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Collector's Focus

Dare To Go



By John Bennete

My wish for all collectors is to dare to be brave and go outside the much-hyped name artists that are being shown today—to begin collecting with an open mind and a willingness to take risks. The best thing about this moment is that we have greater choice, yet I fear by not supporting lesser-known established artists, we will doom the visual voice of a generation. Most artists need some support either intellectually, the nod of a sale, or preferably both. Too many artists, too few galleries and lists touting high six and seven figure sales tend to mask the reality that many good photographs sell for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

For all purposes the art world is making a final dash before the summer season begins. March/April have become prime months in the photography world. This year the Photograph Show and a number of major and special auctions have taken place in New York. Then there was Photo Lucida, a bi-annual event in Portland where photography is celebrated with a communal intensity that will not be seen again until Fotofest 2008.

Spring also signals a hungry new group of photographers being unleashed on us from every art school across this great land—hungry young photographers with starry eyes and dreams of being the next new name. For some weird celestial reason that I have never understood, I have the good fortune to see a lot of this new work, partly because I spend time on the review circuit, partly because the word has gotten out that I am easily approachable, and partly that occasionally I say something that makes a difference.

One of my favorite collectors says the only thing you need to collect is money. I thought it was just a good way to get a laugh; it was. But the one thing we would both say is: look and look, some more; study, and then edit. Collecting is very much like love. It happens, but most of the time you have to work hard at it, and nothing is ever guaranteed. This thought leads to the real reason I am writing this column.

Today a letter from a reader of Focus, who happens to be a photographer, arrived. It read:

Dear John Bennette, I am writing to thank you for writing such a well-researched and informative article in the February issue of Focus magazine. It is my first issue, and I am looking forward to the rest. As an emerging photographer based in Philadelphia, it is good to know what the art world is looking for and thinking. I have just recently started to show my portfolio and selling prints, and there is so much to know. I’m sure you get asked this a lot, but do you have any recommendations for an emerging photographer in Philadelphia to get started? I have heard that competitions are a good way, but at the same time, there are so many out there I don’t know which ones are any good. Also, I understand that cold-calling galleries is usually not recommended. One thing I have learned is that networking and getting to know who is who is very important, so I thought I’d reach out and start building my own network. Warmest regards, PE

My response:

Dear PE, The strangest things have happened in the last few years. Photography has broken away from being considered a second-hand art form. A few photographers have become media stars, and a new breed of collector has arrived on the scene with the galleries evolving their ideals to meet these new needs, as well as covering the escalating cost of keeping their space open. The artists are spending so much time promoting their photographs and trying to get into a major gallery (New York, preferably) that I am surprised there is any passion left for making art. I spent a little time at the Armory Show, an event for high art, and I was overwhelmed by the mass of people that congested the space. The fact that a lot of collectors spending large sums of money had an advisor at their sides to say, “This is worthy of taking out your checkbook,” was not really a problem, but it made me pause. What happened to the passion for creating art because you know nothing else, and you would have no life otherwise? What happened to the passion of collecting, which could cause you to give up food and debate how to pay the rent in order to own an image? I would like to share the following thoughts with you.

1. As an artist, you must have some knowledge of the history of art and photography and how your work fits in, reflects or extends that history. The reality is that the basic themes were established long ago; most artists can only hope for a flash of brilliant reinterpretation.

2. I don’ have an exact number, but let us say 3,000 artists finished institutions of higher learning with degrees this year. Competition is fierce, and that is a given for the ages. I have heard both sides of the argument for and against the juried show. I believe that all artists should enter them once in a while. I suggest this even to mature artists because it causes you to focus and reevaluate your work. Sign up and visit the many reviews that are conducted around the country. Create a web site that works, and link it to other sources. I noticed in the recent photo la catalog that artists are taking out ads for themselves. Having your work seen is an important part of the creative process for most.

3. The review session process, such as found at Photo Lucida (Portland, Oregon), Houston FotoFest and Review Santa Fe, is a good way of networking; in some ways it presents a level playing field. When participating in a review, remain positive. Remember, you go to reviews to meet other people and exchange ideas. Although sometimes people walk away with promised galleries, shows and book deals, what you should hope for is that your work is remembered, so if there is an opportunity for it to be shown, the reviewer will remember you. For example, I recently curated a show in New York City. The artists I chose for the show, which took place in a Chelsea gallery, were people I met at either Fotofest or Photo Lucida.

A new trend is the CD with the artists images written to it. I love them, though I suggest the artist please use an image on the label—when a reviewer goes through them later, it is easier if they can see an example of what is stored on the disc.

4. There are many highly respected career advisors and art coaches. Two that come to mind are Mary V. Swanson and Maria Piscopo. If you feel that you are stuck, then maybe it is time to find a consultant who specializes in getting you moving.

5. Be disciplined and devoted to your art.

I will name a few artists whose work I have acquired since I began writing this column. In order to do this, I need to be transparent and up front: a gallery for which I have curated an exhibition represents one of the artists. Added to my collection in the past year are photographs by Arthur Tress, Charles Traub, O. Rufus Lovett, Thomas Kellner, Dan Nelken, Carl Burton, Randy West, Roger Eberhard, Jefferson Hayman, Seth Dickerman and Stan Gaz. You can Google these artists to view their work.

My Stan Gaz is from the “Ash Drawings” series. Each image in the series is a unique hand-processed toned silver gelatin, negative-based print. Stan’s work is about loss, memory and grace. The image I acquired is 40 x 50” and called Lensboy X. I first became aware of his work on a studio visit. Stan was donating a piece to charity (another way to get some exposure of your work to the public). I was blown away by the tension between the lush and tactile surface and the calm mystery that lay beneath it. I was also impressed by the development of the work, how it related to art in general, as well as other bodies of work created by Stan, a very thoughtful and mature artist. Stan represents the shift away from the tiny box in which many photographers have placed themselves. For artists such as Stan, all media are part and parcel of the language they use to express their ideas and concepts. For me, Lensboy X evokes wonder and awe.

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Collector's Focus




NEW YORK CITY—Howard Greenberg Gallery will present the photography exhibition Gordon Parks: A Choice of Weapons from October 8 through December 22 in the new gallery on the 8th floor of the Fuller Building at 41 East 57th Street.

One of the world’s leading galleries for classic and modern photography, the Howard Greenberg Gallery is celebrating its 40th anniversary with an exhibition of important work by the renowned photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks. Through his still images, both candid and staged, the exhibition explores the roots of Parks’ future as a filmmaker. 

Parks, who described his camera as his “choice of weapons,” was known for his work documenting American life and culture with a focus on social justice, race relations, the civil rights movement, and the African American experience. He was hired as staff photographer for Life magazine in 1948, where over two decades he created some of his most groundbreaking work that cast light on the social and economic impact of poverty, discrimination, and racism.

In 1969, Parks launched a pioneering film career by becoming the first African American to write and direct a major studio feature, The Learning Tree, based on his semi-autobiographical novel—a career move foreshadowed through his cinematic approach to photography.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the release of Parks’ second feature-length directorial endeavor, Shaft (1971), a classic New York City detective film that spawned the blaxploitation genre, the gallery will present photographic works that reveal the artist’s cinematic approach. 

Parks’ earliest photographs often imply a narrative beyond the individual frame, echoing his desire to represent complex facets of his subjects’ lives and communities. Like his films, Parks’ photographs present robust narratives that seek to reveal the complexities of his subjects’ lives.

The works on view include those staged in 1952 in collaboration with Ralph Ellison and inspired by his novel  Invisible Man, as well as those made while Parks was embedded with the New York gang leader “Red” Jackson in 1948, and images of the Fontenelles, a Harlem family that struggled to feed their eight children in 1967.

The exhibition coincides with the release of the HBO documentary A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks in November, and the extended presentation of works from his series The Atmosphere of Crime in the permanent collection galleries of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

About Gordon Parks (1912-2006)
Gordon Parks was born into poverty and segregation on a farm in Kansas in 1912, the youngest of 15 children. He worked at odd jobs before buying a camera at a pawnshop in 1938 and training himself to become a photographer. From 1941 to 1945, Parks was a photographer for the Farm Security Administration and later at the Office of War Information in Washington, D.C. As a freelance photographer, his 1948 photo essay on the life of a Harlem gang leader, Red Jackson, won him widespread acclaim and a position as the first African American staff photographer and writer for Life magazine, which continued until 1972. In addition to being a noted composer and author, in 1969, Parks became the first African American to write and direct a Hollywood feature film, The Learning Tree, based on his bestselling novel of the same name. This was followed in 1971 by the hugely successful motion picture Shaft. Parks was the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Medal of Arts in 1988, and was given over 50 honorary doctorates from colleges across the United States. Photographs by Parks are in the collections of many major museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, J. Paul Getty Museum, National Gallery of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. stated, “Gordon Parks is the most important Black photographer in the history of photojournalism. Long after the events that he photographed have been forgotten, his images will remain with us, testaments to the genius of his art, transcending time, place and subject matter.” 

About The Gordon Parks Foundation
The Gordon Parks Foundation permanently preserves the work of Gordon Parks, makes it available to the public through exhibitions, books, and electronic media, and supports artistic and educational activities that advance what Gordon described as “the common search for a better life and a better world.” The Foundation is a division of the Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation.

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Collector's Focus

Paris Photo 2021 Review



This review originally appeared in

Paris Photo, the world’s leading art fair dedicated to photography, returns for the 24th time with a packed schedule at the impressive Grand Palais Ephémère in the heart of the French capital, from 11-14 November.
─── by Josh Bright, November 3, 2021

Featuring 177 exhibitors from 25 different countries, along with 30 publishers and booksellers, the fair represents the best of the medium, encompassing the full breadth of the photographic spectrum including the full range of styles and genres, and its earliest forms through to its most cutting–edge iterations.

New York, 1967 © Tod Papageorge / Galerie Thomas Zander

In addition to the numerous returnees, the fair will welcome 29 new main sector galleries, such as AFRONOVA (Johannesburg) who will exhibit recent works by young South African female photographers, and LOFT ART (Morocco) who will present multimedia artworks by Côte d’Ivoire-born Joana Choumali.

De bom jesus a milagres. Galo, 2011 © Claudio Edinger / Galeria Lume

Some of the highlights of the 17 solo shows and 10 duo shows, include, a selection of works by preeminent German photographer, Herbert List, presented by KARSTEN GREVE (Paris); BRAVERMAN (Tel Aviv) celebrates Ilit Azoulay’s work on photography and hysteria; São Paulo gallery LUME, Claudio Edinger’s series on Brazilian identity, and MAGNIN-A (Paris) introduce “Allegoria”, the latest, politically charged series, by Senegalese artist, Omar Victor Diop.

The diverse array of group shows incorporate a host of new and rare works, from unpublished dye transfer prints by American photographer, Tod Papageorge, exhibited for the first time by THOMAS ZANDER (Cologne), to rare prints by Magnum’s, Bruce Davidson, courtesy of HOWARD GREENBERG (New York). A selection of images by newly represented artist, Carrie Mae Weems, will be presented by FRAENKEL (San Francisco).

Drummies, 2017. The school has one sports court, which is used by all the sports teams. The drummies have to be supervised when using this court, there are active gangs present around the periphery of the schools property © Alice Mann courtesy AFRONOVA Gallery

Group presentations celebrating women in photography include the work of, among others, modernists, Berenice Abbott, Ilse Bing, Germaine Krull, and Helen Levitt, exhibited by BRUCE SILVERSTEIN (New York), and new imagery by Zanele Muholi, presented by STEVENSON (Cape Town), whilst GREGORY LEROY (Paris) and CHARLES ISAACS (New York) extol the work of Mexican photographer, Yolanda Andrade, who documented the 1980s LGBT movement in her homeland.

First launched in 2018, the Curiosa sector will return for 2021. Dedicated to platforming and celebrating emerging artists, it will highlight new trends in contemporary photographic practice, including cutting-edge documentary approaches and themes focusing on identity and the natural environment.

Curated by Shoair Mavlian, Director of Photoworks and Tate Modern’s former Assistant Curator of photography, it features solo presentations by twenty artists from eleven different countries, a number of whom will be exhibiting in France for the first time. The kaleidoscopic photographs of rising London photographer, Maisie Cousins will be on display (TJ BOULTING London) as will Jošt Dolinšek’s poetic depictions of the natural world (PHOTON Ljubljana).

Additionally, for the first time ever, Paris Photo Online Viewing Room will open to the public from November 11-17th.

Powered by Artlogic (the industry leader in digital solutions for the art world) it provides a platform for galleries and book dealers, allowing them to expand on their physical offerings, and, an opportunity for those collectors and photography enthusiasts who are unable to attend in person, to peruse and purchase artworks, discover new talent, and connect with galleries and art book dealers from around the world.

The 24th edition of Paris Photo will run from 11-14 NOV 2021. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit their website.

All images © their respective ownersSHARE:839

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Collector's Focus

A Trillion Sunsets



A Century of Image Overload

Are there too many images in the world? Too many of the wrong kind? Too many that we don’t like, or want, or need? These feel like very contemporary questions but they have a rich and fascinating history. A Trillion Sunsets: A Century of Image Overload takes a long look at our worries and compulsive fascination with the proliferation of photographic images. The exhibition highlights unlikely parallels and connections across the decades. From picture scrapbooks to internet memes, from collage and image appropriation, to art made by algorithms, the exhibition offers powerful insights and new perspectives on our long love/hate relationship with images. 

Artists include Hannah Höch, Nakeya Brown, Sheida Soleimani, Walker Evans, Sara Greenberger-Rafferty, Guanyu Xu, Hank Willis Thomas, Robert Capa, Barbara Morgan, Richard Prince, Louise Lawler, Andy Warhol, Pacifico Silano and John Baldessari.

International Center of Photography

79 Essex Street, New York, NY 10002Jan 28, 2022 – May 02, 2022

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