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December 2010
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2010, Dec 21
Links: Hamburger Eyes in NYC, Sypal Sells Out?, Street View, Ebay

 


							

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Hamburger Eyes, John Sypal

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2010, Dec 18
Secret project #2

Things are coming together. Look for more to come “early next year.” (Link to secret project #1)


							

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2010, Dec 15
Words From the Genius

Jorge Luis Borges, by Diane Arbus

Here’s an excerpt of a very long interview with Borges done in 1966, in his office at the National Library in Buenos Aires. If you are allergic to reading, I could just say that Borges once wrote something to the effect of, “I sometimes wonder why philosophers always take such pains to write long books, when their arguments could be condensed into a few pages.”

This is not directly about photography, but it’s not so hard to connect the dots, right?

INTERVIEWER

You have said that your own work has moved from, in the early times, expression, to, in the later times, allusion.

BORGES

Yes.

INTERVIEWER

What do you mean by allusion?

BORGES

Look, I mean to say this: When I began writing, I thought that everything should be defined by the writer. For example, to say “the moon” was strictly forbidden; that one had to find an adjective, an epithet for the moon. (Of course, I’m simplifying things. I know it because many times I have written “la luna,” but this is a kind of symbol of what I was doing.) Well, I thought everything had to be defined and that no common turns of phrase should be used. I would never have said, “So-and-so came in and sat down,” because that was far too simple and far too easy. I thought I had to find out some fancy way of saying it. Now I find out that those things are generally annoyances to the reader. But I think the whole root of the matter lies in the fact that when a writer is young he feels somehow that what he is going to say is rather silly or obvious or commonplace, and then he tries to hide it under baroque ornament, under words taken from the seventeenth-century writers; or, if not, and he sets out to be modern, then he does the contrary: He’s inventing words all the time, or alluding to airplanes, railway trains, or the telegraph and telephone because he’s doing his best to be modern. Then as time goes on, one feels that one’s ideas, good or bad, should be plainly expressed, because if you have an idea you must try to get that idea or that feeling or that mood into the mind of the reader. If, at the same time, you are trying to be, let’s say, Sir Thomas Browne or Ezra Pound, then it can’t be done. So that I think a writer always begins by being too complicated: He’s playing at several games at the same time. He wants to convey a peculiar mood; at the same time he must be a contemporary and if not a contemporary, then he’s a reactionary and a classic. As to the vocabulary, the first thing a young writer, at least in this country, sets out to do is to show his readers that he possesses a dictionary, that he knows all the synonyms; so we get, for example, in one line, red, then we get scarlet, then we get other different words, more or less, for the same color: purple.

INTERVIEWER

You’ve worked, then, toward a kind of classical prose?

BORGES

Yes, I do my best now. Whenever I find an out-of-the-way word, that is to say, a word that may be used by the Spanish classics or a word used in the slums of Buenos Aires, I mean, a word that is different from the others, then I strike it out, and I use a common word. I remember that Stevenson wrote that in a well-written page all the words should look the same way. If you write an uncouth word or an astonishing or an archaic word, then the rule is broken; and what is far more important, the attention of the reader is distracted by the word. One should be able to read smoothly in it even if you’re writing metaphysics or philosophy or whatever.


							

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Interviews, Jorge Luis Borges

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2010, Dec 09
Short rant about Google Street View and photography

With some regularity, Google Street View art comes through my internet. As far as Street View and photography are concerned, I don’t think there’s any real use in discussing seriously whether Street View work “is” photography or “isn’t” photography. Photography is a pretty wide medium (as Friedlander once said), so there is no point in trying to nail this down right now; after ten years or so we’ll be able to observe how much (or little) this kind of imagery and photography have converged.

But for the sake of argument, let’s look at Doug Rickard’s new book as photography. Much like Peter Funch’s boring work of last year, all I take away from this work is that it’s the result of a time-intensive technical process. I imagine long hours spent in front of the computer, combing through Street View images to filter them based on their coincidence with the photographer’s own aesthetic sensibility. There is nothing “wrong” with this (could be nothing wrong with it!), but like Funch’s images it just strikes me as phenomenally boring – what could Rickard really have learned from this procedure? And what is the audience supposed to take away from it? He knew basically what he wanted from the start, and got it. As it is, I already spend enough time in front of the computer; I’m not interested in the distillation of someone else’s computer time in photobook form.


							

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Google Street View

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2010, Dec 09
Links: Nobuto Osakabe, Thomas Orand, Juan Rulfo, Michael Wolf

  • Japan Exposures’ latest gallery features Nobuto Osakabe, who takes photos of crowds of Japanese people, much like Hiromi Tsuchida’s “Counting Grains of Sand.” There are a few weak images but it’s definitely worth a look.
  • Tokyoite Thomas Orand’s new blog features black and white photos, and some more text compared to his color blog.
  • Juan Rulfo, the author of the canonical Mexican novel Pedro Páramo, was also a pretty good photographer in his own right. Who knew?
  • Tokyo Compression is a book by Michael Wolf, in which he photographs people stuffed into Tokyo trains. I want to take a look at the book before passing real judgment, but it seems like it might well veer into “Tokyo (and, by extension, Japan) is a ‘soulless’/‘miserable’ place.” Big ups to this German guy not only linking to SLJ, but for taking Der Spiegel to task for jumping on (crowding into??) the “sad Japan” train—it calls the people “modern slaves”!

							

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2010, Dec 05
Koyuki Tayama

Koyuki Tayama (田山湖雪) is a photography graduate student at Tokyo Zokei University, home to fellow Tumblr user and Street Level Japan alumnus Lee Kan-kyo. I met Tayama in “real life,” so it was to strange to ask her if she knew this graphic design grad student at her university whose blog I had found through a friend living in San Francisco. But yeah, she knows Lee, and reports that he is “thin.”

I thought Lee’s photographs were worth blogging because he seems to be getting himself into interesting locations (outside of Tokyo) and making basically decent photographs. Tayama’s photographs are sort of the opposite; the places she’s in aren’t made to look all that interesting in themselves, but she makes something photographic out of them. I’m curious to see what direction her work will go from here.


							

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Koyuki Tayama

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2010, Dec 03
December is a big month for Emi Fukuyama

© Emi Fukuyama

Hardcore followers of this blog will know that I’ve been talking about Emi Fukuyama’s work for a good while now. This month she’s got a lot going on: the biggest news is that she’s published her first book, “The Moon, Following Me,” with Tosei-sha. There’s not too much information about it online yet (you can see the cover on her website) but I’m sure if you email either Emi, or Kurt from Japan Exposures, you can find a way to buy it.

Along with the book, Emi has a show up at Tosei-sha for all of December. The content of the show more or less corresponds to the book, which is a summary of a three year series that Emi’s been exhibiting periodically at Totem Pole Photo Gallery.

 

© Setsuko Hayashida

Finally, Emi and Setsuko Hayashida are showing back-to-back exhibits at Totem Pole Gallery to coincide with the publication of their respective books – Hayashida just published “Looking for the Forest.” Hayashida’s exhibit is up from December 7-12, Emi’s is from December 14-19.

At 7:00pm on December 10th, there will be a talk show with Emi Fukuyama, Setsuko Hayashida, Kotaro Iizawa (preeminent Japanese photography critic) and Kunihiro Takahashi (head honcho of Tosei-sha and general badass). The talk show promises to be interesting, I will definitely be there, and you can attend as well, just by sending an email to the nice people at Totem Pole – info at tppg dot jp.


							

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Emi Fukuyama, Tosei-sha

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