontaneous light. By capturing images of these exceptionally contrasting cultures of Vietnam, he has witnessed the complex diversity and fragility of some ethnic groups’ cultural heritage.

Collecting their traditional costumes and artifacts, he has built up the Precious Heritage Collection, which is now the core of the Art Gallery Museum in Hoi An, central Vietnam.

Réhahn was described as the photographer ‘who captures the soul of his models’; his photos is the random and natural moment, of which he captures when spending his time with his subjects.

Réhahn collaborates with BBC, Travel Live, Conde Nast Traveler, The Times, National Geographic, among others top media, on a regular basis for the purchase of his photos.

Visit Rehahn’s official website here

He is very active on social networks and today he is one of the most featured photographers of the last five years, having amassed a serious following.


Steve McCurry

Documentary photographer and storyteller Steve McCurry is one of the iconic figures in contemporary photography for almost forty years, best known for his evocative color photography.

His work spans conflicts, ancient traditions and contemporary culture from six continents and countless countries capturing the essence of human struggle and joy.

McCurry has covered many areas of civil and international conflict, including, Pakistan, Beirut, Cambodia, the Philippines, the Gulf War, the former Yugoslavia, Tibet and Afghanistan.

He focuses on the human consequences of war, not only showing what war impresses on the landscape, but rather, on the human face.

Visit Steve McCurry’s website here

His work has been featured in every major magazine in the world; a high point in McCurry’s career was the rediscovery of the previously unidentified Afghan refugee girl that many have described as the most recognizable photograph in the world today.

McCurry has received some of the most prestigious awards in the industry, including Robert Capa Gold Medal, four first prize awards from the World Press Photo contest, Olivier Rebbot Award, and a Centenary Medal for Lifetime Achievement from the Royal Photographic Society in London.


Jason M. Peterson

As the Chief Creative Officer for Havas North America Jason M. Peterson’s work in advertising impacted his photography enhancing his ability to tell a story through monochromatic imagery.

From stunning cityscapes to candid street photography Peterson aims to evoke emotion through his work. His work is moody, but crisp and clear. He works with shadows, lines and angles to draw out unique forms within composition.

His photographs, juxtaposing urban architecture with human silhouettes have a bold, graphic quality that is immediately recognizable.

Visit Jason Peterson’s Instagram here

The Chicago based photographer has been taking pictures for over 25 years, but recently started sharing his work widely; his alluring black and white photos have earned him an unparalleled 1 million followers on Instagram.


Joe McNally

Joe McNally is a long-time photojournalist and internationally acclaimed American photographer. Although the majority of his career has been spent shooting for magazines, such as National Geographic, Time or Sport Illustrated during the 90s, McNally served as Life magazine’s staff photographer, the first one in 23 years.

The photographer is known for his ability to produce technically and logistically complex assignments with expert use of light and color, but his charming demeanor, humor and confidence make him a sought-after choice from CEO’s to celebrities to commercial and magazine clients alike.

Visit Joe McNally’s official website here

He is one of the rare photographers who have bridged the world between advertising and photojournalism. One of McNally’s most notable projects, Faces of Ground Zero, has become known as one of the most significant responses to the tragedy at the World Trade Center.

McNally’s impressive marketing, advertising and promotional work has amassed the top-rated clients including FedEx, Adidas, Bogen, American Ballet Theatre, Nixon, Sony, General Electric, Epson, New York Stock Exchange, MetLife, Beijing Cultural Commission, and so on.


Boogie (Vladimir Milivojevich)

Serbian photographer Vladimir Milivojevich, well-known as Boogie, is considered as ’one of the most influential photographers of street culture in the new millennium’.

Since his first book “It’s All Good” published by PowerHouse in 2006, Boogie has been granting his audience with rare access into a world defined by poverty, violence and disarray. His pictures of heroin addicts and gang members were pretty shocking at times.

The streets of the world are his playground. Rarely romanticizing the origin of intent behind his work, Boogie’s intimate images offer a vivid portrait of metropolitan cities around the world.

From Belgrade to Brooklyn he is a dedicated documentarian of street culture; according his own world, he isn’t trying to change the world just document it honestly. He captures human fragility with sensitivity, while his straightforward compositions submerge us into the bleak reality of the time.

Visit boogie’s official website here

Boogie has also shot commercial work for various clients including Nike, Lee jeans, Puma, Element skateboards and HBO and his work was appeared in numerous publication from New York Times to even Playboy. He’s had six book published so far.


Tomasz Gudzowaty

Tomas Gudzowaty is a Polish documentary filmmaker, portrait and art photographer based in Warsaw who began his career with nature photography, and eventually turning to social documentary and sports photography.

For the past few years, Gudzowaty has resolved to focus on sport-related issues grounded in an idea of a long- standing project in which he aims to show dynamic images of people of all ages involved in sports.

Gudzowaty has made a name for himself documenting popular sports in far corners of the world, which depict a rare blend of modernity and tradition in global cultures.

Visit Tomasz’s official website here

He is particularly interested in atypical, non-commercial sports, outside the media mainstream such as sage yogis in India, amateur drag racers in Mexico, child polo players in Mongolia, Japanese sumo wrestler.

The Sport Features’s photographs series depicts a striking humanity, as if delving deep into each individual personality.

His works have been published in mainstream publications including The Guardian, Newsweek, Time, Photo, L’Equipe; he has exhibited worldwide and published several photo books.

As a multiple winner of the profession’s premier contests, he gained international recognition; some of these awards include Pictures of the Year, NPPA Best of Photojournalism and World Press Photo award.


Nobuyoshi Araki

If Araki is known for one thing in particular, then it his highly sexual and controversial black and white photography.

Throughout a prolific career, Tokyo-born photographer Nobuyoshi Araki has delved perhaps further that any other Japanese photographer into the themes surrounding death, sex, domination and Tokyo street scenes.

His work over a 48-year span has seen him publish more than 450 photobooks tackling a variety of subjects such as prostitution, sadomasochism, love and intimacy.

The ideas of submission, control and eroticism that are found in Kinbaku-bi, the Japanese art of rope-tying, make it the most alluring of subject matters for Araki, and the practice of depicting women in these positions has been an obsession of his throughout his career.

One of Japan’s most fearless photographers the 78-old’s skill behind the camera is still very much in demand.

His personal and sometimes voyeuristic photographs have sparked much controversy, but his graphics use of imagery has been an instrumental force in breaking taboos surrounding nudity in modern Japanese culture.

Visit Nobuyoshi Araki on Artsy

Born in Tokyo in 1940, Nobuyoshi Araki has been active in publishing, photography and filmmaking since his first solo exhibition in 1965 in Japan. Some 400 books about Araki and his work have been published to date, a testament to his prolific output and energy.

Read our full article on Nobuyoshi Araki

 

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Nobuyoshi Araki and his Unremitting Lens

Photography is about a single point of a moment. It’s like stopping time. As everything gets condensed in that forced instant. But if you keep creating these points, they form a line which reflects your life.

A Tokyo-born photographic maestro and contemporary artist Nobuyoshi Araki is has a notorious persona and is arguably the most prolific living photographer of Japan.

He has amassed an encyclopedic wealth of work. To date, Araki has published over 450 photo books, also shot for the likes of Dazed, Playboy, The New York Times Magazine and Vogue, and taken part in 280 solo exhibitions.

Tokyo’s darling may leave critics divided but his artistic genius is undeniable: every image is unique and capture with extreme levels of technical mastery; his influence has penetrated just about every creative field from film, photography to the world of fashion.

Pretty much a self-evident truth, Araki’s work has garnered equal amounts of praise and criticism over the years for treading the line between photography and pornography, misogyny and conceptual genius.

Background

Having be born on May, 25, 1940 in a red light district in northeastern Tokyo, Araki spent his formative years in wartime and postwar in Japan. The most part of Araki’s images are centered around Japanese society.

Most of the photographer’s pictures are taken in Tokyo where he was born and he is captured thousands of Tokyo street scenes as well as images of the resident Edokko (Edo is historical name of Tokyo) Accordingly, it is not surprising that his attention is so focused on subjects linked with the environment of his upbringing- sexuality, lust and power play.

From 1959 to 1963, he studied photography and filmmaking at Chiba University in Tokyo, and graduated and majored in Film Making and Photography in 1963.

After studying, he first entered the workforce as a commercial photographer for advertising giant Dentsu, where he worked until 1972.

Dentsu was instrumental in making Araki the artist he would later become. He found commercial photography to be so conservative and limiting that he started to experiment with radical conceptual photography.

In 1970, he compiled his all artworks in 25 volumes, printing 70 copies each and distributing them to art critics, his friend and random people; he called this year The First Year of Araki.

Araki’s particular fascination is Kinbaku-bi, ‘the beauty of tight bondage’.

An ancient form of Japanese rope play, Kinbaki-bi is a sexualized development of Hojojutsu, the traditional martial art of using ropes as restraints.

The technique, once used on prisoners, has been adopted to blur the line between pain and pleasure; the element of control is transformed into a consensual erotic art.

The ideas of control, eroticism and submission that he found in Kunbaku-bi were the most alluring subjects for Araki; the practice of depicting demure Japanese women in traditional dress, hanging precariously from ceilings or sitting on floors, staring silently back at camera with their limbs tightly restrained.

The photographer’s pictures of naked women bound with ropes in overtly sexual positions are perhaps his best known and most controversial, drawing frequent criticism and accusations of falling somewhere between misogyny and pornography.

In 1971, he married to his life partner Yōko.

As his partner, Yōko also found her own life captured on a daily basis, becoming his muse in the process.

In their relationship, nothing was out-of-bounds and Araki recorded every minute detail of their everyday lives, from Yōko in the midst of an orgasm, to Yōko on her deathbed, and later, in her coffin after she died of ovarian cancer in 1990.

Sentimental Journey

When he had released the book Sentimental Journey, documenting the honeymoon he and his wife took and exposing the tender and intimate moments, he made his mark on contemporary photography.

Check price of Sentimental Journey on Amazon

Araki’s wife Yōko aged 42, passed away on January, 27 1990. The same year, he was awarded with Annual Award of the Photographic Society of Japan.

The Sentimental Journey, Winter Journey released in 1991, recounts the final years of his marriage, with the particular focus on Yōko’s battle with terminal illness.

The images methodically detail her symptoms, the deterioration of her physical and mental health and her eventual death. Araki now signs every photo with their wedding date as a constant reminder of her deeply-felt absence.

Her passing marked a turning point in Araki’s style, which changed its focus from sexual ecstasy and hedonism to more shocking end explicit photo-compositions.

Recently, morose and melancholy undertones have become pervasive in his work as his style has mellowed with old age.

Tokyo Lucky Hole

Shortly after his wife’s death, in 1990, the most controversial period of Araki’s career has started.

The book titled Tokyo Lucky Hole, a personal diary of Araki’s trips to the brothels of his home city is incredibly shocking in its visceral detail of sex, cages, orgies and bondage, all feature heavily, but the documentarian style that pervades the body of work gives it an almost anthropological angle.

Check price of Tokyo Lucky Hole on Amazon now

The Unremitting Lens

The power of the imagery lies in the authenticity of Araki’s approach, something he achieved by blurring the lines between photographer and subject.

The first-hand participatory method in which Tokyo Lucky Hole is shot sees Araki at the center of many images, actively engaging in sex with the prostitutes whilst his assistant takes control of the camera.
 
In Tokyo Lucky Hole, nothing is off-limits; prostitutes and their clients were shown in all emotional and physical states.

Pleasure, passion and depression are all captured by Araki’s unremitting lens. The work has been interpreted by some as voyeuristic, but Araki is playing the role of documenter, capturing a part of life that is rarely seen by outside world.

Araki’s series ‘Erotos’, consisted of understated black and white photos, was published in 1993.

In this very photo-book Araki seeks out the form of female genitalia in the natural world; a set of lips, a crack in the ground, a fig, a woman’s eye turned sideways, a curved pipe suggests the male body.

Abstract and muted, these works are erotically evocative, rather than explicit.

While the snapshot studies of Japanese bondage have shocked, with women naked or in maiko makeup suspended from the ceiling or bound in elaborately tied knots, the ‘Erotos series has a subtler sensibility, like an artist’s love poem to human sexuality.

The themes and subject matters that Araki explores bear a striking similarity to that of American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe who is known for his active involvement and extensive photographic documentation of the gay and underground fetish scenes of New York in the 1970s.

Robert Mapplethorpe also broke the line between photographer and subject, very often invited his sitters, subjects, in order to engage them in sexual acts with him.

Like Araki, he used his sexual behavior as the basis for much of his artistic output; they both played with the idea of sexuality in non-sexual objects.

Araki’s photo-books show that he considers no subjects too sensitive. Even his battle with prostate cancer in 2009, is documented in forensic, emotionless detail in the book Tokyo Prostate Cancer.

The date stamps on the bottom corner of the photographs have been manipulated by Araki in order to display the 6th and 9th of April, references to the dates of the 1945 atomic bombing by the United States on the cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Araki is alluding to his own personal relationship with radioactivity by making the connection to two of the most harrowing days in Japanese history.

After Yōko’s death, Araki lived alone with his cat Chiro who arrived in the photographer’s life in 1988, and stayed with him for the next 22 years, becoming his most constant companion.

The book Sentimental Journey, Spring Journey (2010) shows their relationship. And once again, the work was published after Chiro’s death and the main focus is on the moments the two shared together in the wake of Yōko departure.

The parallels between the two journeys are poignant, with Araki intentionally choosing similar compositions and themes to draw parallels between his two muses.

Love on the Left Eye

In October, 2013, Araki lost his vision in his left eye due to a retinal artery obstruction. For some photographers, this would have been a massive blow, but for Araki, it only served as new inspiration.

The next year, 2014, he released a new photo book coupled with a June 2014 exhibition at Tokyo’s Taka Ishii Gallery, both entitled Love on the Left Eye. The images reflect his altered visual state.

The nudes and flowers that make up this collection are half eclipsed – the right side of each exposure colored in with a marker before printing, and the photographs produced represent the shadowed vision of his right eye.

shi-shōsetsu

The main reason for Araki’s never-ending output of photography boils down to the philosophy of shi-shōsetsu, literally translated as ‘’I-novel’’.

It was a genre of early Japanese literature where the author narrated the plot from a first-person perspective. Araki has adopted the same modus operandi for his photography where he obsessively documents his life, thus creating a diary of sorts.

This concept is ingrained into his work, with many of his photo books featuring nikki, the Japanese word for diary, in their titles.

Araki’s photography is extremely personal and some of his photo books can be seen as contemporary versions of the Japanese pillow book, a type of private diary, where nothing is too personal or too sacred to be recorded.

Araki’s work shows a man with a relentless passion for photography. The vast majority of his images make their way into the public domain via his photo books, with his prodigious work seeing him release up to 20 a year.

No Compromise

The impact of his work will always be most acutely felt in his homeland, where his uncompromising portrayal of sex and sexual practices caused the most controversy.

Whilst Araki has gained many admirers and a legion of dedicated followers, his detractors dismiss his work as misogynistic and derogatory, comparing it to mere pornography.

Undoubtedly, Araki has a taboo-breaking career. His graphic images confront the hidden eroticism that lies beneath the surface of polite Japanese society; sex, BDSM, prostitution and the role of the Geisha are all subjects that fearless photographer addresses.

By pointing his camera lens at the hidden sexual underbelly of Japanese society, he tackles off-limit issues and confronts the hypocrisy of the country’s censorship laws.

The nature of some of his pictures has been so outrageous, in fact, that he has been arrested for obscenity under Japanese law.

His ‘Photomania Diary’ exhibition (1992) was forcibly shut by the police on grounds of obscenity, and Araki was arrested for disorderly conduct.

For Nobuyoshi Araki photography is a way of life; with a camera in his hands, he is free to pursue his fantasies and write his life experiences, trying to capture the ephemeral moments that life presents before they disappear forever.

 

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Henri Cartier-Bresson – Decisive Moments

Widely considered as one of the leading artistic forces and major artists of the twentieth century, Henri Cartier-Bresson with his humane and spontaneous photographs is closely linked to the modern photojournalism in its early stages.

His wandering nature brought him to some of the most significant sites and events in modern history; he covered many of the biggest events from the Spanish civil war to the French upbringing in 1968.

He is regarded as one of the true pioneers of street photography who was capable of producing extremely modern compositions.

Background

Henri Cartier-Bresson was born in 1908 in Chanteloup-en-Brie, France. His family was wealthy; his father Andre, a severe man dedicated to his successful business, made a fortune as a textile manufacturer.

Henri’s mother Martha exposed him to the Parisian arts scene from his early age, including music concerts, literature, poetry and art exhibitions.

At the early age of five, painting captured the interest of the young boy mainly thanks to his uncle Louis who was an accomplished painter.

The two spent hours in Louis’s studio together and young Henri began referring to his uncle as his ‘mythical father’. This apprenticeship ended tragically when his uncle was killed during the World War I.

Despite his father’s wishes for his son to attend the prestigious French business school, Henri Cartier-Bresson failed the entrance exam three times.

Eventually, in 1926 he went studying in Montparnasse at the private art academy of French cubist painter and sculptor Andre Lhote.

Lhote advocated combining the aesthetic of the Cubists with the technical conventions of French neoclassical painting, which he thought would connect modernism to tradition.

Along with his students, Lhote (pictured below) made trips to Parisian Louvre to study classical works of old masters and visited contemporary exhibitions around Paris.

From 1928 to 1929 Cartier-Bresson spent a year in England studying art and literature at Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge.

The next year, he was forced to leave studying, because he was enlisted into the French army and station outside of Paris. Upon returning to Paris, he was introduced to some important people in French art circles.

Young Henri was especially attracted to surrealist writer Rene Cravel and his well-known nihilism, his dedication to the philosophy outlined in the Surrealist manifesto and his air of rebellion.

Owing to Crevel, young Henri met some of the greatest minds and artists at that time such as Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Andre Breton and Man Ray.

Surrealism’s reliance on intuition and spontaneous expression enticed Cartier-Bresson to add those ideas to his own experimental work.

Although the ideas and personalities of this very movement intrigued Cartier-Bresson greatly, he eventually choose to follow colleagues Robert Capa’s advice- to watch out for labels, because “they’re reassuring but somebody’s going to stick one on you that you’ll never get rid of”.

He advised him to keep the other thing for himself, in his heart of hearts.

As a boy, Cartier-Bresson had been initiated into the mysteries of the simple ‘brownie’ snapshot camera, but his first serious concern with medium occurred about 1930, after seeing the work of two major 20th century photographers Man Ray and Eugène Atget.

Having fulfilled his military obligations, in 1931, Henri Cartier traveled to French colonial Africa, the Cote d’Ivoire, seeking adventure, with the intention of escaping the structures of city life.

He took some photographs with his second-hand Krauss camera. This year-long adventure ended when he contracted parasitical disease, blackwater fever that nearly killed him.

Having returned to France in 1931, during his recuperation in Marseille, he saw, by chance, ‘Three Boys at Lake Tanganiyka’ (pictured below), a photo by Hungarian photographer Martin Munkacsi.

The image featured three boys running naked into waves on an African beach; the image captured a unique moment in time so strikingly that Henri was inspired to pursue photography more seriously that had been absent in his earlier dabbling with the medium.

First Camera and Photos

Soon thereafter, Cartier-Bresson bought his first Leica camera, a new one to the market. It helped him facilitate the impromptu nature of his approach to photography, allowing him to act promptly, to capture candid images of his subjects without being overly intrusive.

From 1932 through 1933 and 1934 he traveled with his camera across Europe, Africa and Mexico producing a good number of photographs that were commissioned for publications.

One of the most successful image by Cartiert-Bresson from this period is Plase de l’Europe (1932.) The snapshot of a man gleefully hopping over a flooded area in Paris catches the moment just before the man’s heel hits the water.

A hazily-captured building in the distance contrasts with the ornamented, spiked fence; the two diverse elements combine in alchemy of curves and reflections creates the urban background.

The spontaneous photo was captured at the iconic railway, a bustling urban space, served as the settling for many famous twentieth-century artists such as Monet, Manet and Caillebote, all of whom had been influential in Cartier-Bresson’s own artistic development.

Modern motion is celebrated by the fact that it is forever stopped, the leaping man will never hit the puddle, the split-second image is permanently frozen in time.

This very photograph is one of only a few ones that Cartier-Bresson ever chose to crop. Ordinarily, he avoided adjusting his work after originally framing a shot and instead embraced unmediated chance encounters.

This aesthetic practice and preference made him one of the pioneers and founders of street photography.

Surrealism, War, and Changing Views

The photograph “Natcho Aguirre” was shot during his trip to Mexico in 1934 exemplifies the heavy influence of Surrealism on Cartier-Bresson work.

Like the Surrealist painters, Cartier-Bresson photographs are perplexing and disturbing visual games intended to provoke the subconscious mind to make connections that are deeply personal.

The half-naked man who seems to be writhing free of the reminder of his clothing could be contorting himself in either agony or ecstasy, the ambiguity is what makes the image so deeply unsettling.

The shoes take on a significance because of their displacement. Cast off and ordinary, in the context of this image, juxtaposed with the male torso, there is no logic to their inclusion in the composition.

The uncanny juxtaposition was a hallmark of Surrealism that Cartier-Bresson found interesting and irresistible.

Just before World War II, Henri Cartier-Bresson set aside photography and traveled to New York where he spent a year learning the principles of montage under the patronage of the modernist photographer Paul Strand.

The next year, he decided to return to Paris determined to capture Europe’s political climate in moving images. He joined Jean Renoir as an assistant to work in the production on the film for the communist party.

This very film named ‘Life is Ours’’ / La vie est á nous from 1936, attacked the leading powerful families who controlled France. As a photographer he felt indebted to the great films he saw as a youth.

They taught him to choose precisely the expressive moment, the telling viewpoint. The importance he gave to sequential images in still photography may be attributed to his preoccupation with film.

Afterwards, Henri Cartier-Bresson made three documentaries in support of Republican Spain. Shortly thereafter, he joined the staff of the newly founded communist newspaper Ce Soir and returned to photography.

Military Photographer

With the onset of World War II, Cartier-Bresson joined the French military as a photographer. That very year, he was taken prisoner and sent to German labor camp.

After three terrible years in the camp, he escaped on his third attempt. He settled down on the farm in Vosges and remained there until the end of the war.

He continued underground resistance activities with the MNPGD- National Movement of War Prisoners and Deportees.

When the Allied forces had landed in Normandy, Henri Cartier traveled to Paris with his fellow Capa in order to cover the city’s liberation from German occupation.

Capa had taken some of the most emblematic photographs of the Allied invasion on D-day on Omaha Beach, but the two men were responsible for providing some of the most memorable images of the death throes of the devastating war; they defined wartime photojournalism.

Henri Cariter-Bresson co-founded Magnum Photos agency along with fellow photographers Seymor, Capa and George Rodgers. The agency was found to help protect photographers and their interests, all reproduction rights and the rightful owners of their negatives.

On His Own

No longer working under contracts for magazines, Cartier-Bresson had to seek out work on his own. His political views and activities were firmly to the left and he was mainly dedicated to journalistic photography. He was free to pursue photography and its artistic possibilities.

In 1947, Cartier-Bresson went to China to document the civil war, social unrest that accompanied the political transition from Kuomintang, the Chinese National Party, to Mao Zedong’s communist rule and the People’s Liberation Army.

At that time in China, the value of paper money extremely decreased and Kuomintang decided to distribute 40 grams of gold per person to prevent even worse social unrest.

In the image Shanghai, frenetic Chinese citizens have lined up to sell their gold before the Revolution of Mao Zedong could render even the reliable currency of gold obsolete.

The subjects stand in a crush of bodies, their desperation fuses them into a single mass.

The photo was taken just before ten lives were lost in suffocating crush; Cartier-Bresson succinctly captured the claustrophobic character of the image.

The Birla House, from 1948 documents Jawaharlal Nehru, a Prime Minister of India, announcing the death of Mahatma Gandhi to the crowd.

The gravity of the historic speech and dramatic lightning create the pathos of the moment.

The photograph is a document of Cartier-Bresson’s awareness of the historical significance of the event and particularly, moment it captures: the tragedy of Gandhi’s death and the independence of India from British colonial rule.

Cartier-Bresson was one of the last people who speak with Gandhi before he died, little more than an hour before he was shot and killed.

The Decisive Moment

The publication of the book The Decisive Moment in 1952 was one of the most crucial events of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s career.

Henri Matisse designed the book’s cover, and the 126 photos it featured drew from his portfolio of images from all around the world.

Henri Cartier explained how he chose the title of the book. He used quote of seventeenth-century cleric and political agitator Cardinal de Retz which states: ‘There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment’.

This phrase, the title of his first publication became his aesthetic raison d’être. For Henri Cartier-Bresson, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of the second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.

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By the time of his grand exhibition in the prestigious Louvre in France 1955, Cartier-Bresson had acquired international recognition for photojournalism.

Henri Cartier-Bresson’s ability to get the most out of each situation was the key to his success.

He never refused being introduced to anyone, he had sensitivity to whoever he spoke with, and ultimately he was very connected to many important people.

All these attributes allowed him access to photos that no other photographer could match. For the next ten years he continued traveling the world, very often in the context of war.

In addition, he had the unique privilege of being the first Western photographer to take photographs in the Cold War-era SSSR.

Retirement

Cartier- Bresson retired from photography and left Magnum Photo around 1966.

During the 1970s, Cartier-Bresson stopped carrying his camera around, which had been like a part of his body much of his adult life; he kept the camera in a safe where it remained.

In this period, he began painting again, applying an aesthetic honed over a lifetime of producing primarily photographs.

Towards the end of his life, Henri Cartier-Bresson even developed a reluctance to photography and wished to have no part in being curator, archivist or even a commentator on his own photography.

He died on August 3, 2004 in Cereste, France.

The concept of ‘the decisive moment’ captures the essence of Cartier-Bresson work. Since its invention, the potential of photography had been debated widely; the divide between ‘documentary’ and ‘art’ photography seemed intractable.

Cartier-Bresson used photography as medium to create visual documents of remarkable spontaneity; combining his affinity for the disciplined painting of the great masters, his interest in modern philosophy with his passion for adventure and desire to be in the middle of current events.

 

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Annie Leibovitz – History In The Making

I can never forget the sensation of being at a newsstand and seeing for the first time my photograph transformed into the Rolling Stone cover.

Anne Leibovitz is renowned for her quirky and dramatic iconic portraits of a great variety of celebrities. She has created some of the most controversial and popular images of the last 40 years. Iconic figures spanning creative, celebrity and intellectual circles have sought to work with Leibovitz in admiration of her interpretative perspective.
 
Possessing an ability to celebrate and critique mainstream culture in equal measure, her signature style is crisp and well lighted. She is influenced by the documentary tradition, but also comfortable with theatrical staging. The blending of fine art and pop contexts lends her work a unique cultural cachet.

Background

Anna-Lou Leibovitz was born on October, 2, in 1949, in Connecticut and grew up in an idyllic, middle-class family. Her parents were of Jewish and Eastern Europe descent; the mother, Marilyn, was a modern dance instructor who instilled in little Anne a passion for art, music and dancing, and the father Sam had a military career, as a lieutenant colonel in the US Air Force.
 
The Leibovitz moved around frequently and her family credits her success as a photographer to growing up seeing the world through a car window.

In 1967, Annie Leibovitz attended the San Francisco Art Institute, began studying painting with the main intention to become an art teacher. Meanwhile, in her second semester she took a photography workshop, and became engrossed in medium.
 
The photography workshop was based on the ideas of famous modern photographers, especially Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank. Both photographers were known for their documentary style, their engagement with quotidian and famous subjects, and both of them were influential for Liebovitz.

Rolling Stone

In 1970, while still in school Annie showed Jann Wenner, the creator of Rolling Stone magazine, her photograph of a poet Allen Ginsberg smoking pot at an anti-Vietnam march. She was immediately hired to be a contributing photographer and her image was used as the cover for the magazine.
 
At the time, Rolling Stone was a new, experimental, magazine focused on the counterculture that emerged from the bohemian thinking of the late 1950s and rock music.

Three years later, Leibovitz had become the chief photographer for the Rolling Stone (by the time she was 23 years old) and had been given absolute artistic freedom to experiment with her work. She directed her energies toward a unique presentation of the major personalities of contemporary rock music.
 
She made some of the publication’s most iconic images, including the most influential musicians of the 20
th century.

After having building her reputation as a skillful rock’n’roll photographer, in 1975 she documented the Rolling Stones’ six-month North American concert tour during which she shot several widely reproduced photographs of lead singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards.

Mick Jagger (Buffalo, NY, 1975), captures one of these moments and has become an emblematic image from the historic tour.

The black and white photo depicts Jagger standing in an elevator wearing a white robe and turbaned towel on his head. The image was taken immediately after one of his last performances; Mick stares directly at the camera, reflecting exhaustion that comes with performing and partying every night.
 
This piece along with others from this very tour has come to show how Annie approached her subjects, early in her career. She would spend days, weeks, or even a year with her subject in order to get familiar and revealing shots.
 
She was so successful at integrating herself into new environments that subject eventually became comfortable with her presence, even forgetting she was there. The result of these immersive interactions led to drug abuse problems; she became addicted to cocaine.

 

Capturing Moments

Annie enjoyed the collaborative and social environment by the magazine; it was a mix of personalities that led to some original work. She particularly enjoyed working with the legendary journalist and creator of gonzo journalism, Hunter S.
 
Thompson, whose erratic and fast paced lifestyle became legendary as his writing. The two shared a kindred spirit and affinity for hard partying.

Working on assignment for Rolling Stone with Hunter S. Thompson, Leibovitz captured the moment when president Nixon left the White House for the last time.

The expressive photos (Untitled; Guards rolling up carpet after Nixon, 1974) captured an extraordinary documented event in American history in a novel way. Leibovitz herself attributed this to her ability to capture moments either before or after‘ the moment’ .It was the moment after the helicopter carrying Nixon had taken off, and the three men are packing up the last vestiges of ceremony, the carpet where Nixon would appear as president for the last time.
 
It is both mundane and theatrical; the guards could be stagehands or porters, but the presence of the carpet and the White House setting evokes the pageantry of the State.

Her work for this very magazine introduced her to some of the most famous creative figures of the time. Perhaps her most famous work from this period is a portrait of John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono (Yoko Ono; John Lennon, 1980).

She depicts the couple in an intimate embrace with a naked Lennon curled around fully clothed Ono. Annie requested them to be pose nude together; Ono refused to remove her clothes, but Lennon did not.
 
The clash between clothed woman and naked man subverts the conventional art historical canon which often exalts the nude female form. The image was taken a few hours before Lennon was shot outside his Upper West Side apartment by crazed fan Mark David Chapman.
 
It was first published on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1981, and would become iconic for its timing and the manner in which it immortalized the couple’s devotion to each other.

 

Vanity Fair

The year 1983; it was a huge risk for the famous rock photographer to move to a glossy mainstream magazine, Vanity Fair. During her 13 years tenure at the Rolling Stone her work interfered with her extensive drug use; she had overdosed twice and was rumoured to have hawked her photograph equipment to pay for cocaine.
 
After some time in rehabilitation, clear and good, Annie was ready to start a new chapter in her career. The timing was right; Annie became the first magazine’s chief photographer. Vanity Fair envisioned Leibovitz as a continuation of grand tradition of portraiture and also gave her full artistic freedom.
 
Unlike Rolling Stone, budgets at Vanity Fair were not a problem, and Leibovitz could be more experimental. Her portraiture work transitioned from simple black and white images to extravagant, rich colour staged production full of drama.

In 1987, Annie Leibovitz captured the Pop and graffiti artist Keith Haring naked and squatting on top of a coffee table with a surprised expression of his face; his entire body was painted, camouflaging him against the mural he painted (on the Salvation Army furniture and walls of the room).
 
Haring’s boldness and oneness with his work are made literal. The image also marks the beginning of Leibovitz’s transition to the more concept –driven and staged photography that would come to define her work; it was the beginning of the conceptual photography.

Susan

In 1989, Annie met Susan Sontag, a critic, writer and political activist, and the two developed a long lasting intimate relationship. They were partners in every sense. The intellectual writer was 16 years older than pop culture photographer, but the two complement each other’s strengths; Susan Sontag, a celebrated critic of media and photography, introduced new dimension to Leibovitz’s work, while Leibovitz introduced Sontag to the world of celebrity.
 
Annie admired Sontag despite the fact that she was interested in her work, but criticized it. Sontag could be tough on her at times, but Leibovitz attributes Sontag with helping her discover and seriousness and intellect in her photographs.

When actress Demi Moore was featured on the cover of Vanity Fair, in 1991, Leibovitz’s staged portraiture earned a reputation as being intentionally provocative. Wearing only a 33-carat diamond earrings and a ring, the seven months pregnant star stands in profile, one hand covers her breasts while the other tenderly cups her pregnant belly; the star proudly displays her naked body.

The cover image was seen as an unprecedented provocation from a mainstream publication the Culture Wars. When the issue was released, the backlash and controversy was immediate; the celebrity on a cover of a magazine, completely naked was considered obscene and grotesque.
 
The photograph started a nation-wide discussion on propriety, femininity, and what it meant to be a good mother. Critics deeming Moore unfit for motherhood for posing nude, while advocates celebrated her celebration of the natural state of pregnancy.
 
As a result of its controversy, the image has become one of the most iconic ones of the past two decades and was named as one of the most iconic images of all time by Time Magazine.

However, in the same year, Leibovitz had her first museum exhibition and became the first woman and second living photographer to show at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. A companion book Photographs: Annie Liebovitz 1970-1990 was published in 1991.

In 1992-1994, Annie traveled with Susan Sontag to Sarajevo to document Bosnia’s bloody war. The image “Fallen bicycle of teenage boy just killed by a sniper, 1994”, depicts the aftermath of the death of an innocent boy trapped in the midst of the conflict.
 
The picture of the bicycle and the blood was taken just after the boy on the bike had been hit by mortar that came down in front of the Leibovitz’s car. They put him in the car, but the boy died on the way to the hospital.
 
Annie documented the boy’s traumatic final moments; his absence is an unsettling reminder of the fragility of life.

Sarah

The early 2000s brought transformative shifts for Leibovitz. In 2001, at the age of 51, she gave birth to her first daughter, Sarah. During this time, Susan Sontag had been battling acute leukemia off and on, but in 2004, she learned that it had returned.
 
The same year Sontag succumbed to her illness a few days after Christmas. In addition, Annie’s father passed away from lung cancer a few weeks after Susan Sontag. Three years later, Leibovitz’s mother died, too.

Leibovitz was notoriously bad at managing money and her poor financial decisions culminated during the period of her mother’s death; she found herself $24 million dollars in debt. In order to pay the debt, she secured a large loan, using the right to her images as collateral.
 
When she was unable to pay back the loan, she was sued, and her work was jeopardized. After a legal battle, in which she filed for bankruptcy and sold numerous artworks and properties, eventually, she was able to pay the debt and regain the rights to her work.

Despite these difficulties, this period was also full of incredible highs for Leibovitz.

In 2000, she was deemed a Living Legend by the Library on Congress and awarded The Royal Photographic Society’s Centenary Medal and Honorary Fellowship. In 2009, Leibovitz began working on a personal project, photographing objects and places that were meaningful to her; the image were collected in the book named Pilgrimage, published in 2011.

In 2005, with the help of a surrogate, she was welcomed twin girls, whom she named Sam and Susan in honour of her father and her lover.

In 1995, Vanity Fair started the tradition of devoting its March issue to celebrating the stars deemed to have made an impact in film the previous year; Annie has photographed each issue. The grouping changes annually but Annie’s composition are strikingly similar; the cover images speak to glamour and elegance, but also the interchangeability and ephemerality of the industry and the careers of the subjects.
 
The relevance of the work of art is often not about what is reveals or exposes about the subject, but what it reveals about the cultural moment in which it was created.

Over the past four decades of her career, Annie Leibovitz has become one of the world’s best known portrait photographer, now rivaling the legacies of forebears like David Bailey and Richard Avedon.

A master of capturing popular culture icons in dramatic and innovative ways, Annie has become just as famous as the people she photographs.