Agence-France Presse photojournalist Shah Marai was among those killed by two suicide bombers in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday. Marai’s photos, like the one of the balloon vendor above, were stunning, powerful and among the best photojournalism we’ve seen. His work revealed life and war in Afghanistan as seen from the eyes of one of its own people. The New York Times has an excellent article and photo gallery of some of Marai’s work. Shah Marai, rest in peace.
The New Yorker magazine has a fascinating photo essay in its Photobooth series of photographer Josephine Sittenfeld’s then-and-now “Reunion” images. These are photos of her Princeton college classmates. Among them is Ellie Kemper of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” fame. It’s a touching testament to age and time.
The answer, savvy reader, is “No, no it won’t.” Whatever level of individual street cred one has will not be intrinsically changed by watching an awesome, super cool, retro-style surf video. But if there is a surf video that might move the needle slightly to and fro for a hot nano-second before it goes back to its original compass position, it would be this one. “Free Jazz Vein” is the second feature surf film by Argentine filmmaker-surfer Tin Ojeda. (His first was titled “Expencive Porno Movie” (sic), and it’s a classic for the ages.) It’s as beautiful as his first film. We love it.
The MoMA (that’s the Museum of Modern Art in the New York-fucking-City) has recently launched a web video series on YouTube called “At the Museum,” and we, savvy reader, are L-O-V-I-N-G it. (See video below!)
It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the innermost workings of one of the world’s greatest art museums as it prepares to mount a major exhibition. It’s documentary-like, but only to a point. The tone is more cinema-verite in a reality-TV-show way, but produced in ultra-understated, high-minimalist style. There’s no narration. No explanation. No formal sit-down interviews. When staff do talk to the camera, it’s while they’re working, doing the mundane daily tasks of their jobs, like the way witnesses in an episode of “Law and Order” always answer detectives’ questions at their place of work while continuing to do whatever it was they were doing (unloading a truck, wiping down a bar, butchering meat, etc.).
“At the Museum” may have documentary and reality TV bones in its basic visual-narrative architecture, but its manner is the polar opposite of the chaos, Real-Housewivery or Kardashian-Jennerisms we’ve become accustomed to from contemporary reality TV. And it’s far away from anything by Ken Burns or Werner Herzog. No pans, no scans, no slow zooms, no German accents, no depressive anecdotes.
Each episode of “At the Museum” is about ten-minutes long and focuses on some aspect of the museum from the mundane to the important, e.g., shipping and receiving of the artwork. There’s high drama, too, but it’s not obvious and it’s largely confined to the nuances of the art world and its culture and codes. There’s much being said and interpreted in the raised eyebrow or long pause in speech by one of the many MoMA staff, some of whom seem like walking-talking art-world cliches straight outta Central Casting.
But these are real people. The type of people who live, breathe, eat, drink, fuck and poop art, and the type who love their jobs, for whom displaying a small Max Ernst sculpture a quarter centimeter higher on a platform makes all the difference. And we love it! Watch this series.
French photographer Thibaud Poirier has created a series of photos documenting 25 of Europe’s grandest and beautiful great libraries. Poirier’s images capture the vast interior spaces of what he calls “temples of cultural worship.” In all of the these images the libraries are empty.
When you aim a video camera at a live video projection generated from the same camera in real time, the results are fascinating and in the right circumstances can created biological-like patterns akin to “brain coal,” as seen in the above screenshot and video below, which was made by Ethan Turpin. Awesome.
“Hot Mess” is the title of an artwork by Doug Aitken that features a beautiful photograph showing an aeriel view of the Las Vegas strip at night. The image is displayed as a back-lit circular framed object mounted to the gallery wall. At the center of the photo, just above the bright lights of the city, is the title of the artwork in a standard serif font.
There’s humor in this artwork, one of dozens currently on view as part of the artist’s massive retrospective exhibition “Electric Earth” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, a.k.a., MOCA, in downtown Los Angeles. “Hot Mess” is part of series of circular photographic works that marry text and image in intriguing and ironic ways. In the case of this piece, the words evoke and connect several notions about Las Vegas.
Vegas is a unique and strange city among America’s big cities, and for that matter it’s unlike any city in the world in ways that are both obvious and not-so-obvious. As a tourist in the unlikeliest of geographical places, Vegas has traded on its image of being home to several forms of legalized vice, and an image of moral laxity when it comes to this. Gambling, partying, hotel resort travel, and various types of adult entertainment (in addition to entertainment in general), plus a slew of massive trade shows and conventions, and flamboyant, whimsical architecture — all in the middle of the desert — make the city singular and a kind of “mess” culturally and symbolically.
The term evokes the idea of somebody or a thing that is scattered, disorganized, troubled and possibly pathological. Vegas can seem like that. And much like a freshly spewed pile of vomit — for which the term “hot mess” can also be applied — reeking on the pavement steps from its source, a drunken college student who’s chugged too many Jager shots at a strip club, Vegas is very much like that, too. But, hey, that’s only one facet of this multi-faceted metropolis.
And yet, it has its own beauty. Seen from afar, like many cities and in the photo in Aitken’s artwork, Vegas appears like a glittery jewel, a Milky Way galaxy of neon and LED coalesced into a distant blur of energy, enterprise, and urbanized humanity. From a distance, un-vomit-like.
On a recent visit to the Arcana bookstore in Culver City, in Los Angeles, we checked out some beautiful coffee-table books on surfing and surf photography. Among these was a book titled “Surfing San Onofre to Point Dume: 1936-1942.” It’s a collection of sepia-toned photos by Don James documenting his surfing experience and his surfer friends and their lifestyle in Southern California during the pre-World War II era and early war years. The photos reveal what the surfing life was like in its first idyllic golden age when the Hawaiian “sport of kings” was still novel and taking root in California.
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Auteur film director Wes Anderson has produced an amusing short Christmas film (see below) as long-form commercial for the global Swedish clothing retailer H&M. It’s called “Come Together” and stars Adrien Brody as the conductor of a train carrying passengers through a winter holiday storm. The four-minute film is an exercise in branded content for H&M. Aside from a logo “bug,” branding itself and commercial messaging has been kept to a minimum at the end of the video. “Come Together” is quintessential Anderson in terms of style, editing, production design and cinematography, and it is as visually charming as anything we’ve seen from the director. Anderson has directed commercials for other brands in the past and you can see some of them online at AdWeek.