Photography Reviews

Evidence – Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel

Larry Sultan, famously known for his work Picture from Home, which documents the lives of his home with parents in Southern California with contemporary photography, film stills, fragments of conversations and his own writings and other memorabilia, collaborated with Mike Mandel for a work less well-known Evidence, a brilliant recent discovery while reading the book Photography and Collaboration by Daniel Palmer.

Between 1975-1977, Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel worked together and curated selected photographs from a multitude of images that previously existed solely within the boundaries of the industrial, scientific, governmental and other institutional sources. The work Evidence is about juxtaposing these previously contextualised images into new forms of narratives which some become humorous and while others perplexing. The work demonstrate that the meaning of a photograph is conditioned by the context and sequence in which it is seen, and by isolating from their original context that these images take on meanings that address the confluence of industry and corporate mischief, ingenuity and pseudo-science.

© Larry Sultan, from the series ‘Evidence’; Source @ Larry Sultan

One needs to read the book to fully absorb and comprehend what they set out to do (And I wish I have the book to read it closely too!). The absurdity of these pairings somehow has a common thread that holds the whole book, transporting you to a universe that you may be familiar with yet completely off in some way – suggesting that we often read images in a contextualised form and when that’s been removed, what seems familiar becomes floating in a space that is waiting for us to make meaning of. When there’s a series of these and are carefully curated and sequenced, our brain has its way to fill in those blanks and create new forms of narrative. Evidently these are images of evidence, of truths, of events, of history… somehow in Evidence the value of these images changed and became fictional.

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Slow Looking

Do dogs dream?

The dog next to me was sleeping peacefully while I was doing some work on my laptop just next to her. Suddenly there goes some crazy sounds from my right end and I thought she must have been snoring. I took a quick glance over and saw her body was frozen in a crescent moon shape with twitching eyes and continuing with these strange sounds as if she was having some bad dreams. I then typed in google and asked, “do dogs dream?” Apparently they do. Just like us humans.

And then I wondered, “What was she dreaming about?”

Is it her mother? Or is it the neighbour garage dog that she sees everyday? Maybe she was picking a fight with him since she runs away usually in her awake world.

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Slow Looking

The fake valentine.

The workers are on a roll again. When I saw this tunnel full of fake pink sakura flowers hanging beautifully, I know it is the season of love soon. Their florescent orange uniform clashes so loudly with the pale pink fake sakuras that it was eye soaring. Standing on the side of the tunnel, they robotically take apart the pink sakura flowers one by one from sheets and sheets of them, leaving bags of green plastic branches, and bunches of never dying flowers that are waiting to be glued onto the tunnel that people enter into on their daily walks from the ferry pier to the city hub.

“I’ve had enough.”

I imagined one saying that, hanging his uniform on the roof of the temporarily built workplace next to this tunnel that overlooks one of the tallest financial building across the harbour.

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Slow Looking

The poetic dance of the mind.

7:42am. I messaged Zoe, “I dreamt of you last night.” And then she replied, “I thought of you last night and was going to message you today.”

Is there really something called telepathy? Or simply by chance that I thought of you subconsciously and you consciously thought of me too at the same time? Was it because I dreamt of you that somehow that thought came to you so you thought of me? Or was it because you thought of me so your soul travelled to my dreams? Or was it really a synchronised photon entanglement of transporting the same message to two people at the exact same time? Or it doesn’t really have any explanation at all but just plain coincidence. But… isn’t it beautiful? That when I thought of you and you also thought of me? The poetic dance of the mind where at that moment, in some altered universe, we were connected for a split second. And here… are the traces, the breadcrumbs of that beautiful encounter.

She said, “Oh yeah some how the art exhibition event at the gallery we went together during Christmas popped up. So I thought of you.”

I said, “You were teaching me how to play piano in my dreams, and performed first. Somehow you were so into it that you were glowing, and then in the middle of the tune, you stopped, went towards the electric guitar, picked it up and started rocking and rolling.”

Makes me wonder – are there any connections between the two?

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Slow Looking

My body is screaming – let me sleep.

Recognising inner mental processing is an art. And being able to distinguish between the voice of the head vs. the voice of the intuition is a constant cultivation from moment to moment. Am I really feeling this way or is it a disguise of my mind?

This afternoon the sun is piercing in this early Jan of Winter 2021. It makes one want to just lay down hugging its warmth and embracing its passion. The dog next to me is certainly enjoying herself under this temperature, dosing off to sleep from time to time. Watching her just makes my head feels heavy with the crown of my head tinkling, and my whole head just feels like it wants to melt and become one with this cosy air. My eyes can still vaguely see the yellowy orange colour of the sun when closed, my body shivers to contain the heat from outside… for a moment I forgot where I was – the rooftop of my home in HK – and entered into a space of where I could be in Spain by the beach right now, or in Sweden when it was Vicky’s wedding… different body postures transport me down to different memory lanes of similar feelings of this sun saying its hello. So really, our body register a lot of memory too, it’s not just the mind.

And then there, the world stood still.

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Slow Looking

I don’t have a title.

Beginning of this year, I am cultivating into my daily routine of slow looking. And slow noticing of what’s physically around me as well as the mental processes that is going through inside of me. I guess it’s sort of a meditative act into slowing down and really appreciating the present, especially during this time of mass information, past-truth era and everything outside of the realm of self seems so noisy and clustering. The point of this practice is to flow fluidly into the writings, and to be more mindful with little things in our everyday.

And there. My mind goes blank. It’s a good thing, because often we don’t like our mind going blank, and let it sit in the blank state for a while, information or gushes of urges to fill this void keeps coming in just so to relieve this uncomfortability. To be engage with something is our primary instinct? Or my primary instinct. I can’t distinguish. But definitely sitting with this blank state of mind is nothing but uncomfortable. I guess sitting still and watching how the wind blows the “daily schedule” sheet of paper right in front of me soothes me a little. The longer I watch, the more I notice about the heaviness of my stroke on my handwritten daily schedule sheet, how fluid they are or vice versa. And that repeatedly drawn line separately the time and the activity irritates me in a certain sense, because it is not straight and it is rough, with patches of ink around it – I believe it was my finger running on it while the ink wasn’t dry. The more I look at it the more I resonate it with my life line on my left palm. It’s complicated just like that, with different lines overlaying each other, brings me to think about my life path where I seem to go off to different roads before getting back to the main route, and those branches are I guess what makes my life tree interesting, rather than just a plain boring straight line with no characters.

I think I can go on with this automatic writing and practise of noticing but I will stop here. Because this will turn into pages and pages of thoughts that are just flowing through into my brain and just letting my hands be the mechanical system to physically executing them, on this screen and on this page. And honestly, it is very liberating.

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Slow Looking

Contact

Do you ever look closely what technology default functions do to you? What data are they collecting and what information does it provide you with these data?

If there’s no manipulation with these settings and if you input everything in those empty boxes (because you feel obliged to when you see an empty space plus some you must input anyway), what this information says can tell you whether you are on someone’s contact list (you’ll figure out the formula if you really want to…) 

Now what is a contact? Someone you would like to be in touch with? Someone you want to be able to identify (because you can input as much details as you’d like to label that person)? Someone you want to develop a relationship with? Now does it matter whether you are on his/her contact list or vice versa (since your name – if you choose to put your name as your name – will be displayed anyway when you message that person)? And why do you choose to add someone to your contact list and some don’t?

Probably this isn’t something you care about… but it is something that I came to think about. 

What is relationship? and with the advancement of technology, how does the data you give (probably without you noticing) indicate/influences our relationships with others nowadays? 

And now once you noticed, what information do you choose to share with these technology? And even if you don’t, do they secretly keep them anyway in their server?

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Photography Reviews

Two People – Sean Lee

Photography can of course be about documenting what’s in front of us, the pslit moment that happened right in front of our eyes, but it can also serve as a medium to create spaces for conversations, for connections for intimacy.

Two people is an ongoing body of photographic work by Singapore photographer Sean Lee as part of his artistic oeuvre exploring the theme of family and kinship in an Asian context. Lee used photography as a device for breaking the silence in understanding his family better. The number ‘two’ is of particular significance to him as it represents a symbiotic partnership bound by love but also fraught with tension.

© Sean Lee, from the series ‘Two People’; Source @ Landscape Stories

In an interview with Landscape Stories magazine, he described “I have been routinely choreographing performances and situations between my father, my mother, and me, since 2010. I used to think I knew what I was doing with the making of these images, but as time passed I became less certain. At times they seem to speak to me about the dreams and nightmares of childhood. Most of the time, however, they make me wonder about the strangeness of being a human organism and the mystery of being a family, of being a part of a lineage. I continue to photograph my parents because they are the only people who occur to me without my own choosing.”

The work focuses on the relationship between his parents to explore larger themes of love, tension, interdependency and sacrifice. Tentative and moving, these gentle frames of domestic life beckon at us to slow down and contemplate upon the concept of family and ephemeral nature of existence.

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Photography Reviews

Mundane – Salma Abedin Prithi

Bangladesh artist, Salma Abedin Prithi, looks into the gruesome and dehumanising social violence that occurs on the everyday newspaper such as a man is beaten by his neighbours after complaining their music is too loud. A mother is murdered by a local mob suspecting her of kidnapping while she visits a school to inquire about admissions. A child is lynched by thirteen men after being accused of stealing a bicycle.

She stages these stories with her friends and family to reconstruct the psychological experience there was with beautiful harsh black and white staged images. The performative space created between the artist and the actor/ress allows improvisation to push further the participatory act of the actor’s interpretation of the story which are captured and emotionally felt by audience when looking through the images.

In an interview with Lensculture, she described, “The performances in my photographs were quite organic as I did not arrange any rehearsal, script, storyboard, or any other illustration. I need an intimate environment, and preferably accidental moments, to explore the unexpected, which often works better than a planned approach.”

© Salma Abedin Prithi, from the series ‘Mundane’; Source @ Salma Abedin Prithi

Prithi has created a body of work made up of nearly fifty images, split into two distinct streams that work in conversation with one another. Black and white photographs, harshly lit and capriciously surreal are paired with waxed photographs extracted from newspapers, collaged with textual erasures, sourced from the same. She explained that, “many of my photos are taken inside the same room, as these real events were connected to a common place and its morphology. Secondly, I tried to transform real newspaper photos and texts to an ambiguous poetry on such violence, to protest against the mundanity of everyday news.” 

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Photography Reviews

Drawing the Event – Hirofumi Isoya

Another Japanese Artist, Hirofumi Isoya, who was one of the finalist at The Reference Asia shared his series Drawing the Event where he re-examines the consistency in recognition and the linear temporal axis through creating works. Most of the subject matters are familiar in our daily lives and how he manages to capture and record these fragments of life moments is what intrigue me the most with this series.

© Hirofumi Isoya, from the series ‘Drawing the Event’; Source @ The Reference Asia
Coins from the great powers are pressed against a palm as intensely as it becomes congested. The five rings are naturally reminiscent of the Olympic Games. This work, however, clearly presents the more essential subject that money is more stiff and tougher.

These works mostly capture details of subjects, and reflect scenes and sensations that his body catches before he comprehend the whole circumstances. 

The colour of the images are decreased to sepia tone while one side of the frame remains a colour of the original photo. In the interview with The Reference Asia, he mentioned, “While a frame is generally considered as an additional matter to a photographic work, I rather consider my work has an image stuck on a frame which is a sculptural object. I aim to present multiple relationships including the presentness of the colored frame, the spared space between the photograph and the frame created by the process of manipulation, and the viewers’ thinking and disturbances about the outside of the frame which you pointed out.”

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