Friday, March 20, 2015

Recently Received

Isabella Rozendaal, On Loving Animals (Veenman, 2007)   •  I didn't know much about Rozendaal before seeing this, but one look at On Loving Animals and I was sold. She shows a keen eye for moments and, more importantly, an absurd sense of humor. These are closer to Jeff Mermelstein than Robin Schwartz. Animal lovers should probably stay away from this one, because the human/animal dynamic can get messed up, yo. 

Josh Robenstone, Basta! (Self Published, 2014)  •  In terms of production quality, this book is among the best I've seen, self-published or not. Deep, rich colors and glossy reproductions that jump off the page. The photos are street snaps taken in Italy, then sequenced in small clumps based on surface pattern or, occasionally, multiple takes of one scene.

Mark Powell, Open At Noon (RM Verlag, 2014)    •   Powell is the Hamza El Din of photography. He executes with such quiet subtlety it hardly seems like he's doing much. But his photos grow on me with each viewing, and this small retrospective collects some of his best. If this book had come to me a few weeks earlier last December, it would've made my year-end top ten. I guess the mini-roundup three months later is an ok consolation prize.

Andrew Savulich, City of Chance (Filigranes, 2002)   •  I'm guessing some of these photos will be in Savulich's newbook The City, plus many more. So that might be the one to hold out for. But Steidl keeps pushing back the publication date. At this point it's late April. Who knows when it will actually come out. In the meantime, this is the Savulich book to get. There's a reason he's been called a modern Weegee. He's almost as good, but with a more absurd contemporary sensibility.

Allan Chasanoff, The Party Of The First Pot... (Marcuse Pfeifer Gallery, 1988)  •  Mix equal parts Daniel Gordon, Jan Groover, and John Pfahl and you might come up with something like the odd photos in this exhibition catalog by well-known collector Allan Chasanoff. The creations are bizarre, fantastic, and tough to accept as real. With a graphic layout featuring color blocks, jungle numbers, and skinny-tie font that scream late 1980s, this book is a steal online cheap/used.

Alias Johnny Stiletto, Shots From The Hip (Bloomsbury, 1992)  •  This isn't strictly a photo book but it's fun all the same. Stiletto gives a good sense of what goes through a street shooter's head in various real-life situations. Some accounts are more interesting than others, and the same can be said for the photos. Hit or (mostly) miss. But he's a decent writer (he writes "from the hip" and with humor), there aren't many other books like this, and it's easily available online. So why not?

Koji Takiguchi, Sou (Little Big Man, 2014)  •  An extremely personal and sentimental tale of aging and loss, Takiguchi's first book follows in the tradition of Araki and Furuya. Once again Nick Haymes has pulled out all the stops to produce a book that's as much art piece as photo essay. With beautiful production, layout, and elegant glassine dustjacket, and an interesting interview of the author by Dan Abbe. 

Albano Garcia, Flaneur (Libraria, 2009)   •  Streetscapes from Buenos Aires. The word flaneur often refers to an observer of people but there's not a person to be found here, just objects. The photos are a mixed bag. The shots of buildings and streets are graphically cleansed to the point of sterility, in the realm of Baltz's Irvine work. But some of the quiet interiors and window displays are gritty enough to be poignant.

Photography Album 1 (Centre George Pompidou, 1979)   •  This is an odd and quite interesting collection of 20th century Francophile photographers published by Pompidou. Maybe it was a show too? Who knows. There's not much text but the photos are great. It includes a few well-known —Willy Ronis, William Klein, Richard Kalvar— and many lesser-known. Blanc and Demilly, anyone? Many of these photos were new for me. I run across a lot of old crappy compilations like this in used stacks. Most aren't worth buying. This one is. Recommended if you like b/w, documentary, street, or some mix of the three.

Hans Nostdahl, Tokyo & Christian Belgaux, Appendix (Kniven Press, 2014)  A pair of paperback chapbooks which showed up in the mail a few weeks back. Both are informal, light, streety, and with low contrast monochrome printing verging on Xerox . Each comes with a drugstore C-print enclosed, a nice touch.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Pictures Of The Gone World (City Lights, 1955)   •  Yes, the world is the best place of all for a lot of such things as making the fun scene and making the love scene and making the sad scene and singing low songs and having inspirations and walking around looking at everything and smelling flowers and goosing statues and even thinking and kissing people and making babies and wearing pants and waving hats and dancing and going swimming in rivers on picnics in the middle of the summer and just generally 'living it up'. Yes, but then right in the middle of it comes the smiling mortician.

Carolyn Drake, Wild Pigeon (Self-Published, 2014)  •  I don't know about all the high-falutin' poetry and sequencing and art-speak that went into this, or that come out of it in various reviews. All I know is the section of Wild Pigeon in which Drake collaborates with her subjects and has them draw on photos is fucking killer. Those are ones. Yes. They're like Magnum meets Basquiat which is like better than chocolate and peanut butter together. I usually hate anything popular just because, you know...principles, man.  So yeah, I tried not to like this but I couldn't help it.

Randall Levenson, In Search Of The Monkey Girl (Aperture, 1982)   •  I suppose some might view this as a cruel book. When I showed it to my photo club, they all felt it was over the top mean. But these photos are so strong I can't look away. Randall Levenson doesn't just find riveting freaks. He makes great portraits. For those who feel Arbus is too gentle, this book is for you. With state fair stories by Spalding Gray as a bonus.

Jörg Colberg, Detritus (Self-Published, 2014)  •  This collection of snapshots compiled during recent San Francisco visits shows a predilection for quiet scenes and urban detritus. There are no people. Colberg is focused instead on texture, grit, and moody light. The photos were shot with an iPhone, then made to look like Polaroids with effects. Printed in a limited edition of maybe a handful?

Jim Stone, Stranger Than Fiction (Light Work, 1993)  •  This book opens with the old Winogrand aphorism, "There is nothing as mysterious as a fact clearly described." Fitting, because the book is pretty danged mysterious. I bought it for the large format portraiture, which is strange and brilliant. Tucked between the portraits are newspaper clippings. I have no idea what they're doing there. Maybe no one else does either. I guess that's why it was only $7.

Bob Mazzer, Underground (Spitalfields Life Books, 2014)  •  Street shooting in subways is dangerous, and not because people might yell. It's because it's tough to find new territory there without getting bogged in cliches. But Mazzer is the real deal. Roaming London's Underground over the course of decades, he's turned up a fair number of winners. OK, some are cliche. But enough of these rise above the fray to make this an interesting book.

Jean Depara, Kinshasa Night and Day (La Fabrica, 2010)  •  This small booklet collects some of the best portraits by Angola-born Depara made in the streets and night clubs of Kinshasa between 1951 and 1975. Billy Monk and Malick Sidibe come to mind, and Depara unwittingly followed their career trajectory, becoming better known posthumously than during his life. Most of his negatives were destroyed when he died. Looking at this book, the gravity of that loss hits home.

Jonathan Saunders, Anno VII (Self-Published, 2013)  •   On July 11th every year, Saunders spends the day photographing, then compiles the day's photos into a small book. This is the seventh in the series. It features portraits of women, trees at night, and some interesting montages combining women and trees. Probably some deep symbolism here which I'm too dense to understand. But the photos are dreamy anyhow.

Tom Short, Photographs 1971-1994 (Artsquad Books, 1994)   •  This one could be read in a few ways, as family chronicle, sabbatier experiment, Woodman-style picto-masturbation, or some mix of all three. There are definitely a fair number of images which fall in the Welpott/Uelsmann 1970s mush camp. What saves it are the many bizarre and wonderful portraits which express not only humor but a gently twisted soul. Not many people would be brave enough to publish this.

Alice Shaw, People Who Look Like Me (Gallery 16 Editions, 2006)   •  The realm of identity-tweak photo projects has some stiff competition —Nikki S. Lee, Gillian Wearing, Gordon Stettinius, to name a few. Alice Shaw's may be among the more warped, and I mean that in a good way. Some of her visual pairings are downright uncanny, and the whole thing is a mind-fuck of presentation and visual morphology. Letterman, watch your back. I found a signed copy of this at Powell's for $5, so whoop-de-doo.

Mario Cuic and Steffi Löffler, Year Of The Horse (Self-Published, 2014)    A nice Blurb book containing photos made traveling in China by Cuic and Loffler. The photos blend without captions in the book. It's only at the end that small thumbnails describe the authorship. By that point you realize that maybe it doesn't matter so much, since both have a good eye for moments and color.

Viktor Kolář, Canada, 1968 - 1973 (KANT, 2013)   •  Classic black and white street photos shot by Kolář after he was forced into exile from Czechoslovakia to Canada. Kolář has an exquisite touch in the streets, a nose for the bizarre, and an innate geometric sense. After five years in Canada he returned to Ostrava, where he's been lodged in happy semi-obscurity since. He possesses rare visual talent.

Giancarlo T. Roma and Thomas Roma, Show & Tell (Powerhouse, 2002)    • I picked this up recently after my chat with Thomas Roma. It's a pretty cool concept, one I've contemplated doing myself. Giancarlo was ten at the time of publication, and his captions have an open innocence which is refreshing contrasted to adult art criticism which can gets in the way of itself. Photographically Thomas Roma is a stud as usual, showing many images here found in no other books. If you're a parent, you'll dig it. If not, hard to say.

Troy Holden, San Francisco 2014 (Self-Published, 2014)   •  A small chapbook that shows what one can do with ingenuity, trimmer, glue stick, and roving eye for the bizarre. This book collects some of Troy's favorites of the year, B/W Street pix mostly shot on Market Street in San Francisco. A nice physical specimen, limited edition of 25. Maybe Troy has some left?

Daniel Dale, Reverie, Part I (Self-Published, 2014)  •   A thin collection of color street photos shot mostly at night and/or through dim glass, plus some scattered sidewalk scenes. Overall the vibe is quiet, shy, and concerned with obfuscation. Some are quite nice, reminiscent of an immature Saul Leiter. Others aren't as strong and detract.

Arjan De Nooy, Party Photographer (De Nooy Collection, 2014)  •  A fun little book that plays on the recent rush in photography of found images and reappropriation. Not only has Arjan De Nooy cast miscellaneous party photos as the work of one fictitious person, he's written an entertaining backstory. The pictures and reproductions are rather ho-hum, but kudos for great satire which fits the spirit of the times.

(The blog will be inactive for the rest of March while I take my family to Yosemite. Happy Spring to all. Seeya in April.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

No Medium But Experience

—A chat with Stacy Kranitz and Missy Prince:

Blake: Stacy, I know you grew up in Kentucky but that's all I know about your earlier history. How did you get into photography?

Stacy: I was born in Kentucky but I grew up in Tennessee, Florida, California and Oregon. I was very interested in documenting things from an early age. I was obsessed with Harriet The Spy and would fill notebooks with observations about my friends and the neighbors on my street. I got my first camera from my grandmother for my 16th birthday.

B: Where did you live in Oregon? (Missy's in Portland. I'm in Eugene)

S: Yes, I was thinking about my time in Oregon when I realized you both live there. When I was 16 I was sent to a emotional growth boarding school in the Ochoco National Forest. I lived there for two years and two months. The school has since been closed by the state of Oregon for abuse of children.

B: What's the story there? Emotional growth boarding school?

S: It is a whole industry of survival wilderness programs and therapeutic boarding schools. Parents sign over the rights of their child and these schools can do what ever they want. Many of the people running these programs are untrained and so you have a lot of weird experimenting going on. There were 60 of us stuck in the woods, 9 hours of group therapy a week and lots of weird bioenergetic workshops and labor projects.

B: So you were there against your will? Why did your parents send you there?

S: Yes, I was taken there by an escort who handcuffed me in the back of a car. There was a lot of abuse in my house and social services pulled my brother out of school one day to interview him about our home life. This scared my parents and so they found a place they could put me until I was 18.

B: Wow. Sorry to hear that.

S: It is okay. It was a long time ago. One time the school put 8 of us in a van and we drove to Eugene, Oregon. We had to listen to Philip Glass's Koyaanisqatsi soundtrack the whole way there

B: That's totally bizarre. I was just listening to that last night. My son is learning another song by Philip Glass on piano. What about your grandmother? What was she like and why did you give you a camera?

S: My grandmother was wealthy and believed in education. She paid for my undergraduate education. This was a remarkable thing. We were not close but I think she was very formative in creating opportunities for me to learn. She passed away this year. I think we should move away from sad stuff so I don't start crying.

B: Maybe I'm twisting things but I can't help comparing emotional growth boarding school to some of the communities you've embedded with for photo projects. A small isolated tribe with undercurrents of misbehavior. Was that a root of later explorations?

S: I think my childhood is at the root of all of my work. Early on I realized that what we know as right and wrong were not alive in my home. I was drawn to the murky grey area between those imperatives. I am drawn to places that society deems outside of normative parameters. I am drawn to people who might be considered "wrong" but once you get close to them and understand their life you realize that right and wrong don't work as defining the choices people make at all. Certainly my experiences at the school in Oregon were a part of this.

from The Island, Stacy Kranitz

Missy: I'm drawn to the same kind of people, though my background is less chaotic. How did you end up in Isle de Jean Charles?

S: I've lived in Louisiana on and off for a number of years. I read a story about the island in the New York Times many years ago and started visiting. I became very close with a family there, the Chaissons.

B: Maybe this is too personal. Have you ever photographed your own family members?

S: Yes, I photographed my parents a while back but we don't have the easiest time being around each other so the images were kind of awkward.

B: I get along with my family but I don't think I've ever made a good photo of my parents. Missy has, though. Do you think you make better photos when you're at ease around people? You seem to seek out people surrounded by tension. Or seem attracted to it.

S: Yes, I'm drawn to uncomfortable situations, I like contention and I seek it out, sometimes without realizing. I love the Chaissons because they make fun of me, taunt me, give me a hard time. It's not a polite experience when we are together. At any moment I might be yelled at or pantsed. But I feel safe because they are very open and honest about how they feel about me, even when it is not good. I appreciate the transparency of our relationship.

M: I've been there and your series nails the vibe of the place. I got the same treatment from the few people I spoke with. Except Theo, who owns the store.

B: It's weird that you'd feel compelled to photograph people who might reject you. I read you had the same experience when you photographed the German War re-enactors. They were suspicious. Maybe that's a sort of fuel for you. I seem to work the opposite. Antagonism scares me away. What about you, Missy?

M: There was a biker, last name Ledet, who I felt was trying to make me nervous but I thrived off of it as a challenge.

S: Once on the Island I was chased by a woman with a hoe down the street. I was friends with her grandchildren and she was not happy about it. At first I did not get what was happening but then the kids told me to run. So i did. They thought it was so funny. She is screaming at me and they are cracking up. I got in my car and drove to the edge of the island and stopped she came after me with the kids in the car. She jumped out and ripped my shirt, told me to get off the island. I looked over at the kids and they were waving and laughing. Everyone on the Island found out about it and they just laughed.

M: That is the good stuff. It's a very isolated place and they are mistrustful of outsiders for very good reason.

B: I don't know much about the island. That tells me a little bit. But what's the good reason to mistrust? Because outsiders will invade? Or change it?

S: This was maybe my 3rd or 4th visit to the island. I had gotten close to the Grandchildren and they invited me to come on a boat ride so we were all heading back behind the house when the grandmother came out in a rage. I had not yet met the Chaissons. This changed things. I was just a visitor until I met them and got close to the family. It takes time to get close to people and it is reasonable that there is a lot of mistrust in the beginning.

M: It's complicated, but it's basically getting destroyed by the oil industry. It's shrinking quickly and what freshwater there was has become adulterated by saltwater. They can't farm, they can barely fish. The industry wants their land so they can keep raping it. The classic story of Native Americans getting screwed.

B: So Stacy is viewed as an oil rep? Or just a symbol of the mean outer world?

S: I think the island is uncomfortable with mass media. And when they see a camera they think I am with a newspaper that is going to write some story that says they should leave the Island because it is sinking. This is a legitimate concern that I try to be sensitive about. The best thing I know to do is to come back again and again bring pictures and show them what I am doing. That I am interested in depicting the reasons why people would want to stay even when the island is sinking. What is special about this place. Why should we spend government money to save it. Some people will become more comfortable with my presence and others will never be okay with it.

B: This touches on one issue I wonder about looking at your photos: Access. Is that typically how you become involved with insular communities, through one person who gives you entree? Is there typically a level of mistrust of you? Or do you become accepted by the point you begin photographing? The Post-pubescent Manhood project, for example. Did anyone there care you were making them? Or notice or hassle you?

S: It has been different with every project. I usually start by showing up. Sometimes by myself and sometimes with someone who knows someone and can make a proper introduction. I started going to Skatopia 6 years ago. I drove there from New York where I was living at the time. I went with my friend Marisha and we just showed up. Everyone was so kind and open. One of the first people I met there was a young man named Aaron. I fell in love with him at first sight and invited him to visit me in New York. We were together for three years.

B: Which guy is he in the photos?

S: Here is a picture I took when I first met him.

B: He looks comfortable in front of a camera.

S: I am 100% confident he was drunk. But he got sober while we were together.

B: That relates to a comment I read elsewhere (Colin Pantall), that you shot some or all of these photos drunk and/or high? Is that correct?

S: Yes, I like to drink and I like to smoke marijuana. I was high and drunk like everyone else. The problem with being high is that you think everything you shoot is brilliant and it isn't. It took a long time to figure out how to push through that and make good work while I was high. I waste a lot of time looking for things in my camera bag too. That is another downfall and why I do not believe in lens caps.

B: I've shot photos high. They don't usually look this good. What's the secret to making good work while high? How do you filter out the "everything looks good" effect?

M: Blake, I see a shooting while drunk and high workshop in your future.

B: In my past too. Early bird special: sign up now and receive a fifth of Vodka.

S: Yes, there are tricks to learn !!!

B: Antoine D'Gata has written about this some. He is often intoxicated while shooting great photos. I think it's an area of photography that isn't appreciated or discussed much.

S: The main thing is that you must shoot a lot more than you normally would to make up for the fact that you think it is all brilliant. But one of my favorite things is how you get very excited about some mundane detail and find it the most fascinating thing in the world. Sometimes those images are really exciting and different from anything I would ever think to shoot when sober. Sometimes they are just really stupid details of a pile of dirt. But I also think the down time when you are hanging out with people and laughing at stupid jokes to be a really important part of the process.

B: I think Robert Adams must be stoned a lot, judging by his photos. High pile-of-dirt quotient. 

S: Also when he is writing ... I totally see that in his clear cutting series from Oregon.

B: Samaras was on shrooms probably. For Cindy Sherman it was Prozac... Just speculating. What are the tricks to shooting drunk/high? How integral is that aspect to the work? 

S: I don't think my intoxication is integral. It is more a choice that I make because I enjoy getting high and drinking. I do it just as much when I am alone editing pictures late at night. FYI: Also not a very good idea.

M: In some ways the hanging out is more important, because it is direct experience. It is the art and the photos are a byproduct.

S: Yes I agree. They become ephemera of the shared experience.

B: If you are at a big party scene and everyone is drunk/high, that's how you mesh with the scene. If you're the only sober person your photos will not look very involved. It's a bonding thing, I think at least with Skatopia and the Sausage Castle. 

S: You don't need drugs to have that experience and there are plenty of projects where drugs don't factor in as much but with the post-pubescent work I was not sober much.

B: What about Target Unknown? Was that an aspect there too?

from Target Unknown, Stacy Kranitz
S: Drinking was a huge part of the re-enactment scene. The men were drinking all day. But my friend Marisha was with me during most of the project and she doesn't drink at all. I think it is different for everyone.

B: She comes on most of your projects?

S: Marisha and I worked together for many years. Unfortunately, we have not been shooting together for the last three years. This has really bummed me out. 

B: What is their motivation as best as you can understand it? Are they Nazi sympathizers? Or just history buffs? I can't get a handle on it.

S: I see several motivations at play for most of the re-enactors I have met. There are a small number of participants who are affiliated with hate groups but most participants are not interested in politics of hatred. They may have started as American or British re-enactors but find playing the bad guy quite appealing. Some re-enactors are interested in their own German heritage and others were invited to participate through a friend so they just end up at these events to escape their life for a couple days to drink beer and play with guns. 

I recently blacked out from too many drugs while shooting in West Virginia and that was pretty bad. But it was also kind of great for the work because someone picked up my camera and photographed me completely lost inside myself. I have no memory of this and in one of the pictures my eyes are moving in two different directions.

Stacy Kranitz (bottom), Author Unknown

B: Missy, you said hanging out is the actual event and the photos are secondary. That seems like an anti-photography stance. Or maybe a photo-ambiguous stance. Do you really think photos are unimportant compared to life experience?

M: I don't think the photos are unimportant. I usually spend some time with the people I photograph, and I usually come away from it invigorated from the interaction but also excited that  there might be a great photo to come out of it. It's not as satisfying to take a quick snap of someone and move on. It almost seems like cheating to me. I speak only for myself.

B: That's sort of a Devil's advocate question. But photographers might focus too much on finished product. One cool thing about Stacy's projects is that they've pulled her into all these weird scenes and probably created many strong experiences and memories which we an only guess at. So maybe the photos are just a relatively unimportant residue. A camera is a passport. Cliche but true.

M: And a great motivator.

Los Angeles, 2015, Missy Prince

B: Like that guy you met in Venice Beach. You talked to him for half an hour and only got a few photos. I think it was more fun for you just to engage with him. I have pretty much the opposite motivation. I don't like people too much. Or more accurately, people make me nervous.

S: I think when I first started taking pictures I loved stealing away after I got my shot. I was so scared of getting close to strangers. But as you keep making this kind of work you want more from the experience. Once you master how to take a really good picture it becomes less exciting. 

B: Do you really feel it's easy to take a good photo? 

S: I’m not sure. I just know that I am well trained. I studied photography in school and then I shot for years and years on assignment for magazines and newspapers. I think part of my ability comes from this experience and at a certain point I knew I was good at being a photographer and I wanted something more. 

B: What about you, Missy?

M: It might seem that way in hindsight once you have some good photos, but I would say no. Every once in a while everything comes together in your favor and you know it is going to be good, but most of the time it's a matter of constantly searching. Surprise is important. You can figure out how to take certain types of photos well and take so-called good but formulaic photos, but then they aren't really good. The X factor is important.

B: Stacy, can you describe what was happening at Skatopia and your interactions before and after the photos? From the photos it looks like drunken anarchy. Is that an accurate reflection?

S: There are certain times of the day where it feels like absolute chaos and I can’t tell where to be because you have a band and a mosh pit to the left, kids skating to the right, some people over there shooting fireworks out of their butt and then in the other direction there is a stage with women stripping and dancing. At other times things are slow and relaxed and everyone is sitting in the shade drinking beer. I got really into the weird and complicated relationships that developed before and after the photographs. So right now I am really trying to make work that speaks to that experience and so like Missy said, these refined perfect images that say "I was there and nailed it, I am a good photographer" are less important. 

B: When you reach the final stage you can leave the camera home. Just go talk to people. Those are the highest level photographers. The photo exhibition is just a memory in your mind. Zen bliss.

Friar's Point, Mississippi, Missy Prince

M: I was just talking to Ron yesterday about artists who have no medium but experience.

B: Like performance art? Or live music? Here and gone? 

S: My impulse to understand, know and document things can transcend into many different mediums, writing, drawing, sculpture and performance are some that interest me. Photography is still the root of it. A passport and motivation. I like knowing that there are many other ways to get at what I am interested in.

B: Those are all physical mediums. What does "no medium but experience" mean?

M: Just living. No mediator, just brain to world. Every decision made is a brush stroke.

B: Lebenskunst. That's the German term.

M: We were speculating on mental illness as unchanneled or unmediated creativity.

B: Definitely a connection between creativity and mental illness.

M: The person who made me think of the idea the other night with Ron is this guy I used to go with back in MS. He was always talking about this other realm he inhabited, specifically when he slept, with beings he interacted with regularly. There were a lot of good and evil vibes involved. I didn't want to just roll my eyes and say whatever because I liked hearing him talk about it. And for some reason I never asked literal questions about what this place was and whether he really thought it was real. I think I liked the mystery of it. So in my mind I imagined that what he was doing was similar to what a writer or painter does except he skipped the medium part. Instead of compartmentalizing his imagination he just let it mix with real life and maybe it was more enjoyable or more vivid that way. Instead of saying "okay everyone now I'm talking about some stuff I made up" he just let it come out and was fine with possibly alienating people. We weren't together long. Interestingly, he had given me a ring with a big black onyx stone in it and placed a lot of importance on its connection to the "place." I took it with a grain of salt. But after I broke up with him (which he was very upset about) I noticed that the onyx had a big crack across it. I can't remember what black onyx supposedly represents to those who give gems meaning, but it seemed interesting at the time. I think it guards against negativity. So that is the origin of my idea of living art and also the speculation on mental illness being unchanneled or unmediated creativity.

S: I am interested in the transference of experience into mediums. It is the part that allows me to process, reorder, contemplate and understand this world and the human condition. I think I will always need, want and desire some sort of medium. I come at all of this with a passionate desire to make sense of things that lack logic and reason. I find it incredibly cathartic to transfer my experience into something.

B: Yes, me too. Otherwise I wouldn't be a photographer. I think there's definitely an aspect of clinging to life as it passes and trying to create some physical memento. Pack rat. Not very zen at all. Alec Soth has written about this

Ron probably has a different approach. I wonder about live musicians or performance artists who exist only in an ephemeral space. Lately I've begun deleting many of my Facebook posts to make them more time-dependent, more like a real conversation. I'm not calling that art. But it's the idea of just engaging with no permanent after effect. There's something sort of pure about it, and maybe threatening to mainstream fine art. The art world needs products to sell. How do you sell "just living"? So maybe the gallery machine encourages physical objects?

M: That's the beauty of the just living genre. Galleries are irrelevant. An audience of any kind is irrelevant. It's a self-contained kind of art that involves no medium besides a person's existence. There is no pandering, no commodification, and no artist statement. It's just a way of looking at a person's character. Some people are a work of art. The fine art world can keep on trucking unphased.

S: Certainly the gallery machine encourages physical objects. It also encourages a lot of other things that makes it a system to be wary of. 

M: I find that when I return from a place after taking photos the final edit becomes an account of the experience that is different from my memory. It's a very satisfying version of reality because it seems stable.

B: Photos and memory are often in conflict.

S: Yes, very stable and if you don't like it you can reorder it or remove things from it. Memory is also in conflict with itself all alone.

M: It's a delightfully puzzling conflict.

B: Speaking of non-permanence, Stacy, what happens March 20th? A note on your site says you're leaving LA.

from As It Was Give(n) To Me, Stacy Kranitz

S: Yes, on March 20th I combust into experience. No actually I switched it to the 31st a few hours ago. I am waiting to pull together enough money to go back to Appalachia for 4 months. I am publishing a monograph of that work in 2016 and I want to be out shooting more before we sit down and design the book.

B: Where in Appalachia? Someplace new?

S: There will be some new places I will visit but I am also revisiting many of the places that I've been in West Virginia, southern Ohio, eastern Kentucky, eastern Tennessee and Southwestern Virginia

B: And the subject of the book is Appalachia? A loaded topic as you know from experience. Do you consider it home?

S: I very much consider myself an outsider.

B: Sounds like a challenge. What about LA? Do you consider that home?

S: No. Right now all of my stuff is in a storage unit in Commerce, Ca and I am not sure where I will go to live once I finish shooting in Appalachia. Nowhere feels like home. But hopefully that will change at some point in the future.

B: "Nowhere feels like home." I think that may be the key to your work. You can enter all of these small microcosms as an outsider, become accepted, shoot pix, then leave. It might be harder for someone to do that who had a strong sense of home or place. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Film, motherfuckers! FILM.

I guess this satirical ad (a plug for Decade Project) has been floating around online for a few weeks but I only discovered it recently. Love the levity. Love the 'stache. Love film. So I thought I'd share. 

Hey, relax. It's a joke. Shoot whatever. I don't care. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Q & A With Matt Stuart

Matt Stuart is a photographer based in London.

How was LA for you, Matt?

LA was great. I had a fantastic time. I have travelled to LA before but never really to photograph. My primary reason to be there was to teach a workshop for Leica Los Angeles, but I really only needed to do that over the weekend, the rest of the time was spent with you scooting around in the car and shooting thousands of frames out of the car window in various places. 

What was your favorite part of the city to photograph?

I really enjoyed our day on Rodeo Drive and of course the afternoon at Fairfax with Jeff Garlin and George. As far as locations to photograph I thought the whole place was interesting and diverse. I mean it's a huge city. It's tough to get bored there. Downtown was probably as close to London as any of it got, although obviously Downtown won hands down over London with the winter weather.

Los Angeles

I'm sure your students learned a lot from you in the workshop. What did you learn from them? 

I learned different ways to present and different ways to teach. I think with workshops you take the positive and the negative experiences and grow from them. I’ve done a lot now. I really enjoy teaching and hopefully inspiring people. After the weekend I was really impressed by the standard of the images that were made. Do you remember the bubble gum one? That was excellent.

During your workshops you give a short history of how you got into photography. Can you give a brief recap here?

Ok, so I was born in Harrow which is a suburb of London. I went to school locally and was pretty average until the age of about 8 when I discovered the trumpet. I had an inspirational trumpet teacher called Mr. Cuell (almost cool but not quite).  He was mesmerizing and inspiring, like all great teachers are. I practiced everyday and every night for around 4 years to be the best trumpet player I could possibly be for him —and to a lesser degree for me. Then he died... I quit the trumpet, because all my inspiration had left the building. Just like Elvis.

Have you played trumpet since? Or was it final?

It was final. Put the bugle in the case and played 'the last post'. Trumpet and Mr. Cuell were dead. 
That was the first thing I was obsessed by.

Then what?

So Cuell died and I was upset. I wasn't inspired by any other teachers. This is 1986. I was 12 years old and then this film came out...Back to the Future. I thought Michael J Fox was cool. But even cooler than him was Per Welinder. Who's Per Welinder, I hear you ask?

Not a clue.

He did some of the stunt double skateboarding stuff in the film. I was blown away by the skateboarding. I watched and re-watched that film. Then I discovered the Bones Brigade Movies which were made by Stacey Peralta of Powell and Peralta and I was completely hooked. I started on a Veriflex Ramp Rat board and then didn't get off one of those planks for another 8 or 9 years. I would practice every day, all day, went through a board a week. Completely obsessed.

Matt Stuart by Tim Leighton-Boyce

Did you imagine a future in skating as a sponsored pro or something? To the extent a 12 year old can imagine a career.

Totally. I wanted to be pro. I ended up getting sponsored for boards, trucks, wheels and shoes. I went on tour, the whole thing. Was in magazines but never got the pro deck. 
Is there any comparison between riding and shooting photos? You've said it's not as spontaneous. But what about the feeling of flow and being in a zone? Do you recognize any similarity?

It's exactly the same. You completely loose yourself. You try and try and try to make a skateboard trick as you try to get a good photograph and every now and then you make it. The only difference between the two is when you make a trick on your skateboard it is gone forever. When you capture a trick —i.e. get a good frame with your camera— it is saved forever. The thought process is exactly the same though, and the loss of self you feel is the same too. Nothing else in the world matters when you are in that zone.
When you're peeling down the ramp ready for the next trick, do you pretty much know what it's going to be? You go more by plan than intuition? How much was planned and how much was spur of the moment for you?

Skateboarding is mainly about repetition. Trying and trying to get a trick or a line down. Every now and then you will pull a trick first go and it is spontaneous. But at the time there were a lot of newly invented tricks coming out of skateboarding, switch stance stuff, no complies, pressure flips, 360 flips, ollie impossibles. They weren't really tricks you could pull out of a hat. They were tricks that you might land once in 10 or 20 goes. They were tough and new. It was an exciting time in skateboarding.

I guess I was about 19 or 20 when I totally gave up skateboarding.  I met a girl...

Did she like to Ollie?

She gave it a go but never got all wheels off the ground.

You gave up skating for a girl? That would not make a good novel.

Yeah, totally lame. Should have kept skating. My friends ended up turning pro and living in San Francisco. I had nothing but a girl friend in Ealing.. Bit of an anti climax...Then she dumped me...I had nothing... No job, no grades from school, no boards, no girls... nadda...I had to get a job. The only job I could get was one answering customer complaints. It was at this point I discovered my third obsession... weed.

And you lost yourself in another way...

I smoked it for about two years. I travelled to Amsterdam, I bought High Times, I helped my friend grow it in his cupboard, I made bongs, pipes... I got involved. I totally lost myself... In fact I don't really recall much of that time apart from it got me through the shit job I was doing answering customer complaints. I was a pretty mellow Customer Services Agent!
So you answered customer calls while you were stoned? I would kill for a transcript of those conversations. Hello, customer service... Hello, who is this?...I don't know, you called me... Do you know where I stashed the Oreos?… Can I speak to your supervisor?.... I don't know, can you?.... How did you get this number?.... I don't know, what number did you call?...

No, I never answered calls when stoned. I had a “zero not ready” time which I was proud of. It meant I was always ready to be complained at…

Oxford Street

Do you still smoke pot?

My girlfriend is Dutch, so when in Rome I very occasionally do, but my tolerance is down to a couple of puffs and I'm out. How about you?
I went through a weed phase too. Not every day. But I smoked pretty hard in late adolescence. It was fun. It's not so enjoyable any more. I only smoke occasionally now and usually with beer. Why do you mention your weed phase? Was it instrumental in your development as a photographer? Or in your thought process?

I mention it because it was another obsession. I don't regret it, but I definitely wouldn't advocate it. I treaded water for two years and went nowhere in particular, but at the time I thought it was all very deep (the weed, not the water)…It wasn't.

It was at the Call Centre that I really discovered photography. I was about 22. My dad bought me two books. A Photo Poche on Robert Frank and an Aperture Monograph on Henri Cartier-Bresson. Both books woke me out of my haze... I wanted to do what they did. I could practically taste the photographs. I had to do it. I left my job. I stopped smoking weed.

I wonder if Robert Frank smoked weed. I suspect yes. HCB I'm pretty sure No.

HCB was probably on opium or something heavier. I don't know, but he seemed to hang out with a lot of arty types, smoked a lot and seemed to be friendly with lots of prostitutes. So I wouldn't put a bag of weed past him...
HCB WAS HIGH. T-Shirt! It explains a lot really. But with Frank I think it explains even more.
So I HAD to do this stuff. I had to become a photographer. 

Why did you have to be a photographer?

Because I was certain that the customer services thing wasn't for me and I was really interested in photography. Remember, I wasn't interested in anything else but Silver Haze and Super Skunk at the time…

I was introduced to a commercial photographer through my dad and I washed his car for a few weekends and generally made myself a nuisance. I eventually broke him and he offered me a job as his second assistant. Tea Maker, Phone Answerer, Toilet Cleaner, Delivery Boy. As his assistant I traveled the world, learned how to write and invoice and do a VAT return, loaded Mamiyas, carried cases, clocked up air miles, got paid fuck all, but learned a lot and hung out with photographers. Devoured it.

Your dad was in graphic design, right? How much did his artistic sense rub off on you as a kid? Or even now?

A Smile In The Mind,
Beril McAlhone and David Stuart
My dad was a huge influence and still is. He specialised in witty graphic design. In fact the company he set up called The Partners was renowned for it at the time. He published a book called A Smile in the Mind which has sold around a hundred thousand copies. Even if I wanted to, it was impossible to escape his talent and influence.
Why did your dad choose those two books to give you? Because they were well-known to general readers? Or did he have a particular interest in photography? Did he respect them as graphic designers with a camera?

I expect he did. He was a keen amateur photographer when growing up. He passed on his collection of Creative Camera magazines to me which he collected in his 20's. He was visually literate. Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Duane Michaels, Tony Ray-Jones, and Bill Brandt were all on his radar.

What about your mom?

My mum enabled my dad to be the man that he is. Without her, he was nothing. She is the backbone of our family. The heart and the soul. The most kind and generous woman I have ever met. She worked for the BBC sports for a number of years. She was famously knocked out by Arnold Palmer's golf ball live on TV.

Where and when? I'm going to dig that up. How would I find it? YouTube?

Not sure it went viral. Impossible to find. It happens all the time. I think it might have been the Masters. It was a big deal for her, but not for Arnold. Then she took up the greatest challenge of them all. Two sons...

What about your brother?
My brother has always been into sport. He almost turned pro at golf. He now works for a company that motivates other companies through ex-Olympic athletes. Training, mentoring, coaching.

Which did you like more initially, Frank or that pothead HCB?

HCB hands down. The Photo Poche didn't do Frank justice. It didn't have the same edit as The Americans. It was more of an overview. Whereas HCB in an overview is almost unbeatable…great frame after great frame, and covering a great deal of the last century. I was hooked by the photos but also a lot of the history and times that went with them.

You didn't like Frank at first?

I loved Frank but Cartier-Bresson was my favorite. How about you? Who did you discover first out of the two and who would you take on a desert island?

I liked HCB more initially. Now it's hard to say. It's hard to evaluate Frank because his street stuff is quite limited. But what's out there is very strong. Oh who am I kidding. The pothead. HCB. But I feel I've outgrown him some. Or maybe I've just seen too many of his photos and I feel oversaturated. It's like judging air or water or something. Love that air. Couldn't live without it. But don't stop to appreciate it much...

HCB is The Beatles.

If HCB is the Beatles, Frank is Bob Dylan. 
It's funny, I get re-invigorated by HCB’s work. It has never died for me. His talent for framing and composition was incredible.

Who said it died?
Not that his work has died. It's just some people seem to write him off as being too classic, etc.
Well, the photo world has moved on to many other things. But that doesn't negate the power of his original work. It's still vital. Maybe the key question is, if people make similar work today, what place does that have? I think that's a pretty central question for street photographers. Because in many ways we're following in his footsteps. Repeating that same practice. So if his work is seen as passe I think the same opinion applies generally to street photography. From a fine arts photo perspective, what you and I do looks a lot like what they did 50 years ago.

Sure does. In fact his stuff looked a damn sight better! I don't consider myself an artist and I don't consider what I do as art. I feel that you and I document our times just as he did. Of course the technical aspect of it can't change that much, not with natural light and a camera to play with. However the places and the people change and develop for better or for worse and I think that is what is interesting. Change, not photographically but physically. The people and the places are evolving. That is what I find exciting.

So your main goal as a photographer is to document the physical surroundings? Doesn't Google Street View do that more efficiently? Why bother? Obviously I'm joking, but you get my drift. If the photos are mainly about the place and time they're taken that seems restrictive to me. Great photos can surpass the time and place. They're just about the photo. That's my view.

Because I control it. Not Google Street View. These are my surroundings, what I saw and what resonated with me. Realize I don't do this for anyone but myself. If people choose to look at it —Whoopee. But this is all for me, what I saw, what I felt about it and how it affected me.

Regent Street

I think you've nailed it there. Your photos reflect what YOU saw. They're more about that than documenting the times. Of course photos work in a lot of ways and one thing they do inevitably is record history. But for me that's not the main goal. I don't think it was HCB's primary goal either.

No, I'm not for recording history, and I'm sorry if it sounded that way. I find it hard to explain but I like my engagement with the place and the people. I also like the process. It helps me to relax. I am literally addicted to it. More than I was dope, almost as much as I was skateboarding! The loss of self and the meditative experience that it offers. 

Do you find you need to build up to that when you're shooting? I need at least a half hour or an hour shooting to feel fully relaxed. And that's when things begin to happen photographically.

So I have 3 different levels of "lost in the act of photographing". First level is "On Patrol" making sure that nothing is happening and quite frankly being happy that this is not happening.


Second is involved, but not tuned in and quite happy to stop for a coffee or dip into the Photographers Gallery to check out a book. I remember to eat, to drink, to go to the toilet, etc., basic human needs.


But the third level is totally switched on. Smelling and breathing everything that moves. Totally tuned in to touch, glances, feelings. I forget to piss, eat and go home. That's when I am at my most dangerous...for all involved...

Does each level need to follow from the last? Is it a sequential progression? Can you moved straight from a standstill to level 3? Or does it require the first two levels first?

No, it depends on the day. If I'm distracted I don't get past the first level. When I got divorced I didn't pass level one for a whole year! But seriously. I dip in and out. I'm aware of making sure I drink enough and eat enough. Otherwise my attention drifts.

I think I've seen you recently at level 3. When we encountered that old guy with the cane near the hotel in Paris. The world disappeared for five minutes, for you.

It depends. If I see something that pricks my interest I fast track to level 3. I'm pretty sure you saw me at level 3 with the old man and the cane. There's nothing quite like an old man with a cane to get me excited. How about you? Do you know when you are just going through the moves and when you are totally alert? Does it change day to day? You always seem pretty focused.

I am always alert. But sometimes photos seem to pop out everywhere, and other times they hide. But I think we're describing a similar thing. I need a half hour to warm up, and you have levels. Either way it takes some phases to get to full power vision. If I'm shooting a lot like I was in Paris it takes less time to warm up. But in Eugene it can take longer. And some of my outings here only last an hour, not enough time to get going. I think that's probably true for many photographers. They don't commit to it enough to really fully engage and lose themselves in it. That's a workshop skill, if we could teach it.

Time... The only thing money can't buy, and we can't teach.

That's what a workshop does almost as a secondary facet. It gets students out shooting for 6 hours straight. Something good has to come of that. The progression to comfort. 

So true. It's almost as if some days everyone is on your side and some days they can't be bothered to get out of bed. I'm thick in it at the moment trying to get a few extra pictures for my book. Some days I come back having shot ten rolls, some days only three. You can't force it, but I do think it helps to know the territory you are photographing in and the hot spots and the less fruitful. For instance Monday is when rich people go shopping in London. Deliveries are Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday is matinee afternoon so old people are rife getting their cheap seats at the theatre. Thursday is the new Friday so people go out drinking and having a fun time. Friday half of the people who live here head out and the tourists really start to come in. Saturday is Demo Day and tourist overload. Choose your spots and they generally deliver if you are looking for a certain thing.

Why do rich people shop on Monday? Odd.

Nobody else is around. The shops are quiet. Their chauffeurs can park outside the store. It's just something I have observed over twenty years on patrol....They don't have to mix with the peasants...

Do you feel like you are in complete control of your photos? The way you describe it almost seems like you've got to wait for the stars to align or the right level to settle in. And you're just an actor in the play. I feel that way too. The best photos seem to happen almost beyond my control. I mean, I click the shutter but it feels like some broader order is arranging the circumstances.

I think with the fluidity of the street and constantly moving objects/situations you are never in complete control. That is why it is so damn addictive. It's hard. There is no set formula. One of the best feelings whilst shooting on the street is when you predict something is going to happen before it does. Almost like a mind reader. Do you ever have that? I love that shit. Predicting a moment before it happens, because you are so involved.

Sometimes the photos seem to occur in such beautiful and chaotic circumstances that one could found a religion on the experience. It's just people milling around on the sidewalks. But sometimes they act with the intention of puppets. I don't pretend to understand why.  But I can sometimes tune in that feeling.

I'm totally with you. It is at this moment that you have hit level 3...

Do you always need to be at level 3 to get good photos? Or do good photos sometimes appear by chance in level 1? And if so, can you think of specific examples.

Oh sure, yes good pictures appear at level 1 all the time. You just have to make sure you haven't got cake in your mouth and your camera in your bag though...  Here is a level one...

Regent's Park

You shot that with cake in your mouth?

Not cake, a cup of tea. Had to put my tea down and get my camera out of my rucksack. It just presented itself to me. Just wandering along the canal thinking about what's for dinner when you spot a plastic bag dolphin in the water. I wasn't particularly alert at all. Although I guess your/my alertness is reasonably ON most of the time.

What was your camera doing in your rucksack?

My camera was tired, having a nap.

The fact that you spotted it tells me you weren't asleep on level one. But maybe static scenes require less reaction time.

They do. People moving towards you are some of the most difficult photographs to take, as you can't pan along with them easily like you can if you are walking alongside them. I've noticed recently a lot of Tony Ray-Jones's photographs involved a lot of stationary people. He didn't shoot a lot of people coming at him like Winogrand did. Not in any way to take away from TRJ. He was a master.

Two different styles. TRJ was more interested in the visual puzzle. Putting this and that in the exact right place. Winogrand did that sometimes, but I think he was more instinctual. Just shot when he felt it. But a lot of overlap. I think shooting someone coming toward you is a crapshoot. You can have a photo planned and something changes as they approach. It's more dicey and accidental I think. I still shoot sometimes that way but they usually don't turn out.

Just found this, quite like it.

St. Paul's Cathedral

Nice shot. Is it recent?

No it's old. Wish there was more colour in it though.

The guy gently lying right along the bench top is great.

The headless man in the background is something I liked.

You mentioned you are still looking for book images. And maybe this one above is one? But why? What do you feel is missing? Or what are you still looking for?

Something I am finding difficult to do is to make the book flow at the moment. I have forty or fifty stand alone street images. However, puzzling them together is difficult. I'm trying to make a broader narrative by stitching the photographs together which is extremely tricky. To find other shots to help the flow of the book is what I am attempting. I guess to a certain extent I'm also worried about any form of closure to this chapter of my life. I've enjoyed it and I am enjoying it. Any excuse for continuation suits me fine. Obviously I can't stop doing this as it is part of me, but finalising a set of pictures in book form is quite daunting. I want it to be as good as I can make it.

I don't envy the book editing. I know that's a daunting task and there's pressure to nail it right. Once it's published it's set in stone.

Yes, scary shit....

How has the editing process been for you?

The book is almost finished the editing process has been intense. Stuart Smith and me have been working on it for almost two years. It has been great fun and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with him. He is funny, slightly mad, a delight to work with. He makes a cake every time I go to the office.

What's the title? 

The book has changed names throughout the process. The title we have now is almost definite, All That Life Can Afford.  You’ll understand the reason for the title if you buy the book ;-)

Do you think your photos are generally well understood?

Lots of people understand my photos to a certain extent. I personally don't find them particularly funny, whereas lots of people appear to think they are funny.
You say lots of people understand your photos "to a certain extent". Who do you think is the main audience for your work? Who are you aiming at when you make a photo? Other photographers? The general public?

I'm really only making the photos for me. It's a record of where I was and what I tried to do with the camera at that moment. I send the film off, wait to get it back, and see if I nailed it or not. If I didn't, I'm back out there again. If I did, I'm back out there again. I do this every day. It isn't for anyone else. Why would I spend that much time on my own walking the streets for anyone else?! Gotta be joking... It is for me.  I would guess other photographers are the main audience for my work.

If it's only for you, why make a book? A dumb question maybe. But it brings home the point. I think photography needs to connect with some outside viewer to really activate. Otherwise why even develop the film?

Because I love books and I want to see my photographs in a book. I guess other people do too so I am going to make some extras (but not many).

Tell me about your book collection. Photobooks I mean. Not all those trashy romance novels.

Its getting pretty big again now. I had to cull it when I got divorced, sold off about half of them. I kept hold of all my favourites. I would say it is pretty street photography biased. Although I have recently got hold of Juergen Teller's Go Sees which I love and a book by Irving Penn called Small Trades. Generally it is pretty street heavy. I have a lot of books. Most of my favourites appear to start with W...Winogrand, Wessel, Webb, Wood, Way-Jones.

Weiner, Weston, White, Winters, Weegee...brainstorming...You buy two of many books, right?

Yeah, one to look at, one to keep for best.

What's going to happen to the doubles eventually? Are they kept together or in different places?

I tend to give a lot of the spare copies away.

You give the good ones away? Or the looked at ones?

The good ones. It's far nicer to give and receive a fresh book. I gave a shit load away. I didn't even have the chance to sell them.

Gave away to who? The London street crew?
I gave tons to the assistant I got in to help me move the boxes that day. He was just in the right place at the right time. He got paid too!

Bummer. If you'd had time you could've given them a proper home. Next time you cull them give me a chance to bid first.
If you ever need any books I have a lot of spares.... Do you have Sidewalk, Tony Ray-Jones (Russell Roberts)? I have triples of those... I did have two Minutes to Midnights but I gave the good one to Justin...

Got all those. What else? I can trade. I have some extras too.

I have the French version and the English version of the Sergio Larrain book. If you want a French copy? I would have to suitcase it though as it costs a fortune to send it in the post.

I don't have either version. But if it's expensive to ship just hang on to it until I see you.

Ok cool, I'll bring you the French version when I next see you. It is a terrific book.

Bad Weather and Ray's A Laugh just came out with Errata. Not quite the same as the originals. But two very fine books.

I have both of those as originals.


I'm trying to take a selfie of them with me looking smug, but can't multitask.

I'll have to make myself happy with the tiny reproductions and silly essays. Fuck me.
Do you take photos of your kids? Photos you'd put in your portfolio?

No, not really. I tend to shoot my family on my phone. I keep it easy and uncomplicated. I don't make 'good' photos of my family. I make sweet ones... Unlike you. You have some cracking pics of your boys. Although I did notice you don't photograph your wife much. Is that something you want to discuss with me or a counselor?

I shoot the kids more. They're less self conscious in front of a camera. Or were. Now they're not as game to be photographed. It's the old street shooter's trick. Picking on the young and helpless.

Or the old and infirm...

I hadn't thought about shooting Tab. She is in a lot of photos but maybe I'm less ready to put them out in public. It's a loaded situation, publishing photos of people close to you. I don't know how some people do it. That's why I asked you.

The type of photos I take of Su, Max and Oscar are pretty web friendly. Smiley happy people. Nothing offensive, unless you get sick of smiley happy people...

Do Max and Oscar spend time together?

Yes, as much as they can. I don't see as much of Oscar as I would like to as he has moved to Bristol, which is two or three hours away.

Bummer. Here's a loaded question. Name something that parenting has taught you about photography.

Regent Street

Don't drop it.

Babies are even more fragile than cameras. 
Hmmmm... debatable... If you drop a digital camera it is dead or at least in emergency. If you drop a baby... it bruises a bit...

But seriously, Patience. Both need a lot of that. Without patience you aren't going to be a particularly good photographer and you aren't going to be a particularly g…

Yeah, yeah, whatever. So, let me ask you this. The stereotype is that when you have kids everything else seems less important. Parenting puts a new slant on life. Photography takes a back seat. Is any of that true?

Absolutely not. As soon as Max turned up I was more inspired than ever. I was out shooting as much as I could. Mainly to avoid changing the diapers.

"I smell something. Back in an hour, honey…"

What defines your visual style as yours?

One of the things that make my photos mine is the colour. I feel that my London is a pretty colourful place, whereas if you look at some other photographers working in London (some of my In-Public colleagues even) their work seems less colourful perhaps. I shoot for colour first, and hope that the moment that follows it or accompanies it is colourful too. I look at a lot of colour work which shouldn't really have been shot in colour. It would be far more effective in black and white. Black and white may have made it more evocative or emotional, but they have chosen to shoot it in colour without looking at colour. Did that make sense? 
I don't shoot color much so it's hard for me to understand it in those terms. But it's the comment you made earlier about your photo: Needs more color. That's funny because I think of your photos as more situational. You create scenes, sometimes bordering on fictional. The color seems incidental. But again I'm not really a color guy…
The photos are situational but if they don't work in colour they don't tend to go much further than the storage box.

Needham Road

What's your favorite color? The kindergarten entrance exam question.

Red, of course. I especially love bus-y reds....

Smithfield Market

Are you saying color is more demanding than Black and White?

No, I think you need to be receptive to colour and how it works. In exactly the same way as you need to be receptive to black and white to use it effectively. To a certain extent black and white is more forgiving because if there was a distracting pink thing which draws your eye to the edge of the frame your colour photo is screwed whereas your black and white photo has another grey tone.

I just think there are a lot of colour photographers making very drab colour photos because colour is contemporary, etc. Their pictures might be more effective in black and white as the colours in their photographs add nothing.

Well, it's more realistic. The world is in color. Isn't that as good a reason as any to shoot it?

Not really, not if it isn't communicating as well as black and white would.

You used to shoot black and white. Did it take a while to develop your eye for color to the point where you were looking for specific colors in specific scenes?

Millennium Wheel

Well, I started with black and white because all of my heroes shot that way. HCB, Erwitt, Tony Ray-Jones, Friedlander, Winogrand. Then at some point you realise that their work is so exceptional that you can't match it. In fact I think Trent's work was the nail in my black and white coffin... So I tried colour and it suited my photos and personality. I'm colourful. I kind of feel the black and white work was more derivative. The colour work is me.

Trent's work was the nail in his own black and white coffin. He quickly shifted to color. 
Trent is back to shooting black and white now. He's an inspiration, one of the few photographers that handle black and white and colour extremely well.
Well there are a lot of exceptional photos now made in color. That needn't be a nail in the coffin. What about the initial stages of shooting color? I hadn't realized until now you were so focused on color. Did that take some time to develop or was it more immediate?

At the time I was still developing as a photographer whilst shooting black and white, whereas I have developed my own style now in colour. It took a long time to develop, but it is mainly down to editing. I shoot a lot of uncolourful photographs and realise that at the editing stage. Those photos are then rejected to a certain extent. 

I think the general shift among photographers is usually in one direction, from b/w to color. Do you agree? If so, do you have an explanation? Take In-Public as a small sample. Every single member has shifted in that direction. No one has shifted the other way, except I guess Trent. And Jesse? Or is that just a fling?
I think Jesse swings both ways...

It makes me think of Moonshine. I found it with you at Le Bal and I really enjoyed that book. Every two-page spread has one color and one black and white photo. I can't think of another book that does that. And so seamlessly, so you barely notice the difference. She is one of the few photographers to shift easily between the formats. It's like speaking Spanglish without thinking.

Yes, she is extremely good at both. It is a great book, I think. Still trying to come to terms with the black and white to colour thing. We have just rented out our Amsterdam flat to her niece.

Wow. Just a coincidence or what's the connection?

We made friends on FB an she asked everyone whether they knew of a flat free in Amsterdam. I hooked her up with Su and the rest is history. The niece came over last weekend and picked up the keys.

Have you met Bertien Van Manen?

No, but she would like to meet. 

She's only recently getting attention. She must have scads of good photos that no one has seen yet.

I think so. She appears to be a very nice lady. Hooked me up with the best photo spots to check out in Amsterdam. 

Matt Stuart by Billy Reeves

What do you think of In-Public?

I think In-Public is ok. Some of the best photographers on it don't really contribute much which is a shame, but that is possibly why they are the best! They are so busy!!! Last year we paid to have it re-designed and started doing workshops in earnest through it which has been enjoyable and has blown some life into the old girl. The best thing is the discussion board where we share photos, that can be really inspiring. I’m particularly enjoying David Solomons' and Todd Gross’ work at the moment.

How could it be better?
In-Public is like any collective or community. Some people are along for the free ride, some people do stuff. I guess that would be the only thing that is mildly irritating about it. But hey, that's the same with anything of that nature. Over the years we have all had lots of disagreements and arguments but we have kind of mellowed now. It has been interesting to see how everyone involved has changed and where their work/lives have taken them. Some have had breakdowns, some have been un-well, some have got divorced, moved away, tried different types of photography. It's a cliche but it is like one big dysfunctional family that just about manages to keep itself together. I would very much like to start doing filmed interviews with each photographer to give them a face and a personality as I feel at the moment apart from the pictures it is pretty two dimensional. Its main reason to exist is to inspire people coming to Street Photography. I think —at least hope— it still does that.

How will it all end, Matt?

Without knowing it, Blake.

(All photos above by Matt Stuart unless otherwise noted)