Cass BirdHeather Kemesky (2016)

Usually I’m not into editorial or quote-unquote lifestyle work.

What tends to resonate is image makers who take what functions and discard the rest. (Here I’m thinking of Lina Scheynius with the way she appropriates the tropes and visual language of lifestyle only to filter them–incongruously–  through her distinct lo-fi aesthetic and diaristic tendencies.

Bird’s work is more of a hybrid between editorial and lifestyle. Were that all, then I would be less enamored with her work than I am.

Perhaps the best way to get at what I mean is to focus on the hybridization. Usually, editorial work is supplemental to text–it’s a form of illustration, in effect/a picturebook for adults. Whereas, lifestyle tends to be fixated on immediacy of experience, beautiful people in exotic locales appearing relaxed and happy.

From the former, Bird adopts an unusual concreteness. Her images always have a lucid and clearly legible tone. (Consider the above: there fading light and heavier hues, lend a melancholic feel that is subsequently amplified by the gravity of the pose–head down, the look at me I’m on my period implication, belied by the might as well be joyful grin.) The tone alone frequently contributes a strong narrative thrust to the images. In other words, these images are able to stand on their own independent of their intended context.

Whereas with the latter, there’s an immediacy of bearing witness. I’m struggling with how to articulate what I mean on this point but it’s something like the built in interest that comes with viewing images of people you know, say on Facebook, on vacation, hanging out, going to a show, etc. They don’t have to be good, for you to experience some slight vicarious rise in yourself.

Bird’s work has that sort of feeling to it, except the images aren’t just interesting for what they document, they are astute considered and technically accomplished.

Lastly, Bird is clearly a talented image maker. But I get the feeling she’s an even better editor. I had a really difficult time deciding which image of hers to feature. I ended up going with this one but I’m head over feet for this one. When editing there’s a tendency to focus on style to the diminution of substance, an impetus for excluding the imperfect in favor of the unimpeachable. So it’s nice to see an image maker who although she seems to have precocious luck at capturing that perfect moment in an exceedingly well-considered composition, will opt out of any sort of perfectionism in favor of an indelible moment.

Ashley ArmitageUntitled (2015)

There is a lot of work being made by twenty-something-ish women who draw heavily from their own experiences as women in this our fundamentally sexist culture.

I’m constantly amazed at how varied, creative and interesting the better part of it is. There’s Arvida Byström in general and her infamous VICE editorial There Will Be Blood, in particular; Prue Stent’s jaw dropping and frankly unrivaled surrealist meditations on femininity and visual representation also spring to mind.

With such work, you can’t swing a cat without hitting some codified notion of the work as a manifestation of the female gaze–the female gaze being a reaction/response/rejection of Berger’s art historical ‘male gaze’.

The first time I encountered the term it was in reference to the work of Masha Demianova. I flat out don’t think the term applies to her work in the slightest. It’s also used in reference to Petra Collins–personally, I wouldn’t deploy it in her case either; however, I am much less convinced I could argue away the assertion to the point of refuting it.

For me, if you want to talk about a female gaze, someone like Mercedes Esquivel is where you’ll find it.

That being said: I think there’s a way in which it is befitting Armitage’s work even claiming it as a primary impetus for the work is somewhat pretentious. I think there is a way in which her photos are a sort of exercise in photography as a means of curation–since their the prism of her images pervasive themes and motifs in someone like Collins work are zoomed in upon to a microscopic level and are then subsequently replicated.

I feel as if there is a great deal of overlap with someone like Jeff Wall, for example.

Liv Carlé MortensenTitle Unknown (200X)

There isn’t much I can find about the artist; except for her sounding like my favorite kind–one who views art as an avenue for terrorism.

And as there’s even less information on this image, I’m left with nothing except my impressions to interpret.

First, of all I think knitphilia’s #thisiswhatlovelookslike tag applies.

Second, to my eye, Mortensen essentially excises the extreme detachment from subjects that features prominently in Nan Goldin’s work. With that as a starting point, Mortensen borrows heavily from fellow Dane Fred Huening adding the edgy balance between danger and dread, that I always feel his work is bereft of. (Also, while we’re on influences, the liberal dose of Ana Mendieta-esque calculated aggression should not be overlooked.)

This is exactly the sort of work I think lens based visual culture so desperately needs. It’s vital, real and alive.

Mathilda EberhardUntitled (2012)

This is the fourth time I’ve featured Eberhard’s images.

I can’t lie: I am really rather fond of her work. Not all of it is good but there’s never any question as its veracity.

Mathilda Eberhard is always going to show a raw slice of her truth.

I feel as if this manifests in her work in a atypical and anti-photographic way. I am not at all sure how to say it without resorting to nebulous abstractions, so I’ll draw a metaphor: it’s as if image making is not unlike sewing. The thread pierces the fabric passes under it before piercing the fabric again to reappear. The tradition of image making emphasizes the importance of tracing the thread along the surface; and as an image maker you want to offer as vivid a glimpse of the thread as possible. It’s like Eberhard flips over the seam and then focuses on the absence of the thread–an inverted experience of negative time, a focus on the indecisive moment instead of the decisive one.

Personally, I am all about the leaning in brought by narrative tension–I want to know the story. There is no way to extrapolate any sort of story beyond something archetypally human–and therefore seemingly quotidian, mundane.

The thing is: I find myself investing far more into her work than I do with the majority of ‘narrative’ imagery. Perhaps, I have–in my own work–been looking for something in decisive moments that belongs only to the indecisive ones.

Mike BrodieUntitled Frame from A Period of Juvenile Prosperity (200X)

Brodie was born in Arizona circa 1985.

Next we hear from him, it’s 2002. He’s 17 and now lives in Pensacola, FL.

He gets it in his head to visit a friend in Mobile and hops a train–as luck would have it–headed in the opposite direction. He ends up in Jacksonville, FL.

After bumming around for a few days, he catches the same train home.

“[The experience] sparked something and Brodie began to wander across the U.S. by any means that were free – walking, hitchhiking and train hopping.”

In 2004, Brodie found a Polaroid camera stuffed behind a car seat. Sans any formal training, Brodie criss-crossed the States using the camera to document his travels. .

In an effort to stay in contact the transient communities he came into with, Brodie shared his images on various websites; becoming known as The Polaroid Kidd.

When Polaroid discontinued the stock his camera used, he switched to a sturdy camera of 1980’s vintage.

On the subject of his process, he’s said:

Sometimes I take a train the wrong way or… whatever happens a photo will come out of it, so it doesn’t really matter where I end up.

Unwilling to be chewed up by the pressures and expectations of the art market, in 2008 Brodie ceased making photographs.

He graduated from the Nashville Auto Diesel College (NADC) in 2012 and now works out of his silver ‘93 Dodge a mobile diesel mechanic.

A Period of Juvenile Prosperity was published in early 2013 by Twin Palms.

(Note: there are two biographies for Brodie–his publisher’s version and his personal website’s. Both feature a wealth of information but are bogged down by choppy, artless prose; the versions are riddled with contradictions. The preceding text is not original; All I did was to reconcile the information contained in both versions in order to present it with as few changes to the original language as possible. I repeat: the preceding text is not original.)

[↑] Peter Kaaden – for C-Heads (2013)
[→] Unknown – Edit of Billy Kidd’s Cora Keegan (2011)
[↓] Lina Scheynius – Bandeau by Yves Saint Laurent (2010)

As far as curation-and/or-criticism-as-art, I am in the same boat as Thora Birch in Ghost World’s art class scenes.

The juxtaposition of the these three found images is an exception that proves the rule.

It’s one thing to re-purpose objects, materials and imagery. It is another entirely to effectively ground them in a new, full-functioning context.

Yes, there is a similarity in style and gaze informing the three independent of each other. And yes, they do sit side-by-side like well-behaved children at the dinner table.

What makes them work together is the Photoshop intervention–the addition of the dangling tampon string which does not feature in the original image.

Simple but startlingly affecting.


‘And in this vision

the present is also revealed as a ruin.’

(Hal Foster)


by Traci Lynn Matlock

June 20th & July 9th, 2013


More often than not, articulating what’s going on in my head is like trying to fit an iceberg through the eye of a needle.

It’s like I see 300 images compressed into three seconds and I have to recall every bit of it with eidetic specificity. 

With this image what I can remember runs something like: ugh, multiple exposures; and, must Art always be goddamn sexist, there’s what, centuries worth of images featuring featuring women as essentialized, sexual objects but how many images can you think of where a female bodied individual is portrayed as a someone with a vital inner life independent of what a man thinks of her or the audacity to—clutch the pearls—depict menstruation; and, what would Szarkowski’s reductive Mirrors and Windows make of this?

The enormity of seeing the original thought surface, the marvel of its intricate perfection is all but lost.

My recall is sometimes astounding. I live for those moments.

During the remainder of the time, its like guessing at the original picture based on nothing more than a handful of puzzle pieces.

Occasionally, the pieces lead to more pieces. Given enough time, I can confidently point to an approximation of that first notion. Most of the time though, I can’t.

At which point I am left with the choice of giving up or trying to say something that manages to make sense of the pieces I have and hopefully points however glancing toward what I want to say.

Stories, I have learned, are a valuable tool in this process. Telling a story doesn’t always turn up more fragments. But it frequently triggers additional moments of astonishing clarity.

It doesn’t feel like there is a connection but I feel compelled to talk about how I discovered Matlock’s work.

Usually, I attribute my motivation to buy my first 35mm SLR to encountering her work. But that’s personal mythology; not the truth.

At the time, I was in film school studying cinematography. The summer between my junior and senior year was the first time I was not scheduled to shoot anything for anyone else and couldn’t afford to shoot anything of my own. So despite knowing nothing—less than nothing: fuck all—about still photography, I snagged a Nikon 8008s with a 50mm f1.4 lens. The salesman had to help me load the first roll of film.

The first handful of rolls turned out better than I had any right to expect. And after being prodded by my ‘adopted’ sister, I put some of my stuff up on Flickr. (This was back in the days of the simpler, more elegant interface and with it the now long gone pervasive sense of community.)

Part of me relished nominal attention my photos received. I likely would have bored of it, if it hadn’t been for the Explore feature.

After about six months of shooting, I hit my first plateau. The magic was far from gone but the process had begun to feel like work. It was that dead man’s land between Thanksgiving and Xmas and in combination with my frustration with my photographs, extremely loneliness and handful of other mitigating circumstances, created a perfect storm during which I stumbled onto Matlock and Ashley MacLean’s collaborative work under the moniker tetheredtothesun.

I remember distinctly that this was the first image I saw. Seeing it produced a feeling identical to the moment of surfacing, of mental clarity. Only, the three second time limit had been lifted. I could sit and stare; wonder at it all. Dwell there for a time.

I cannot understand how everything in my life since then has hinged on the flipping of that switch. I still don’t completely understand it. But it opened my eyes to the fact that the work I was making ran contrary to what I longed to create. Further, it lacked willingness to be vulnerable to others.

It’s not especially clear but the original thought I wanted to write about here was a bit of an extended metaphor. Something to do with the way parents track their child’s growth with pencil marks on a door frame. So much of my own creative development lines up in my mind with photographs Ms. Matlock has either helped to make or made herself. (I will write a goddamn dissertation of a post if I ever manage to track down her photo of Smashley titled something ‘a well-explored room’,.)

I don’t get her multiple exposure work. It doesn’t move me in the same way as her more candid images.

Matlock was recently interviewed by The Photographic Journal. Reading it I was reminded of how influential her work has been in my development as a photographer. It’s simultaneously thrilling and unnerving.