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Our blog: news & views from the photo-based art world.

Spotlight On: Arnaud Maggs

Self Portrait (detail 1) / (detail 7), 1983
© Estate of Arnaud Maggs / Courtesy of FFOTOIMAGE.com

Canadian photographer Arnaud Maggs’ art practice would make a fascinating case study in the rewards of a disciplined approach to looking at the world. When he died in 2012, Maggs’ respected position as an important, established artist was celebrated in numerous published recollections and commentaries. His photographs appealed to collectors and critics alike because the work could be assimilated and appreciated on several levels. Although Maggs’ artworks might appear to be straightforward, each piece commands the viewer’s attention and is often coded with layers of information and historical references.

The Estate of Arnaud Maggs has generously opened its archives to make a handful of works by the late artist available for purchase. This initial offering of ten pieces presents photographs from the early years of Maggs’ fine art practice. These artworks reference the artist’s personalized, but also accessible, studio philosophy; a quasi-scientific methodology he described as a System of Identification. We posed some questions to the Estate to find out about the artist’s processes and bodies of work. Maggs’ partner, artist Spring Hurlbut, and dedicated studio assistant Katiuska Doleatto, collaborated on the responses.   

–Craig D’Arville, COO, FFOTOIMAGE

 

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64 Portrait Studies (detail 19) / (detail 20), 1976-78
© Estate of Arnaud Maggs / Courtesy of FFOTOIMAGE.com

FFOTOIMAGE: Let’s begin by learning a bit about Arnaud Maggs’ background and the interests that put him on his path towards becoming an artist. Is it correct to think that Maggs had a lifelong fascination with cataloguing things?

 

The Estate of Arnaud Maggs:  Arnaud had this story he would tell about being a boy and waiting for the popcorn man:

I used to stand outside my house and patiently wait for the Popcorn Man to arrive…driving a huge motorcycle and sidecar. Only in place of the sidecar was a large metal box. Both the motorcycle and the box beside it were painted gleaming white, with the words in black on the side ‘STOP ME AND BUY ONE’…Inside the box were neat rows of white paper bags filled with popcorn…Just plain white, neatly folded at the top…My fascination was with the whole process, and with being able to look through the window, where I could see another world.” A.M.

Of course, he wasn’t interested in eating the popcorn. He saved the bag and its contents and arranged them side by side, in rows in his room. Eventually, his mother disposed of the bags of uneaten popcorn.

In the late 1940s, Arnaud began his career in Montreal as a letterer, meticulously executing type by hand. He took evening classes in typography with famous designer Carl Dair and worked hard to build a rigorous portfolio. It wasn’t long before Arnaud made his mark as a leading graphic designer in Canada. In 1952, he moved to New York to establish his own freelancing business and for a period of time, he had the same rep as Andy Warhol.

In 1959, he moved to Milan to work for Studio Boggeri before returning to Toronto to work with Theo Dimson at Art Associates. In 1966, Arnaud purchased a Nikon camera and decided to become a commercial photographer. Within two years he was hired by TDF Artists Limited, one of Canada’s largest advertising art studios at the time.

All the skills he learned in his various professions were utilized once he made the decision to become a fine artist. He built his own darkroom, he developed his own negatives and for many years, he produced his own prints. He was always aware of the graphic potential of a large-scale work. He would often say that the difference between good or bad was a sixteenth of an inch. Precision was paramount.

64 Portrait Studies (detail 20), verso detail
© Estate of Arnaud Maggs / Courtesy of FFOTOIMAGE.com

Arnaud had the soul of an artist. He had amazing instinct, incredible visual acuity and unwavering determination. Once he allowed himself to move into this terrain, he instantly began to work at a very high level. The first large-scale work he ever made was shown at David Mirvish Gallery. It was 64 Portrait Studies, and it was a masterpiece.

It was in 1968 that Arnaud discovered the works of Edward Weston, Paul Strand, and Walker Evans. In 1969, he received a grant from the Canada Council to study the work of various artists living in Europe. He decided to travel to London and contact some of these photographers but to his surprise, they did not agree to see him. Undaunted, he journeyed to Belgium where he purchased a new Deux Chevaux Camionnette and drove through Europe and North Africa. 

For me, this was a voyage of discovery. I realized I had never stopped long enough to fully appreciate the world around me,” A.M.

He had become more and more disillusioned with the life of a fashion photographer, so in 1970 he left TDF Artists Limited. He eventually sold all of his camera equipment and moved into a tiny coach house that he turned into a live-in studio. He kept a series of scrapbooks in order to teach himself how to become a visual artist.

I began to make a list of influences in my life, going back as far as my encounters with the Popcorn Man…I made lists of things I’d seen, places I’d been, music I’d heard and books I’d read…that were part of my unconscious being.” A.M.

It was 1973, and it was at this time that he took drawing classes and studied anatomy. While sketching the models, he became acutely aware of the varying shapes and proportions of the heads and profiles and decided to make this the focus of his work. Ironically enough, he quickly realized that the only way to truly document physiognomy is through the photographic medium. He immediately purchased a Rollei camera and began experimenting with new intention.

Julia Mustard IV, 1975
© Estate of Arnaud Maggs / Courtesy of FFOTOIMAGE.com

FF: That period of study leads to the creation of the Julia Mustard portraits, which are key transitional works in Maggs’ development as an artist. Can you provide some insight into that period in Maggs’ art practice?

 

EoAM:  Arnaud often used family and friends as his subject matter as he played with different modes of lighting. Julia Mustard had a classic look that inspired him to attempt a more dramatic composition. He created a wonderful chiaroscuro effect that gives the portrait a very painterly aesthetic. As beautiful as it is, this effect didn’t quite capture the quality of the form that he observed in his early drawing classes.

Eventually, he discovered the mug shots of nineteenth-century criminologist Alphonse Bertillon. Bertillon’s scientific formulation of heads and profiles is precisely what Arnaud had in mind. In order to capture a more exacting likeness of the subject, Bertillon devised a simple format comprised of a stark and basic background using even, frontal lighting.

Arnaud chose to use a white background and he illuminated his subject with a single light source. He called this on-axis lighting. The lighting is diffused and it’s positioned above the subject with the centre of the umbrella or soft box tilted slightly down towards the subject. However, instead of working with flash, Arnaud preferred to use Northern light.

This discovery led to the creation of further iconic works.

64 Portrait Studies (detail 17) / (detail 18), 1976-78
© The Estate of Arnaud Maggs / Courtesy of FFOTOIMAGE.com

FF: What part do the 64 Portrait Studies play in establishing Maggs’ approach to making art? Is it correct to consider them as nascent pieces in the development of Maggs’ “system of identification”?

 

EoAM: Arnaud’s vision was to accurately represent what he was observing. He wanted to invent a system that would force the viewer to look at the subject with an analytical eye.

At the beginning of his process, he set out to photograph the frontal and profile views of members of the art community as well as anonymous sitters. 

During this time he decided to create grid compositions. As he progressed, he took notice of the film itself, with its numbers and repeating squares; Arnaud could already see a geometric formation. He then decided to use the intrinsic qualities of the material to determine structure in his own work. He would look at the frames per roll and establish how many negative strips could be arranged on a single contact sheet. In this way, he was able to identify the rigorous style with which he could present such works as 64 Portrait Studies that eventually led to his “systems of identification”.

Arnaud started working with time-based, serial photography in 1976. He was interested in shooting a subject over the period of roughly one hour. At first glance the portraits all look the same, however, once you spend time with the work, you start to notice the incremental differences. It wasn’t until 1980 that Arnaud discovered a floor sculpture by Carl Andre made up of one hundred steel plates arranged in a graph of five rows of twenty. This was the inspiration for Arnaud’s grid works comprised of one hundred photographs. This structure became a defining factor in how Arnaud presented the majority of his portraiture. 

Leonard Cohen, 1977
© Estate of Arnaud Maggs / Courtesy of FFOTOIMAGE.com

FF: Often the stance or pose used by Maggs’ sitters reads as being neutral, as in the portraits of Chris Burden and Christo. Other instances, like the 1977 diptych showing Leonard Cohen, appear to be more confrontational. The profile portion of the dual portrait suggests that Cohen was entering the frame right as the shutter snapped; it enlivens the pairing, enhancing the sense of energy in the work and implying a collaborative approach between subject and photographer.

 

EoAM: Arnaud would typically encourage his subjects to stare directly into the camera. He wasn’t looking for a smiling face. He wanted a more uniform, formal positioning of the sitter. Leonard Cohen was able to reciprocate with a great deal of concentration and gravitas.

Arnaud met Leonard Cohen in Nashville while working as a commercial photographer, which gave him access to the poet. They went to parties together and Arnaud recalled Cohen being quite the wallflower.

Chris Burden (detail 21) / (detail 23), 1983
© Estate of Arnaud Maggs / Courtesy of FFOTOIMAGE.com

FF: Chris Burden was a seminal performance and installation artist who explored the idea of personal danger as artistic expression. As a sitter for Maggs, he is shown with his eyes shut in one photo and open in another. Was that an intentional direction on Maggs’ part to, as you say earlier, “force the viewer to look at the subject with an analytical eye”? It recurs in the pair of images featuring installation artist, Christo, too.

 

EoAM: The two portraits of Chris Burden are artist proofs taken out of a larger work titled, 48 Views. Arnaud happened to take the shot while Burden was blinking. It seemed appropriate to create this pairing because one portrait is confrontational and the other is more internalized. There is a performative aspect to this action. Not only is it a consequence of Arnaud’s serial imagery, it also speaks to the nature of Burden as an artist.

With regards to the Christo photographs, the title, “Eyes Open and Eyes Shut”, denotes the artist’s intention.

Christo, Eyes Open / Christo, Eyes Shut, 1982
© Estate of Arnaud Maggs / Courtesy of fFOTOIMAGE.com

Arnaud functioned as a director encouraging his subjects and coaxing them into doing what he envisioned.

Not unlike the people he photographed, he had a confidence in his process and great respect for his subjects. He was often quite bold in his approach. Arnaud seized opportunities when they presented themselves. When Kertész was introduced to him by Jane Corkin, he immediately requested a sitting. During this session Kertész fell asleep, which Arnaud captured on film. It’s one of the most extraordinary images because we witness the legendary artist falling forward.

André Kertész (Falling Asleep), 1982
© Estate of Arnaud Maggs / Courtesy of FFOTOIMAGE.com

FF: FFOTOIMAGE is honoured to collaborate with the Estate and to offer a convenient way for collectors to acquire important works like these. The context provided in your responses gives a sense of the person who made these photographs. Taken together, this contributes to the goal of maintaining the vitality of Maggs’ legacy. What other approaches are being pursued by the Estate on behalf of the artist?

 

EoAM: Arnaud amassed a great breadth of black and white, analog photography. His “system of identification” and serial portraiture in the formation of large-scale grids is evidence that he was ahead of his time. FFOTOIMAGE is an excellent vehicle for showcasing Arnaud’s oeuvre. We are pleased to have the opportunity to introduce this significant body of work to a wider public both national and international in scope.

Arnaud’s photography was recently included in three significant exhibitions. He continues to be sought after and placed in important museums and private collections.

 

FF: What can we expect to see in the next batch of listings at FFOTOIMAGE?

 

EoAM: It will be a surprise.

Archive boxes containing works by Arnaud Maggs
© Estate of Arnaud Maggs / Courtesy of FFOTOIMAGE.com

Like what we’re doing with these blog posts? Have a question? You can reach me at Craig@FFOTOIMAGE.com.

Craig D’Arville, COO

Spotlight On: Guillaume Simoneau

Mayflies on location ELA Canada, 2015
© Guillaume Simoneau / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

Guillaume Simoneau’s approach to photography caught the attention of collectors and critics through his award winning body of work, Love and War, which subtlety documents many things: the practical difficulties of long-distance relationships; the intermediary nature of technology in contemporary society; and the way that war forever changes combatants and the people they love.

The connections that Simoneau chooses to explore in Experimental Lake are equally evocative. Ontario Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area is a scientific laboratory on a geographic scale. The research pursued there is of value to all the nations of the world; however, in 2012 Canada’s Conservative-led federal government made a controversial decision to withdraw all funding. The media coverage of the situation inspired Simoneau to make his own investigations, resulting in the quietly assured body of work presented here.

I posed some questions to Simoneau to ask about his interest in the Experimental Lakes Area and to learn about his artistic practice.  

–Craig D’Arville, COO, FFOTOIMAGE

 

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Stream L625 eight on location ELA Canada, 2015
© Guillaume Simoneau / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

FFOTOIMAGE: What drew you to want to work on a series about the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA)?

 

Guillaume Simoneau:  I first heard about the ELA on CBC radio. One of the founding researchers was explaining how devastating the announcement of an imminent closure of the ELA was for her and her colleagues. It meant losing 40 years of groundbreaking freshwater management research and data; in other words, her life’s work. I had never heard of the ELA at the time but it seemed greatly shortsighted to shut down such a unique research facility at this point in history. The following day I did some research online and found close to no visuals of the area. Coming from an applied science background, I knew right away I had to go there to produce work.

Lightning storm clean on location ELA Canada, 2015
© Guillaume Simoneau / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

FF: As a documentary photographer, are you making work with a specific audience in mind, or do you pursue topics for your own satisfaction?

 

GS:  I use documentary aesthetic and form but I feel that my work plays a much different role than “documentary photography” as we know it; or at least that’s what I am aiming for. I would call it author-documentary or post-documentary as suggested by award-winning, English documentary photographer Paul Graham. My personal practice is a sanctuary entirely made of subjects and stories I carefully pick and research. I cherish and protect every part of this process. Very rarely will my editorial practice overlap and bring something to the table I would consider for my personal work, but when it does, it is a blessing and everybody wins. The opposite consideration is possible as well. In the case of Experimental Lake, I originally proposed the story to a magazine as a way to fund my first trip to Kenora. The publisher was, at the time, looking for stories about communities; it was a perfect match.

Graham peeling orange two ELA field station Canada, 2014
© Guillaume Simoneau / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

FF: Some of the Experimental Lake compositions make the subject matter appear to be otherworldly; the remoteness is tangible. The mechanical constructs suggest things like the Mars Exploration Rover, sometimes the terrain looks alien, and the interiors look purposeful and transient. And then to balance all of that, there are those images that feature a scientist peeling an orange – a distinctly lyrical, almost Classical pairing within the larger series of photographs.. Can you talk about the compositional choices you make?

 

GS:  Since the mass democratization of photography, finding a good subject to photograph has been getting more and more difficult. It feels like everything has been photographed and if it hasn’t been yet, its audience will most likely be photo-weary if not completely closed to the idea. The power of photography has never been so openly acknowledged, used, and feared.

That may seem like a tangent answer but to me, in order to make relevant work, if you’re a photographer then you need to find a subject that hasn’t been exposed much, or at all. Then you introduce your personal sensibility to it, your own story, your own set of values, your principles and aesthetics. It is the addition and interactions of all these factors that will create compelling work that makes people want to look at it – and then look again later.

Bree Seeley, former photo editor at The Walrus, once said these very kind words about my work: “You trust ephemeral associations and allow them to creep into your work. I think that’s a reason your work holds secrets – a quality that brings so much plus.” Her words summarize perfectly my relationship to photography.

When I am in the field, I do not constrain myself. I photograph anything that is interesting to me or that attracts me. I will pay as much attention to a group of wasps eating away at an abandoned pear on a picnic table as I will to a riot-police horse wearing a perfectly fitted full-face protection visor. The balance you are asking about Craig, only comes much later for me, when it is time to edit the work. A good edit is just as important as the subject or as the initial capture itself.

Galaxy one on location ELA Canada, 2015
© Guillaume Simoneau / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

FF: The 1990s produced a generation of artists who work with subject matter that is “close to home”. Like Nan Goldin, who arguably could be considered the common influence among that subset of documentary photographers, these are artists who collaborate with people in vulnerable contexts; a deep sense of trust is evident. Is that something you’re also striving for in your photography?

 

GS:  It is something I visit from time to time, yes. I hope to never come to a point where I cannot recognise the immediate potential of my surroundings. I would feel very pretentious and, quite frankly, would be terribly disappointed in myself. I don’t believe in the glamour of the foreign for its own sake. If you are in the middle of something unique, you should by all means recognize it and use your proximity as an instrument to help you produce great work.

Establishing trust with my subjects is something I “strive for” more in my work than collaborating with people in vulnerable contexts. The subject can be fully capable and healthy but if he or she doesn’t trust you, you are wasting your time, no matter how powerful the context.

 

Dan Rearick on location ELA Canada, 2014
© Guillaume Simoneau / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

FF: Your profile as an artist really took off through the attention focused on your project, Love and War. That must have felt alarming in many ways, since that series chronicled such a personal experience. How has that level of scrutiny affected you as an artist and how you work now?

 

GS: Yes, post Love and War was daunting, indeed. Given the non-replicable nature of the work, I wanted and needed to distance myself from it as much as possible, no matter what the consequences would be. In order to do so, I knew deep inside that all I needed to do was to trust myself and follow my intuition. But it took almost a year to really sink in. It took, in fact, exploring a subject like Experimental Lake to rebalance the intimacy level of my practice as a whole. Now I feel I can go wherever I want from here and it feels truly liberating.

 

Mobile ELA field station Canada, 2014
© Guillaume Simoneau / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

FF: What kind of collector is drawn to your work?

 

GS: My base is in Montréal but my audience is worldwide. Therefore, I think my practice particularly resonates with collectors who have a strong knowledge of the international contemporary photography scene. I would also add to that my work appeals to individuals and institutions interested in the future of contemporary Canadian photography.

Six three on location ELA Canada, 2015
© Guillaume Simoneau / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

FF: What’s next for you?

 

GS: MURDER, a timeless dialogue with the work of my mother, Jeanne D’Arc Fournier, and an homage-attack to the acclaimed Ravens series by Japanese photographer Masahisa Fukase (1934-2012). (I’ve seen the work; “homage-attack” is a thrilling description – Ed.)

 

Experimental Lake will be published in book-form later this year by MACK. Simoneau’s next project, MURDER, will be released in 2018.

 

Guillaume Simoneau’s dedicated gallery page can be found HERE

 

Like what we’re doing with these blog posts? Have a question? You can reach me at Craig@FFOTOIMAGE.com.

Craig D’Arville, COO

Spotlight On: Alison Rossiter

Alison Rossiter, Light Horse (From Eadweard Muybridge’s Horses, Running, Sallie G), 2003

© Alison Rossiter / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

Alison Rossiter’s art practice is primarily pursued without the aid of a camera, yet her compositions are still conjured in a traditional darkroom setting. She ‘finds’ photographs using a variety of expired photo papers, chemicals, and the dimmest lighting. The resulting explorations feature masterfully rendered images that demonstrate an impeccable technique. Rossiter’s prints have an undeniably tactile materiality, making them equally appealing as both photographs and objects.

Including Rossiter among our growing group of artists marks an important addition to the variety of photo-based approaches available through FFOTOIMAGE. In the following Q&A, Stephen Bulger delves into Rossiter’s process, giving insight and offering an extra layer of context to her artistic output.

Like what we’re doing with these blog posts? Have a question? You can reach me at Craig@FFOTOIMAGE.com.

 

–Craig D’Arville, COO, FFOTOIMAGE

 

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Alison Rossiter, No. 11, Kodak A20 F-3, Expired March 1, 1945, Processed 2007

© Alison Rossiter / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

FFOTOIMAGE: How did Rossiter come to work with old photographic papers from the 20th century, as in the series, Lament?

 

Stephen Bulger:  It happened gradually. For years Alison has been working with old processes (cyanotypes) and methods (photograms). She became an intern at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s photographic conservation lab, which piqued her interest in old photographic papers, and so when she came across some old boxes of photo paper for sale, she bought them largely out of appreciation for their package design. Eventually Alison’s curiosity about whether or not she would be able to use these old papers to make contemporary prints sent her into the darkroom to find out. She prepared the darkroom chemicals and, while working under the protection of a safelight, removed the top piece of paper from its protective packaging and placed it in the developer. Gradually, a faint image appeared that looked like it had been intentionally made, and it caught Alison off-guard. She was excited to see this trace of existence form in front of her eyes, giving an added layer of excitement to a process that has entranced photographers for decades. She considered these prints to be ‘found photograms’; although these images were not created by someone intentionally arranging objects, but rather came to existence through circumstantial exposure over the years that permeated the packaging, as well as the damaging effects of age impacting organic matter.

Producing photographs with so little intervention on her part was a completely new experience, but one that compelled her to scour for sources of long expired photographic papers, and to buy as much as she could.

Alison Rossiter, Light Animal No. 9, 2000

© Alison Rossiter / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

FF: Can you walk us further through Rossiter’s various darkroom processes when she is working with expired papers?

 

SB:  Continuing her investigations, Alison devised a methodology with each box of paper: The first print to be processed is made using the sheet from the top of the package, then the sheet from the bottom; then the second sheet from the top, followed by the second sheet from the bottom, and so on, always working towards the centre. The density of the paper means that after a few layers there is less chance she’ll discover a ‘found’ photograph so she stops processing from that box. Later on, when Alison thinks about doing some selective development, she creates variations on a theme until the package of paper is depleted.

Due to oxidization, some of the papers turn a deep and uniform black that, while beguiling, wouldn’t have the modulation of form that had been catching her eye. After working on the project for well over a year, Alison began experimenting further, by selectively dipping the papers in developer, or pouring developer over them, which produced patterns she admired from mid-twentieth century art history. Doing these explorations under a safelight enables Alison to watch and guide the process, so although there is a strong element of surprise, these photographs are made more intentionally that the earlier works. She continues to produce work in both veins, which some of us have come to refer to as being either ‘found’ or ‘made’.

For those unfamiliar with photographic chemistry, it is important to know that the magic of photography has long relied on the ability of light to cause a reaction in silver. Photo papers are comprised of tiny silver particles suspended in an emulsion (usually gelatin); when exposed to light, a latent image is formed which must be developed out. An alkaline solution (developer) renders the latent image visible, and an acid bath stops that action. The use of a fixing agent as a third step removes any residual silver so the image doesn’t continue to darken to pure black, and makes the image permanent. Additional chemicals, and a thorough wash completes the archival processing and produces a long lasting photographic print.

Alison Rossiter, Sears Roebuck Darko Cardboard, exact expiration date unknown, ca. 1940s, processed 2012

© Alison Rossiter / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

FF: Can you tell us about the significance of diptychs in Rossiter’s work, and the pairing/mirroring of images?

 

SB:  Although each photograph by Alison in this series is unique, she works in various ways within the overall project. A diptych of a ‘found’ photograph indicates that the pieces of paper were in a package together. It is important to note that Alison has restricted her collecting of expired papers to include only packages that have been previously opened, so often what we see is actually evidence of prior ownership. It can appear as fingerprints, or as the visual effects that result when smaller pieces of photo paper (the remains of making test strips) are stuck to other pieces. Alison’s general policy is that if a piece of paper leaves the package stuck to another, those pieces should remain together and so she presents them as collages. I have to say she is a real master at piecing together photographs, and coaxing the maximum beauty out of her materials.

Regarding her series, Pools, those diptychs are created by placing two pieces of photo paper side by side and carefully pouring some developer solution on the abutting sides, allowing the developer to pool near a portion while surface tension protects the rest of the paper. After achieving full development, both papers are quickly picked up by their outer edges and placed in the stop bath so the unique shapes she watches form on the surface remain intact as the final photographs.

Alison Rossiter, The Elements of Style – Strunk & White, 2004

© Alison Rossiter / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

FF: Alison also makes photograms, which aid in anchoring her practice within the long tradition of experimental photography. What’s significant about the specific books and objects that she chooses to work with?

 

SB:  Alison’s photograms of books are what introduced me to her in 1997. I love great photograms from the early twentieth century, but ones done more recently rarely attract my eye, so after my friend described the exhibition he was bringing me to, I entered Sarah Morthland’s gallery with some trepidation. However, I was blown away by the simplicity of the photographs, and how they were an homage to books, but were showing the books in an entirely different way. These are books from her own library that she selectively brings into the darkroom and places on an appropriately sized piece of photo paper, directly under an enlarger. A carefully timed exposure renders the background pure black while the spine, being the most impervious part of the book, is opaquely white. The covers have been fanned out to be self-supporting, so the interior pages fall as they might, rendered permanently as exquisite shades of gray.

 

FF: Alison describes her work as being an homage to analogue photography. When speaking about Lament, specifically, she refers to how the darkroom experience is like time travelling and states: “These are images that are making themselves”. Both the title, Lament, and that description of how the images appear suggest a reverential and almost spiritual aspect to her work. Is that a valid observation?

 

SB: I think that’s quite valid. Part of the time travel comes from working with papers that are often more than 100 years old, and the sense of prior ownership imparted on these items that were initially handled ages ago. I think Alison is being self-effacing when she says, “making themselves”; she has so much darkroom know-how in the back of her hand, that she can customize the chemistry to produce the utmost tonality. I agree that there is a strong element of accident in her work, but she is very methodical and skilled.

Her work is a testament to object quality. People often get so enthralled with a photograph’s content, that they fail to consider the aesthetic quality of the print itself. With any work of art, each and every decision that goes into the making of an object is extremely important. The maker must be in full control in order to create an object that elevates itself.

I should say that although Alison initially called the series Lament, over the years she has used other titles, too (i.e. Latent).

Alison Rossiter, Untitled, Circa 1995

© Alison Rossiter / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

FF: Rossiter’s art would add a meaningful layer of context to any serious collection of photography. What other thoughts might collectors keep in mind when considering work by this artist?

 

SB: We’ve noticed that people are attracted to Alison’s work for a variety of reasons. Curators and collectors who specialize in photographs were early supporters of the work because of how it is an homage to aspects of the medium that have become extinct. Collectors of paintings recognize the influence of twentieth century art history. Most viewers of Alison’s work fall in love with the formal aspects of the work as well as the beauty of the objects she makes. Since the hand of the artist is apparent in each of these unique photographs, it’s also true that people sometimes are drawn to them as a reaction against the perfection of contemporary digital reproduction.

 

Alison Rossiter’s dedicated gallery page can be found HERE.

Alison Rossiter, Sears Roebuck Darko Cardboard, exact expiration date unknown, ca. 1940s, Processed 2012, Installation Shot

© Alison Rossiter / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

Craig D’Arville, COO

Spotlight On: Our FF Marketplace

DianeArbus, Lady at a Masked Ball With Two Roses On Her Dress, 1967:

© Estate of Diane Arbus

Our mission at FFOTOIMAGE is to connect collectors with museum-quality works of photo-based art by respected, internationally exhibited artists. The modes of photo-based works on offer range from historical images by renowned figures, printed using traditional methods, to the latest works by contemporary artists who are exploring the medium of photography in exciting new ways.

Recent blog posts have profiled Sara Angelucci and Scott Conarroe, contemporary artists whose output is featured in galleries dedicated to their ongoing bodies of work. This blog entry showcases the FF Marketplace, FFOTOIMAGE’s consignment service that presents singular, exceptional works of art selected from the holdings of reputable collections.

The images shown here are from our most recent listings. These are important, rare, and highly desirable works of art by some of the most prominent photographers of the 20th and 21st centuries. Every work has been carefully scrutinized for condition and provenance by a representative of Stephen Bulger Gallery, one of the world’s leading art dealers specializing in photo-based art for over twenty years.

Prints listed in the FF Marketplace are available for immediate purchase and can be shipped almost anywhere in the world. Clicking on an image will show full details about that work, including pricing and, whenever possible, additional anecdotal information.

Richard Misrach, Desert Fire, 1985:

© Estate of Richard Misrach

Pedro E. Guerrero, Taliesin West, 1940:

© Estate of Pedro E. Guerrero

Herman Leonard, Miles Davis, 1989:

© Estate of Herman Leonard

Alison Rossiter, Sears Roebuck, 2012:

© Alison Rossiter / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

Ruth Bernhard, Hips-Horizontal, 1975:

© Estate of Ruth Bernhard

Harry Callahan, New York, 1977:

© Estate of Harry Callahan

Lee Friedlander, Kyoto, 1977:

© Lee Friedlander

Should you have a question that hasn’t been answered to your satisfaction in any listing, please contact us as we would be happy to help you make your purchase with confidence.

The FF Marketplace Recent Additions gallery can be found HERE.

 

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Craig D’Arville, COO

Spotlight on: Scott Conarroe

Chaltwasser Gletscher, Switzerland, 2014:

© Scott Conarroe / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

It’s a familiar observation that artists reflect the world back to us. In recent years, Scott Conarroe’s photography has documented large-scale views of land, sea, and mountains, often presenting a depth of detail that the human eye cannot process without the aid of a camera. These elegant images remind the viewer to notice the world we live in, and move through, every day.

We spoke to Scott to find out about his art practice and how he follows through on his inspirations. In the process, we discovered his affinity for 19th-century landscape paintings and learned how his desire to remain inconspicuous has influenced his photographic method.

Like what we’re doing with these blog posts? Have a question? You can reach me at Craig@FFOTOIMAGE.com.

 

–Craig D’Arville, COO, FFOTOIMAGE

 

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FFOTOIMAGE: Your current exhibition, Frontière, Frontiera, Grenze, presents ravishing views of alpine beauty but the geographical features serve to support the larger thesis of this project. Please tell us about this work and the inspiration behind it. 

 

Scott Conarroe:  The series is about the moveable borders that four nations devised in response to glacial melting and watershed drift. As permafrost in the Alps retreats to higher, colder elevations, the terrain below is softening and crumbling.  Landscapes are changing shape. Boundaries drawn in earlier eras no longer conform to the ridgelines and drainage basins those treaties were based upon, so Switzerland, Italy, Austria, and France have rendered sections of their borders fluid.  When the geography re-stabilizes they’ll establish new boundaries. Rather than insisting these arbitrary lines are inviolable, this is an elegant acknowledgement that we can’t hold back time. It’s one scant silver lining of glacial extinction…  so in addition to being a type of glacier salvage archive, Frontière, Frontiera, Grenze considers an avant-garde view of statecraft for a future that is increasingly defined by climate change. “Frontière”, “frontiera”, and “grenze” are French, Italian and German-language words for “border”.

As for the pictures, it’s worth distinguishing the views and the prints from the jpegs online. These are big spaces. To take them in onsite as a viewer you’d have to both pan and tilt your gaze. The series’ earliest “keepers” were a few 4x5 scans stitched together. There’s one in the show.  Most of the scenes are built from dozens of MF captures. They’re massive, intricate files that have actually been reduced rather than enlarged for printing. It’s a little overkill but visually fascinating. It’s disorienting.  You can focus in tighter and tighter and just keep seeing more and more until some tiny bivouac or troupe of mountaineers resets the scale abruptly.  It’s as closely related to Google Earth as it is to the paintings of Turner or Caspar David Friedrich.

Econoline, Ketchikan AK, 2010:

© Scott Conarroe / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

FF: Your previous bodies of work, By Rail and By Sea, document rail systems and coastal communities of North America, observing how we humans relate to, and transform, our environment. In talking about that work you said, “If nature wasn’t so interesting, its indifference would be terrifying.” Is this in reference simply to the untamable forces of nature in general, or are you also suggesting the effects of climate change?

 

SC:  The Romanticists’ concept of the sublime commingles beauty with vague fear. It stems from physical and visual sensations, from vertigo at the edge of a cliff, or of a sense of smallness in powerful weather. Frontière, Frontiera, Grenze definitely has this, but there’s also an intellectual terror that comes from the uncertainty of paradigm shift. We know the future could very well be jarring. It’s uncomfortable to imagine, yet I can’t not look.  Every day we see adaptations and extinctions. Flora and fauna are migrating north in real-time.  In By Sea, and in this project, maps are changing shape at sea level and also at great heights.

Glacier Du Tacul, France, 2013:

© Scott Conarroe / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

FF: You’re a Canadian living in Zurich, and you travel extensively as part of your process. Like painting, the act of photographing can encourage an en plein air approach to making art. Does a wanderlust inform your art practice, or do you instead seek settings that help you to realize a concept you’re developing?

 

SC:  My home life is split between Switzerland and a village a few hundred kilometres from Vancouver. My professional life happens in other places. I’m spread out. I get why you call it wanderlust, but I see my field-work more as digressions within my normal range. I’m extremely fortunate to have this practice to bring with me. I make work for pleasure, sometimes out of habit, but mostly because it allows me firsthand views or even interaction with events I’d otherwise only know from books and films and podcasts. I get some semblance of a stake in things I’m curious about. I tend to work quite generally at first. As patterns and motifs emerge from a topic I address them more deliberately.

 

FF: Your photographs present a specific, elevated aspect from which a viewer is meant to consider a composition. That vantage point is often several metres aboveground, but never from such a height that a viewer feels detached from the subject matter. Can you talk a bit about that compositional device in your photography? 

 

SC:  When I first got a 4x5 I felt painfully conspicuous. I was anxious about the camera and the expense of sheet film. Being jostled on the sidewalk was a discomfort I could get away from, though. I made my way onto rooftops and fire escapes. I came to appreciate how useful a little elevation could be. Pictures became about arrangements of things rather than things themselves. The foreground became simply the bottom of the frame, and viewers could flip back and forth between slightly abstracted spaces and places a person could plausibly enter. I got into the habit of reverse-engineering pictures, of finding a place to plant the camera and deciding what to shoot from there. It made sense to me to build a practice on perspective rather than circling subjects for vantage points.

Storage Lot, Cochrane AB, 2008:

© Scott Conarroe / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

FF: There is an almost 19th century, Romantic and painterly sensibility to your photographs, which feels intentional. Do you see your work as falling within the tradition of the great landscape painters?

 

SC:  I know what you mean. It’s not exactly deliberate though. The origin of my pretty palette was a gigantic Impressionism book my brother brought home from a semester abroad. It didn’t quite fit on any shelf in our house. Throughout my teenage years it was always just laying around. I’d flip through it once in a while. I read bits of the essay. I gained an appreciation for blotchy, flowery people in hats.  When I eventually found my way to art school the “Serious Work” seemed distressingly arid. I did my undergrad in Vancouver, and it was easy to imagine myself in opposition to some orthodox Photoconceptualism. That stance hasn’t been very relevant for a long time, but my shtick evolved from it.

I saw Stan Douglas’s Hasselblad Prize show last month. It was inspiring. Upstairs was the Gothenburg Kunsthalle’s permanent collection. I’m mostly ignorant about Scandinavian painting, but I’d been falling in like with a small reproduction in our hotel room; a woman and man on a deck by a lake; Richard Bergh’s Nordic Summer Evening (1899), cropped into a 5:6 frame. It was the first piece I landed on in the Nordic Romanticism room. I don’t know where my work falls in relation to The Greats, but I felt at home in each of those shows.

 

FF: You’ve documented communities, civic infrastructure, land, sea, and mountains in your photography. What’s next for you?

 

SC:  Right now I’m articulating what seems to be a study of historical spaces. I’ve been picking at it casually, not really paying attention. Since the weather got cold, though, I’m at the computer more.  It looks like a somewhat fleshed out body of work has already occurred.

I’m also preparing to teach some classes that are kind of outside my wheelhouse.  They’ve got more directorial bents so I’m looking at Philip-Lorca diCorcia and Stan Douglas and William Notman with new, gleaning eyes.  It’s perfectly timed for the direction I’m working in.  I’d like to do something about forests.

Scott Conarroe would like to thank the following organizations for their encouragement and support of Frontière, Frontiera, Grenze: The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, The Canada Council for the Arts, and ArtBellwald.ch.

 

Scott Conarroe’s dedicated gallery page can be found HERE.

 


In the coming weeks, the FF Marketplace will list several rare and significant photographs by historically important artists, including works by Diane Arbus, André Kertész, Karl Moon, Sugimoto, and others. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to hear when these works become available for purchase.

Craig D’Arville, COO

Q&A with Shari Orenstein

John Hartman discussing his work at Nicholas Metivier:

© Shari Orenstein

One of our goals at FFOTOIMAGE is to give art enthusiasts the confidence to make smart acquisition choices. Researching artists and looking at plenty of art, both in person and online, is a sure-fire way to become comfortable with the ins-and-outs of building a meaningful collection. You can do that exploring on your own, or you can seek out personalities in your community – or while travelling – as almost every city has people who are driven to share their passion for art.

In Toronto, we’re fortunate to know Shari Orenstein, an architect and art lover who makes connections between artists and audiences through her fun and informal course, Conversations from the Toronto Art World with the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. Shari is Toronto’s ultimate art world insider and she is on a mission to share her knowledge.

We talked to Shari to find out about the talks and tours that she leads, her tips about starting a collection, her opinions about the importance of living with art, and more.

 

Are you enjoying these blog posts? Drop me a note and let me know: Craig@FFOTOIMAGE.com.

Shari Orenstein’s Conversations from the Toronto Art World

 

FFOTOIMAGE: What was the inspiration behind the popular Conversations from the Toronto Art World? How did you come to launch it?

 

SHARI ORENSTEIN: While I have a BFA in Visual Art, I went on to become an architect, and now do only residential projects. Clients and friends were always asking me to help them find art for their homes, especially their renovated spaces, as they knew I spent a great deal of time exploring the art galleries in the city. Simultaneously, seven years ago I was searching for a course on Contemporary Art in Toronto, or Canada, and I just couldn’t find one. So, sensing an opportunity, I proposed my course Conversations from the Toronto Art World to The University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies. What I really wanted to do was connect the art lovers with the artists, make the connections and introductions that were going to help get my clients and friends into the galleries in a comfortable way. I really see a lot of talent in Toronto and I wanted to find a way to somehow support and promote that.

Clive Holden with Shari Orenstein at Stephen Bulger Gallery:

© Stephen Bulger Gallery

FF: Conversations has a loyal following – some attendees have been participating in your events since the beginning. Who signs up for these talks, and what kinds of experiences should they expect?

 

SO: The students in my class range in age and experience from artists, art students and recent graduates, to a few who may have never set foot in a gallery, to seasoned collectors. The age range is from 25 to 95, which would include my father, but generally speaking they are always enthusiastic and quite art savvy. It is a great opportunity to hear both emerging and senior artists speak about their work, their passions, inspirations, and challenges. The talks are informal and quite personal so we gain a great deal of insight into the artist, their background and their life, and I think that’s what makes it so interesting and helps us understand that much more about their work. Classes are held in the galleries with both artist and dealer present so we also learn about the relationship between the two, how they came to work together, and especially how the dealer supports the artists. In other words, about the business of art as well.

Viewing Ken Nicol at Olga Korper Gallery:

© Shari Orenstein

FF: For some, the idea of talking to art dealers and visiting their spaces can be intimidating. What do you suggest to help people to get beyond that fear?

 

SO: That is totally true, for many the art world is an unknown, totally out of their box, no matter how accomplished they may be as lawyers, doctors, bankers, etc., and so I try to let people know that this is only natural but that the art community is actually very friendly, very open to talking about the work, and that all questions are valid. One could simply start with, “Can you tell me about this piece, or this artist?” or “How was this made?” It is also good for the dealers to know how nervous many people feel when entering a gallery for the first time. Once the class has heard a speaker at their gallery, they are far more comfortable visiting that gallery, and more likely to attend any exhibit of an artist they have heard speak. The class runs in the fall when there are so many art events in Toronto, like the Toronto Art Fair, so again it is an opportunity for people to feel they can easily approach a dealer, or artist, and say “Hi, I heard you speak in Shari’s class last week…do you have any work by so-and-so?” All the dealers report that this has happened over and over again, so I guess it’s working.

 

FF: Do people have to register for Conversations to take advantage of the access you provide, or is there a way to accommodate people who can’t commit to a full schedule of gallery talks?

 

SO: I usually do three gallery walks throughout the term, just for fun. These walks are not really part of the class, so anyone can join and that’s another great way to be introduced to the galleries and dealers. And by the way, anyone is welcome to attend a gallery opening; they need only contact the gallery and ask to be added to the email list so they might receive invitations to openings. There is no such thing as a private invitation – all are welcome and the galleries absolutely want you to attend!

Shelley Adler in her studio with Shari Orenstein:

© Shari Orenstein

FF: Conversations encourages attendees to become confident, knowledgeable art enthusiasts. What advice would you give to budding collectors? What are some of the considerations and questions to ask?

 

SO: Becoming a confident collector takes time, experience, and knowledge. The best thing you can do is to visit the galleries, speak to the dealers, learn about the artists and do your research. This process also allows the collector to acquire the most important element, which is self knowledge, learning to discover what your own personal tastes and interests are. Developing a relationship with a knowledgeable dealer who can help you build your collection is key, whatever your price range may be. Confidence in the dealer you work with is part of it and all good dealers would agree. As the famous collectors, the Vogels of New York, said, “You have to look, and look, and look!”

If your interest lies in collecting photography, you want to work with someone who can advise and guide you in a direction you choose, whether that is historical formal photography, or more contemporary multimedia work. Photography has become so popular now with collectors, and while many galleries exhibit photo-based work only a few in Toronto specialize in it; this is where I would start. Visit the gallery that you are interested in, attend openings, artist talks and why not attend the films offered Saturday afternoons in Toronto at Camera Bar, in Stephen Bulger Gallery?

 

FF: Once art enthusiasts begin to bring art into their homes, they often talk about experiencing a wider engagement with the world of ideas in their everyday lives. What have you found to be the benefits of interacting with art, and living with it at home?

 

SO: I couldn’t live without it! It enhances my life everyday and I never tire of looking at it. I remember moving and having to take all the art down from my walls, it felt as though the room had no life, no energy in it! I also love having work by artists that I know in my home, it connects me in a very strong way to the art community here, and it makes me feel a part of the cultural milieu in which I live. Fair warning though… Art very quickly becomes an addiction!

 

FF: How do you see Conversations evolving? The program started as presentations in a lecture hall format, but now each session takes place in a gallery or an artist’s studio; is there a ‘next step’ for the program?

 

SO: I think this format is working very well and I wouldn’t want to change it… I have done taped interviews, TV interviews, and many articles, but being with the art, the artists and dealers – actually in the presence of the work – is what works best.

FF: The current session of Conversations is now underway. When will the next session begin? How can people find out more?

 

SO: This fall’s class began October 13 and runs for eight weeks.

You can register for the next class at The University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies, course number 2597. I also post frequently on Facebook under Conversations from the Toronto Art World, and on my Instagram account, about shows and art events around Toronto.


In the coming weeks, the FF Marketplace will list several rare and significant photographs by historically important artists, including works by Diane Arbus, André Kertész, Karl Moon, Sugimoto, and others. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to hear when these works become available for purchase.

Craig D’Arville, COO

Spotlight On: Sara Angelucci

Sara Angelucci, Man/Maple, 2016:

© Sara Angelucci, courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

Sara Angelucci is a Toronto-based, multi-disciplinary artist. Through her art practice, Angelucci explores how we, as people, relate to one another and to the environment. Her projects make connections between legacy, identity, and accountability in deceptively beautiful ways that provoke contemplation.

The following Q&A touches on Angelucci’s creative process, the use of music in her work, her interest in vernacular photography, and an announcement about a major new installation project scheduled for 2017.

 

–Craig D’Arville, COO, FFOTOIMAGE

FFOTOIMAGE: These photo-based works from Arboretum are components of a larger project. As a multi-disciplinary artist, you make use of all the media and technologies available to you – ranging from antique, mass-produced paper ephemera; film and video; computer-rendered, photo-based work; live performance; and the latest methods of reproduction available through 3D printing. How do these elements come together in your practice?

 

Sara Angelucci: Although I am a photo-based artist, and this is my primary medium (and often where my projects begin) my work is conceptually driven, so I seek out the medium that I feel will best express my ideas. I have been working in a multi-disciplinary fashion since I was an undergraduate student – so there is nothing new in this. However, I would say music and sound have had a more primary place in my work in the past few years. I am never drawn to technology for its own sake (i.e. 3D printing). What draws me to one way of working or another is its expressive potential and the way the medium itself speaks to the ideas. In the case of the 3D printed Ivory-billed woodpecker for example, I wanted to create a “tree” out of Singer sewing machines and this technology allowed me to create an almost exact replica of this extinct bird that I could then position on top of the sculpture. The ROM had a mounted specimen that they allowed me to photograph for this purpose. I also love the idea that although it is a sculpture it is also a photograph.

 

FF: The fragility of symbiosis is a recurring theme in your work – the interdependence of humans and nature, as well as the power dynamics at play within society. How does working with paper ephemera, the artifacts of long-dead people, succeed as such an effective metaphor for ecology?

 

SA: We are part of nature and the animal kingdom, and as humans we are all connected. This is both a scientific fact but also an existential belief, but we rarely see ourselves that way and it’s hugely problematic for us as a species and the planet itself. I have been collecting old photographs for many years. I am inexplicably drawn to them. I find many old portraits I discover to be beautiful and haunting. And there’s also something powerful in holding the image of someone in my hand I know is long gone – and wondering about them. Who were they? What were their lives like? I had the same inexplicable sad feeling when I was at the ROM looking at extinct birds. So perhaps putting them together is a simple gesture, but when I did it, it seemed to make sense as a way of expressing our connectedness. The result was both startling and strange and it made people really look and wonder. I think if an image makes people consider these ideas then it’s successful in some way.

Sara Angelucci, Sister Elms, 2016:

© Sara Angelucci, courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

FF: With the cabinet cards that are used as one of the inspirations for Arboretum, can you address the sense of false documentary, or the constructing of an idealized history, that is being referenced there?

 

SA: If you really examine a cabinet card studio portrait it’s falseness becomes glaringly apparent. The painted backdrop is selected for its ability to position the figure in some kind of narrative frame. The figure’s pose is often stiff and artificial and of a selective type. And of course, people are dressed in their best clothes. Often such images are taken on special occasions (wedding portrait) or at a certain stage in a person’s life. In spite of all this, sometimes the elements coalesce to create something quite beautiful.

In the Arboretum series I sought out cabinet cards with painted forest backdrops. I see the trees that I photographed (which are in the foreground and encompassing the figure) as reclaiming their rightful place in the nature/human balance. The figure is still visible but now it is interwoven and part of the landscape. The fact that the figure is becoming a tree or is integrated with the tree also gives character to the tree as well. For example in Sister Elms, it’s possible that these trees (like the women posing for the image) are indeed sisters. I have been reading this fantastic book by German forester Peter Wohlleben entitled The Secret Life of Trees where he describes how trees are connected in what he would describe as family relationships. He talks about how they communicate, and how they physically support one another through their roots systems. After reading his book you look at the forest in a whole other way and I see more links between us than ever before.

Sara Angelucci, Loggerhead Shrike/endangered, 2013:

© Sara Angelucci, courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

FF: Your fascination with cartes-de-visite suggests that you yourself are a collector of specimens and artifacts – a cataloguer – much like the scientists and explorers who sourced the now-endangered and extinct birds that are the subjects of Aviary. Can you talk about the cataloguing instinct in the context of that body of work and its related programming?

 

SA: I do collect cartes-de-visite and cabinet cards, but also tin types. My collecting impetus is collecting as source material so aesthetics play a major role. I’m not a rigorous cataloguer or one who has to have everything or every type. I look for a certain quality of backdrop or quality of sitter. It’s a very intuitive process. Sometimes I buy things without having any idea what I might do with it – but I just know I have to have it.

What started off the process of working or transforming these found images was the project The Anonymous Chorus. I was on a residency and I had brought a number of found photographs with me. I began to think about the fact that all of these people who were once loved, were once someone’s sister or wife, someone’s brother or son, now had no context at all. They were silent, voiceless. And then this idea arose of giving voice, literally by creating a choral work in which people could be sung back into being. The human voice is a very powerful evocation of presence. So that’s what I did, I found a choir and had one person (voice) stand-in for each of the absent people in a very large family group portrait. When you experience the piece, which is presented as a video installation, for a very short time the audience shares the same temporal space as the image. In this way, I am seeking to suspend time and bring the people in the image “back to life” or at least to conjure their being. The image is projected life-sized, so this brings the audience into a one-to-one relationship with the sitters.

Sara Angelucci, Winter Forest, 2016:

© Sara Angelucci, courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

FF: What’s next for you?

 

SA: I’m really excited to be working on a project with the Art Gallery of Hamilton (AGH) which will open in February 2017. It’s a project that includes photography, audio, video and sculpture too. The AGH invited me to do something for Canada’s 150th anniversary. I was born in Hamilton and my parents and extended family immigrated there. I decided to see if there was something I could do with the factory where my mom first worked when she came to Canada – Coppley Apparel, a factory which manufactures high quality men’s suits. I think this place is special for a number of reasons. It has been in continuous operation since 1883 – and it largely employs women immigrant workers. As such, it has employed every wave of immigrant since the late 1800s. I’ve spent a lot of time there over the past six months. The company chairman and staff have been incredibly cooperative and open to my ideas. I’m photographing and conducting audio interviews with sewers (mostly women). The project is called Piece Work because that’s how the sewers earn their living: they are paid primarily by the number of pieces they are able to sew in a day.

Magical things keep happening as I work on this project. One day I arrived at the factory and the Chairman, Warwick Jones, said to me… “I have a surprise for you. I found someone who used to work with your mother.” My mom worked there until about 1968, and she died quite young – so I never expected that there would be anyone still working there who knew her. Low and behold there was Rose Vartanian who started working at the factory when she was 18 and who still works part-time because she doesn’t want to stay home! Then I found out a grandmother of one of the AGH curators I’m working with also worked there. I’m enjoying this project tremendously. It has great resonance for me and I hope the community there too.

 

An internationally exhibiting artist, Sara Angelucci is an Instructor at the School of Image Arts, Ryerson University, Toronto.

Arboretum continues the artist’s exploration of themes previously pursued in Aviary. Project statements for each body of work can be found HERE (under ‘Artist Docs’).

 

Feel free to share this content on Twitter or Facebook. Links to both platforms can be found on the left margin of this page.

Craig D’Arville, COO

Editions & Multiples in Photo-Based Art

Volker Seding, Kudu, Heidelberg, 1989:

© Estate of Volker Seding / Stephen Bulger Gallery

Welcome to the first installment of the FFOTOIMAGE blog. These posts will cover topics of interest to collectors and fans of photo-based art, offering insight and information about this growing sector of the fine art market.

FFOTOIMAGE blog entries will usually follow a Q&A format, often featuring responses by respected international photography dealer Stephen Bulger, of Stephen Bulger Gallery. Other commentary and content will come from special guests – collectors, curators, artists and other figures from the art world.

Your input will help shape the content of future posts, so please tell us the things you’d like to learn more about. Drop me a note at Craig@FFOTOIMAGE.com.

–Craig D’Arville, COO, FFOTOIMAGE

Let’s get into our first topic: Editions & Multiples in Photo-Based Art

 

For many, the idea of printing and marketing multiples of a work of art is fairly straightforward: Based on interest and demand, artists determine how many copies to produce of a work – known as “the edition” – and then they make those works available to collectors. But in fact, the importance of editioning is essential to organizing an artist’s output, and is necessary to distinguish provenance across collections. As technologies advance, and as artists develop new and interesting ways to present their work, the familiar editioning model is evolving to accommodate individual artist practices. In this Q&A, art dealer Stephen Bulger addresses some of the innovative variations in editioning standards related to photo-based works of art.

 

FFOTOIMAGE: Photo-based art is often presented for sale as a series, or edition, of works. The most familiar editioning format presents prints numbered as “an edition of five, plus one A/P”, or something similar along those lines. How do you think that editioning conventions in the world of photo-based art are evolving as compared to other forms of contemporary art multiples?

 

STEPHEN BULGER: There seems to be a bifurcation of editioning methodology among photo-based artists. On the one hand, many contemporary artists who make large works in small editions (i.e. a run of 2, 3, or 5 prints, let’s say) will, on occasion, also release that same image, or an image not previously available, in a smaller size but in a much larger edition of perhaps as many as 100 or more prints. Conversely, traditional photographers, who would have set editions of, say, 25 prints a few years ago, are increasingly lowering the size of their editions to 10 prints, or fewer.

Clive Holden, INTERNET MOUNTAINS 32 plus 3 variants, 2016:

© Clive Holden / Stephen Bulger Gallery

FF: Clive Holden, with his INTERNET MOUNTAINS project, uses a novel editioning system. Each of his current works are being offered as “one of 1, + 3 variants”. Can you explain how that works?
 

SB: Although Clive’s work is rooted in digital technology, which could allow for endless copies that are virtually identical, he only releases for sale one copy of anything he produces. Each of his variants is recognizable as part of a series when compared to its source, but still distinctly different from each other. Another way to describe his methodology is to say that Clive makes four variations on a theme, and each variation is in an edition of 1/1 (+ Artist Proofs for public exhibition, which in Clive’s case are not for sale).

Sarah Anne Johnson, Drooping Flowers and Beer, 2016:

© Sarah Anne Johnson / Stephen Bulger Gallery

FF: Sarah Anne Johnson, a multidisciplinary artist, has a practice that often involves working on top of the surface of a printed photograph, thus creating a unique work of art with each print. Are works like those considered one-offs, or can they be part of a numbered, editioned series?
 

SB: Within a particular project, Sarah releases different images in different ways. Some pieces are 1/1, but others might be 1/3; however, because of the amount of hand-made interventions on the surface of her prints, if one were to place all three side-by-side, no two would look identical. They might even be different sizes. Comparatively, Sarah’s images that do not have handwork are often released in a larger edition of 5 or 7 prints.

Volker Seding, Okapi, Munich, 1992:

© Estate of Volker Seding / Stephen Bulger Gallery

FF: Can you cite any other examples of artists, working now or in the past, who have established innovative editioning systems in the world of photo-based art?
 

SB: I think Ray K. Metzker was the first person I heard of that incorporated an edition which saw prices increase on a particular schedule as the edition sold out. Many people use this system because it acknowledges the rarity of a popular editions’ remaining examples, and it also helps to keep the starting prices at a lower level.
 
Volker Seding was the first person I knew to use what we call a “universal” or an “umbrella” edition. This term indicates that the stated edition (i.e. 1/10) includes any and all sizes that the artist will make from that negative, or file.
 

FF: Does it make sense to consider somebody like Andy Warhol as a “proto-digital” influence through his screen-printing practice that saw him making works, plus variants of those works, based on figures from pop culture?
 

SB: Warhol is an interesting person to consider, but his practice calls to mind Walter Benjamin’s 1936 essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, which draws distinctions between hand-made and machine-made objects, whereas artists using digital tools have to make a conscious decision to make a unique print. This approach informs Clive Holden’s editioning methodology, as mentioned earlier. It’s an ingenious way of using digital tools to create unique artworks.
 

FF: What considerations are necessary when determining how to value these differently editioned works? That is, are collectors savvy to the distinction between unique photo-based works versus the evaluations that are usually encountered around series of photographs that might have larger, and identical, editions?
 

SB: I think it is important for the edition to be clearly stated, or if it is part of an open edition, the photograph should be clearly authorized by the artist. In the end, the value is determined by supply vs. demand. Something 1/1, it is undeniably rare, but its value is driven because of the significance of the person who made it, and the demand for their work.

 
Works by Clive Holden and Volker Seding are available for purchase through FFOTOIMAGE. Artworks by Sarah Anne Johnson will be available soon.
 
Feel free to share this content on Twitter or Facebook. Links to both platforms can be found on the left margin of this page.

 

Craig D’Arville, COO
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