How Eryk Fitkau started

How do photographers get their start? The late Eryk Fitkau was one of this country’s most successful advertising & fashion photographers. He told a story about how he and his partner Tomyk Sikora got their break, after migrating from Poland. It’s a lesson to us all …

“One day we got a call to come into the agency. I knew that meant we had our first job. The art director asked us to give him a quote. Now, thinking about how much money I was getting in construction (as a labourer) and adding money we would need for film and developing, I estimated we should quote $150.

When we were about to give this quote to the art director, I had a feeling we should not tell him what we thought. I said to him that we are new to this country and we do not know how much is the going rate here, so could he please give us some idea of a budget.

He replied that it was a small budget of about $1600. I kept a poker face and told him that this price would be acceptable to us.”

Fitkau’s life story is told in his own words on the website: www.erykfitkau.com. It is an archive of his dynamic, raunchy and technically brilliant photography.

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Kanazawa Study

Rohan Hutchinson, from Kanazawa Study

Kanazawa Study is a series of large digital collages by Rohan Hutchinson. He uses a 10×8 inch view camera to capture details and textures of architectural surfaces in a historic locality in Japan. The images have a Zen quality, very cool and detached. They are assembled with great precision to contrast texture, colour and space creating ‘virtual architectural realms.’ I can imagine them looking at home in some Minimalist interior.

Hutchinson explores how the difference in architectural design and materials has changed throughout diverse time frames and class systems in the Kanazawa region of Japan, giving a 500-year overview of architectural practice within the region.

The exhibition is at the Colour Factory Gallery in Fitzroy

Kelli Connell’s proof

Kelli Connell, paste-up for The Valley, 2006

Kelli Connell‘s intimate portraits of a loving couple have made a strong impact over recent years. They appear to chronicle the relationship of a lesbian couple until you realise that both women are the same person. The photographs have been Photoshopped to create two characters out of one, with technique that is both discrete and flawless. An exhibition of photographers’ contact sheets at Catherine Edelman Gallery gives us a glimpse of Connell’s working method.

She shoots on film in 6×4.5 medium format using Kodak 400 ISO colour negative film and she brackets the exposures. The paste-up image above shows a woman from one print leaning over a woman from another print, but they are both the same woman. Look below at the first frames of the proof sheet and you’ll a different woman in the upper pose, a stand-in, and not Connell herself. In the lower frames, their positions have reversed, the stand-in is now lying down.’

Kelli Connell, proofsheet for The Valley, 2006

Connell prints the best poses, cuts and pastes them together to indicate the join – see the top image – and then Photoshops the images together (presumably from the negatives).

Kelli Connell, The Valley, 2006

The Astor saved

Great news today that The Astor cinema in St Kilda has been saved by white knight Ralph Taranto, who plans to restore and preserve the wonderful Art Deco theatre.

The Astor is the last single-screen picture palace left in Melbourne, and one of the few in the southern hemisphere. It is without question the best venue for seeing big films. The atmosphere in the 1936 auditorium, size of the screen and the quality of projection are unique. The Astor has the most advanced projection, with the only 70mm film projector in Melbourne and a Barco 4K 32B digital projectorthe 4K means four times the resolution of the industry accepted standard of 2K (4096 x 2160 pixels versus 2048 x 1556).

There is a unique thrill in experiencing the gigantic screen which is three-to-four storeys high, surrounded by the 1930s architecture. This is especially true when the movie itself is a spectacle. Big films like Lawrence of Arabia, 2001: A Space Odyssey, or The Good, the Bad and the Ugly can be seen as they were intended to be seen, in a grand communal space, with the image so large you are immersed in it.

Lawrence of Arabia, dir. David Lean, 1963

2001: A Space Odyssey, dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1968

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, dir. Sergio Leone, 1966

Cyr’s trays

John Cyr, Sally Mann’s Developing Tray, 2011

John Cyr is a New York photographer who runs a darkroom printing service, making black & white prints with traditional silver-based materials. In his unique exhibition project called Developer Trays, he has photographed dozens of darkroom trays used by well known photographers.

I am photographing available developer trays so that the photography community will remember specific, tangible printing tools that have been a seminal part of the photographic experience for the past hundred years.

Although his images are in colour, the trays are used for black & white printing; the various grey hues you see are caused by the silver deposit during the developing process. As ordinary working tools, darkroom trays are not beautiful things but Cyr’s photographs transform them into memorials for the analogue tradition. The developing tray is where the image magically appears on the paper, a chemical event that digital photography has no answer to.

Nix pix & boox

Lori Nix, Circulation Desk, 2012

Lori Nix imagines the future collapse of civilization. She builds small models of disaster scenes out of cardboard, foam and glue, then photographs them using a large 8×10 camera. The intricate dioramas have astonishing detail and convincingly depict scenes of urban collapse after some future apocalypse. At first sight, they seem to be documentary photographs, like the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. And she knows what she’s doing – growing up in the Tornado belt of Kansas, she witnessed the same sort of destruction she creates in her studio.

Nix exhibits with the Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago and has also produced a Blurb book of The City which you can look through and purchase online (for as little as $41.00, a bargain).

On Robert Hughes

Tom and Chrissie Hughes during Malcolm Turnbull’s speech

Isn’t this priceless? Like emperors at the Coliseum. Following the recent death of the art critic Robert Hughes, his brother Tom and wife listen to the tribute in Federal parliament.

Malcolm Turnbull gave a remarkable speech on Hughes, deeply felt, funny, and in it’s way worthy of Hughes’ own rhetorical style. Crikey.com have posted the speech at http://www.crikey.com.au/2012/08/15/malcolm-turnbull-robert-hughes/

Robert Hughes was the Orson Welles of art criticism, brilliant, charismatic, larger-than-life, but with a fatal edge. He was a great educator, erudite but driven to make art popular and available to a mass audience. I think this is a noble cause, far worthier than the efforts of gloomy theorists in their academic cabals. Of these he said, ” To write direct prose, lucid and open to comprehension, using common language, is to lose face. You do not make your mark unless you add something to the lake of jargon to whose marshy verge the bleating flocks of post-structuralists go each night to drink…”

Hughes didn’t have much to say about photography. In his great surveys of art history, Shock of the New and American Visions, there are only a few passages, and you feel that he was not really convinced of the medium’s validity for making art. His references in American Visions to photographs by Alfred Stieglitz and Lewis Hine even contain factual errors. And yet he was still able to sum up a photograph’s impact with vivid phrases.

“Some of the finest photographs of Lewis Hine, the recording angel of American labour in the 1920s and 1930s, were taken to document the construction of the Empire State Building, and one in particular became an icon: the rangy young man in overalls, swinging on the hook of a crane, a thousand feet above Manhattan’s sidewalks, like some Icarus of skill and risk.”

Note the twin imagery of angel and Icarus (both fly with wings) and thus the conjoining of Hine himself with his ascending figure of the worker.

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