Masao Yamamoto1270, from Nakazora (2001)

I’ve been on Tumblr pretty much every day since mid-to-late 2010. I’ve borne witness to a half dozen or so major changes that have infuriated users and caused folks to scream bloody murder about how they’re killing the site.

The last six months have been especially harrowing. Except… I’m not seeing a lot of screaming this time around. It seems like everyone who has been threatening to leave-has and that leaves two groups: folks like me who are too stubborn to quit and noobs who aren’t super hip to the way the platform words (or, more likely: don’t care).

It’s becoming increasingly challenging to keep this blog up and running, honestly. I mean: previously, I had more content I wanted to post than I had time to prepare posts. Now? Now, there’s still things I want to post–but it’s fewer and further between. I’m less able to pick what photo or image I’m most excited about and instead I’m having to focus more on curation. (This is probably a good thing for my brain but there are times when I feel like folks–in general–are less engaged with the proceedings.

Take the photo above. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out what to say about it. It’s not that I don’t like Yamamoto–I’ve posted another of his photos several years back.

I know most of his work centers on landscapes and nudes. And that he uses tea to tone his prints.

I had some notion that there’s something of William Blake in his work. But, that’s not an assertion I can necessarily support beyond just saying it feels that way to me.

I reread his Wikipedia page and noticed this statement: “[he] makes installation art with his small photographs to show how each print is part of a larger reality.”

This suggests an interplay between images within a given context being important to understanding his work. I googled “nakazora”; it returned the following from the publisher of this work:

Dictionary Definition of Nakazora: The space between sky and earth, the
place where birds, etc. fly. Empty air. An internal hollow. Vague.
Hollow. Around the center of the sky. Or, emptiness. A state when the
feet do not touch the ground. Inattentiveness. The inability to decide
between two things. Midway. The center of the sky (the zenith). A
Buddhist term. Nakazora is our second publication on the work of
Japanese artist Masao Yamamoto. But this is no book: the artist has
designed a scroll measuring over eighteen feet long, beautifully printed
in process color on uncoated Japanese stock. The timelessness of
Yamamoto’s imagery is beautifully echoed in scroll presentation. The
scroll was one of the earliest vehicles used for storing and presenting
visual information. Nakazora combines the aesthetic and tactile
attributes of this traditionally one-off format with the advantages of
modern printing technology. A striking marriage of traditional and
hi-tech materials and production techniques, Nakazora redefines the term
‘artists’ book.’

I can’t think of scrolls in an art context without flashing to Caroless Schneemann’s Interior Scroll. But it seems that my initial instinct with Blake isn’t far off the mark–since short of illuminated manuscripts, Blake was kind of the progenitor of ‘artist’s books’.

I suspect that the similarities run deeper than that but at present I am too brain drained from once again packing all of my worldly possessions in preparation to move ¼ of the way around the world…

Alan SonfistMyself Becoming One with the Tree (1969)

Me (to myself): this sequence is naturally predisposed to a .gif format.

Myself (to me): you know how to make a a .gif, you lazy ass hussy.

I can’t say the idea of making photo sequences into .gifs was is original. I stole it from this post featuring a .gif of Duane Michals’ 1969 The Human Condition.

But I do sort of take issue with that post because although culture dictates that the .gif is how we are most accustomed to processing photo sequences, the sequences were not originally contextualized as animation. Thus while this is definitely a good idea to get people into work they might not otherwise encounter, you really absolutely must be honest about the intervention upon the work, IMO.

Judy DaterImogen and Twinka at Yosemite (1974)

I was completely unfamiliar with this image prior to this morning. And now that I know about it, I am sort of going crazy over it.

Long story short: I came to photography via cinematography and ever since I’ve been trying to figure out how to convey a narrative within a single, static frame.

There’s a lot of folks who are similarly fixated. Fewer succeed and some (looking at you, Crewdson) don’t even come close but continue to tout their work publicly as narrative despite a colossal misunderstanding of what narrativity entails.

This image is narrative as fuck. What we are seeing is indisputable. A woman with a camera has walked around a tree and to her surprise, encountered a nude woman eying her coyly.

Given only the image, we can surmise both what led up to this event and what will follow from it: respectively, a photographer was wondering through the woods looking for a scene to shoot and now having found it she will take a picture.

But… but… (sorry, totally v. emotional ova here) that framework suggests a number of questions: who is the photographer and why is this woman just leaning up against a tree naked?

And unlike so many images that rely on the inclusion of accompanying text or a title to activate the narrative, the title here–hallelujah!!–directly addresses those questions: the photographer is Imogen Cunningham, one of the first American female photographers; and the nude woman leaning against the tree is Twinka Thiebaud.

Further the mention of Yosemite serves the dual purpose of connecting this to the American photographic tradition–Eadweard Muybridge and Ansel Adams writ all the way into the fucking margins–and grounding it in the fact that this image came out of workshop (organized by Adams) entitled “The Nude in the Landscape.”

Apparently, Twinka character was conceptualized as a woodland nymph after Thomas Hart Benton’s Persephone. (Note how this intricately compliments the fantastical undercurrent of the initial narrative interpretation as well as presents a critical and conceptual weight to the mention of Yosemite in the title–i.e. the American west and it’s relationship to the nascent medium of photograph as a new mythology.)

I’m overcome by how incomparably perfect this is. This is the model for the work I want to make as a photographer.