Friday, November 14, 2014

Review: Joe McNally at Monroe Gallery

November/December 2014

By Douglas Fairfield

Monroe Gallery of Photography, Santa Fe

Yellowstone - Walkway in the Fog, 2006
Joe McNaIIy, Yellowstone - Walkway in the Fog, 2006.
©Joe McNaIIy. Courtesy Monroe Gallery

Being at the right place at the right time is a photographer's modus operandi, and photojournalist Joe McNally has had his share of right-place, right-time moments; moments that have resulted in memorable, if not iconic images. In a retrospective of the photographer's work - on view at Monroe Gallery of Photography in Santa Fe through November 23 - more than 45 images stand testament to McNaIIy's discerning eye, both in formal and candid situations. Photos in color and black and white dating from 1978 to 2013 feature subjects of a most eclectic nature not typically associated with one photographer. But given a 30-year career in which McNaIly has contributed to TIME, Newsweek, Fortune, The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, and LIFE, among others, it is little wonder that his portfolio runs the gamut in terms of subject matter. This includes sports, politics, music, science, portraiture, the natural and urban landscape, and war. lnterestingly, McNaIIy carries the distinction of being the last staff photographer for LIFE, whose pages, over the years, were filled with photographs by Alfred Eisenstaedt, John Loengard, Carl Mydans, Gordon Parks, and W. Eugene Smith.

Among the pictures on display are eight life-size portraits by McNaIly of individuals impacted by the events of 9/11 taken just days following the horrific attack. lncluded are former mayor of New York City Rudolph Giuliani and New York firefighter Joe Hodges, each part of McNally's larger document called Faces of Ground Zero, which traveled around the country and spawned a book by the same title. The one-of-kind, 80 x 40-inch Polaroid photos are mounted on freestanding stanchions placed down the center of the gallery. Whereas each picture by McNally holds a newsworthy narrative, a few nudge into fine art, like Yellowstone— Walkway in the Fog, 2006, in which an unoccupied walkway emerging from the bottom center of the composition curves gently to the right leading the viewer into an otherworldly environment of shimmering, copper-colored mineral water and fog-shrouded background. In the upper left corner is a snow-covered rise where barely visible trees appear like scratchings upon the photographic surface. History-making events and sheer beauty are fully captured through McNally's lens.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

John Doar, Federal Lawyer in Battle Against Segregation, Dies at 92

James Meredith with US Marshals, Oxford, Mississippi, 1962

--Via The New York Times

John Doar, who was a leader in the federal government’s legal efforts to dismantle segregation in the South during the most volatile period of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and who returned to government service to lead the team that made the constitutional case for the possible impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 92.

He escorted James Meredith onto the campus of the University of Mississippi in 1962, even as then-Gov. Ross Barnett and angry crowds sought to keep the school segregated. Doar later was the lead prosecutor in the federal trial arising from the deaths of three civil rights workers, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner. Those killings inspired the 1988 film "Mississippi Burning."

Full obituary here.

Related: June 21, 1964: The Murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Joe McNally in Rwanda, 1997

Refugee Girl after the Genocide, Rwanda, 1997

I was in Rwanda after the genocide, which was very difficult. Not only was there the evidence and smell of death lingering in many places, but it was also distressing to see the tidal wave of human displacement, orphaned children, and people with literally no place to go. I shot this picture in panorama format, as I was trying to get across the enormous sweep of this very large refugee camp in the volcanic highland area of the Rwandan-Zairean border. (Zaire is now the Congo.) 

What you don’t see in this picture is the crowd of some 300 to 400 people watching me shoot it. She was standing there, alone, and her simple, sweet, uncertain stance certainly made for a photograph. But I had an enormous crowd following me around, as visitors to a refugee camp often become that day’s movie. I crouched on the ground behind my tripod, shooting quickly, begging everyone to stay behind me. And, even though I was concentrating on making the picture, I became aware of the light touch of children’s fingers on my skin and hair. They were gently pinching and rubbing my skin, and pulling my hair. A white person was still strange to them and I believe they thought my coloration would somehow rub off and there would the more familiar black skin they were used to underneath. And my hair? Well that was really different, and the object of much interest. --Joe McNally

 Refugee Camp, Rwanda, 1997

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Steve Schapiro Talks Photography, Bowie, And 21st Century Hippies

Steve Schapiro with “Bowie, The Man Who Fell to Earth” New Mexico, 1975. Archival pigment print. 40 x 50 inches. Photo by: Carrie McGath

Via Chicagoist

Steve Schapiro's photographs occupy and navigate a space that is deeply human and soulful, encouraging his subjects to feel able to open their own apertures and shred any facade. David Bowie, more often a series of personas than a man, is captured by Schapiro as rawly human, even vulnerable at times, even if he is in character. The works in Schapiro's exhibition, "Warhol, Reed, and Bowie" at the Ed Pashcke Art Center acts as an archive of this ability. Some of these images are iconic; Bowie Smoking a Cigarette once graced the cover of Rolling Stone.

Schapiro spoke with me on the phone recently about this show, his past work and future projects. He has a way about him that encourages, even insists on, making his subjects comfortable in front of his lens.

CHICAGOIST: So you discovered photography at summer camp at the age of 9? Was that your first time with a camera?

STEVE SCHAPIRO: I think it was first time and I guess it was probably a Brownie camera, and I took pictures at the camp. What really excited me is that we developed our own film and to see them come out of the water, out of the chemicals, and to see the clouds and all of that to me was very exciting and it started me in being interested in taking a lot of pictures. Henri Cartier-Bresson's The Decisive Moment came out and that was an incredible book at the time and it is amazing how he caught the peak of action and also had such great design and gave you a sense of where you were and really made me decide I really wanted to become a photographer.

C: What about the beginning of your professional career? How did all of that start?

STEVE SCHAPIRO: When I was growing up as a journalistic photographer, the thing you could most hope for was to become a Life magazine photographer. So I set my sights on that and I started doing projects on my own. I spent four weeks at a migrant workers camp in Arkansas and that was one of the projects I did on my own. I came back and there was a small Catholic magazine called, Jubilee, and they would give you six to eight pages to do a portfolio. So I got my first portfolio printed on the migrant workers and the The New York Times picked up one of the pictures and used it as the cover shot for their magazine section, and I gradually worked into Life magazine and did quite a bit for them and for other magazines.

C: You're a great observer of humanity, even with iconic, larger-then-life figures like Bowie. I am thinking specifically of the Bowie photograph from The Man Who Fell to Earth, one of the highlights of the show. This was printed at the last minute for this exhibit, correct? There is a somberness and vulnerability in this work while it is magical.

STEVE SCHAPIRO: It's an image that was never printed till about two weeks before the show. I looked at that transparency and realized it is a really good picture, and it was only when I thought we needed another Bowie picture to round out the exhibit that I went back and looked at the transparencies and I found this image. It had never been edited or printed. It is entirely untouched.

C: Can you talk about how you tap into the personality of your subjects?

STEVE SCHAPIRO: Basically, when I am photographing, I try to be very quiet. When I am with someone I don't want to have a conversation with them because then they would be talking to me and they're not really being themselves. Their thoughts are what they are saying to me and what I am saying to them. I just look for those moments when there is something in their eyes or an attitude, something that shows the spirit of that person.

C: Another favorite of mine is the one of Warhol holding that displeased dog. So much is captured in that image.

STEVE SCHAPIRO: With that picture of Warhol, the Velvet Underground had done a concert and the promoter wasn't paying them for three weeks and there was this place that looked a castle in the Hollywood Hills and the person who owned it let them camp there. I was just walking around with Andy and suddenly he saw this dog and picked it up, and that was the picture. It wasn't anything we spent any time on and it is a very warm picture and a different side of him.

C: Do you find when you are photographing a performer like Bowie, a quintessential performer and artist, I am thinking, like you were saying, he was very aware he was being photographed, but he also seemed to put his guard down for you. Can you talk about that?

STEVE SCHAPIRO: I think Bowie is very smart and I think he has a great sense of images and in coming up with new kinds of images. The first session I did with him started at four in the afternoon and ended at four the next morning when I did that picture of him on the motorcycle, and we used the headlights of a car to light it. He would constantly come up with new costumes and I would pick up my camera to photograph him and it would be an incredible outfit, but he would stop me and say, "Wait a minute, I need to fix something," and he would go to the dressing room and come back 20 minutes later in something totally different. Fortunately, there would be a lot of things he would try on, so we would get a lot of pictures. The picture of him smoking a cigarette was a cover of Rolling Stone and it has been used a lot, but it was originally the cover for Rolling Stone.

C: Photographing celebrities aside, could you talk about your work with the everyman: the series of the migrant workers you talked about and also the addicts you photographed in East Harlem. I am wondering what drew you to these subjects.

STEVE SCHAPIRO: They're both highly emotional subjects where there are problems involved, and from a human basis, they are interesting situations to cover. I have a book coming out next year about the hippie movement of today. I photographed Haight-Ashbury in 1967 and it was the center of the hippie movement. My son and I photographed between 2011 and 2012 a lot of music festivals and situations like that and we photographed the spirit of a whole new generation who are not as much into drugs but into meditation and are conscious of organic food and good eating. Today there are these music festivals and there are people who just go from one to another and it is, in a sense, their religion. I met this one man who said I am not a Catholic, not a Baptist, I am a festivaltarian. What he meant was that, spirituality, he got an inner sense of a spiritual high. The books is really about the joy people have.

C: Any other projects?

STEVE SCHAPIRO: I am doing a new book on Misericordia, started by Sister Rosemary, a Catholic nun, and it is a place that is now 35 acres in upper Chicago. It is really for people who have developmental difficulties and it is an amazing place just filled with joy. It is really a joyful place, and that's the book I am working on right now.
C: To close, do you photograph everyday?

STEVE SCHAPIRO: I try to, and particularly when I am working on a specific project, I try to maintain a continuity. The Barbara Steisand book comes out in November and I am working on a Civil Rights book, so at the same time I am shooting new stuff, I am also going through old stuff for these books.

Slideshow here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Screening of the film Remembering Edward Weston

October 18, 2014
2:00 pm
Via The New Mexico Museum of Art

Celebrating its rich collection of photographs and the key role the medium has played in shaping New Mexico history, culture, and tourism, the museum presents a series of exhibitions in the year-long series Focus on Photography (March 7, 2014 – April 19, 2015). In conjunction with these exhibitions, the museum will host gallery talks by photographers as well as a photography film series:

October 18: Remembering Edward Weston is filled with stories and memories of this much-loved and influential photographer. The film includes interviews with two of Weston’s sons, his former wife Charis Wilson, historian Beaumont Newhall, and many others. Curator of Photography Katherine Ware will introduce the film with a short slide presentation about Edward Weston in New Mexico.

107 West Palace
Santa Fe, NM 87501

Monday, September 29, 2014

Joe McNally: View from Top of Burj Khalifa, Dubai, 2013

Archival pigment print from an iPhone
8 x 10 inches, signed, limited edition of 100
Special exhibition print now available, please

Watch: Photographer Joe McNally climbs to the top of Dubai's Burj Khalifa (the World's tallest building), in hopes is seeking an unusual vantage point:

And you can watch our conversation with Joe McNally about the exhibit here:

Friday, September 26, 2014

Joe McNally in Conversation with Sid and Michelle Monroe

Joe Self-Portrait from Empire State Building, 2001
Joe's Self-Portrait from Empire State Building, 2001

In advance of opening night (October 3) at the Monroe Gallery of Photography in Santa Fe, Nikon Ambassador Joe McNally talks with Sid and Michelle Monroe and tells some of the stories behind the photos featured in the visit. You'll get to see the gallery and get a feel for what goes into creating an exhibit like this one, and a special print announcement will be made.

Questions are welcome. 

Monday, September 29  10:30 AM Eastern Time

Event page to watch on the Google+ stream:

YouTube link  for live or watching whenever

The exhibition will continue threough November 23, 2014.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

“Unframed — Ellis Island,” by the French artist JR; Inspired by Stephen Wilkes

Isolation ward, curved corridor, Island 3

Via The New York Times

A new installation, “Unframed — Ellis Island,” by the French artist JR, which brings this landmark building, its patients and staff members, to grainy but wrenching life. It is the first time in 60 years that the Ellis Island hospital has been open to the public. Tickets go on sale Thursday for guided tours that begin on Oct. 1.

Unframed — Ellis Island” is part of JR’s larger “Unframed” series that puts archival photos in new contexts in places like Marseille, France; São Paulo, Brazil; and Washington. He was introduced to this project by a book, “Ellis Island: Ghosts of Freedom,” the photographer Stephen Wilkes’s exploration of the hospital in its wildest state, and quickly became obsessed with the grounds. Finishing the installation this month, he and his small team would arrive in the morning and wander all day, scouting out homes for their century-old charges, before taking the tourist ferry back to Manhattan, toting ladders and paste buckets.

“It’s a really powerful place,” said Mr. Wilkes, who photographed it the hospital from 1998 to 2003, and is now on the board of Save Ellis Island. He was particularly moved by the realization that some patients could see the Statue of Liberty from their sickbeds. “She’s so close, and for many people who came to America and who never got out of that hospital, they never got to see any more than that,” Mr. Wilkes said.
Their emotion lingered. “I would feel almost human energy in these empty rooms,” he said.

Read the full article here.

View Stephen Wilkes' Ellis Island collection here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Giant Polaroid Camera and Joe McNally

The installation of the Joe McNally exhibit has started. First to arrive, the Giant Polaroids.


Joe McNally tells a bit about the history of these magnificent photographs,  via his blog:

In 2000, I was assigned to shoot pictures for a very small story (which was never published) on a unique photographic instrument called Moby C, which at the time lived on the lower East Side of NY. Moby after the whale, not the musician.  This camera is the world’s only Giant Polaroid camera, invented at the behest of Dr. Land himself. It is the size of a one car garage. Its lens came from a U2 spy plane, according to legend. At f/45, you have about an inch of depth of field. You cannot focus the lens–you have to focus your subject by moving them back and forth in tiny increments.

There is no shutter, you have to work camera obscura at the moment of exposure. I used about 25,000 watt seconds of strobe, mostly run through a 12×12 silk. The strobe system was wired to a Mamiya RZ 6×7 camera, bore sighted under the Polaroid lens. We would pose the subject, then wait for the interior workings of the Polaroid to spool up (there are two technicians inside the camera when you shoot, and they have to prepare things, like switch on a Black and Decker wet dry vac to suck the Polaroid film to the giant backplate of the camera). Then I would go dark in the studio, pull the cap of the Polaroid lens, fire the Mamiya and thus render an instantaneous dupe, one a huge positive, and the other a 6×7 transparency.

Huge indeed. What results after the exposure is a life sized image, 40″x 80″. You lay it out on the floor of the camera, wait 90 seconds (it’s the same Polaroid paper that comes in your over the counter cameras) and then peel the chemical backing off. There you have it.

I had convinced the elegant and easy going Jennifer Ringer, a principal with the NYC Ballet, to come and work with me during this first, experimental day with the camera. We made some nice, big pictures of her. (I was chuckling inside during this shoot, harking back to our old philosophy at LIFE magazine: “If ya can’t make ‘em good, make ‘em big and in color!”)

Made seven successful images that day, which is a lot of production for this behemoth of a camera, and found I had a bit of an affinity for working it. (Try anything once, right? Just have faith and remember the Lord looks after a fool.)

 Hmmm. Things stick with you, right? A week after 9/11, I sent an email to the only guy I knew who had a bunch of cash and would give me a quick decision; the editorial director of Time Warner, John Huey. John’s basically an old Southern newspaper man who kind of looks at you sideways, lets you babble, and then tells you what he thinks. He’s smart as a whip, quick off the mark, and does not suffer fools or photographers gladly.

I sent him the email on a Thursday night. He gave me money for the project Monday morning. The pressure was on. He was taking a huge gamble with his company’s dough, $100,000, to be direct about it. He looked me in the eye and drawled, “Joe, you spend $20,000 and get me no pitchahs, that’s okay. You spend $100,000 and get me no pitchahs, we got a problem.” He kind of drew out the word, “prrroblem.” I gulped and left his office.

My notion was that this camera was made for people of stature, a heroic instrument, if you will. You have to literally stand for your portrait. You collect yourself in the dark, holding still, waiting for the strobe explosion. And then you are done. One shot. (90% of our subjects we did in one exposure. Each sheet of Polaroid cost $300. I dreaded blinkers.)

It became a document known as Faces of Ground Zero. It toured through seven stops, opening at Grand Central Station, and coming back to NY a year later. For the anniversary show they threw a huge tent over where they usually put the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. It was seen by lots of people. The Polaroids and the resultant book(s) helped the sponsors, Time Warner and Morgan Stanley, to donate close to $2 million dollars to the relief of downtown public education. In the tent at the Rock Center show, we sold about $40,000 worth of books in 3 weeks. All of it went to the downtown PTA’s.

My good friend, Louie Cacchioli. Louie saved a lot of people that day by keeping his head and telling them to follow his light. Out on West St., running from the second collapse, he was overtaken by the cloud of ash and soot. Blinded by the smoke, he felt along the ground and stumbled onto a discarded oxygen mask. He clapped it to his face. He estimates he had about 30 seconds left.

Jan Demczur, a Polish window washer who scraped through 6 inches of sheet rock with his squeegee blade and thus saved the 4 people he was trapped in an elevator with. His squeegee is in the Smithsonian.

Joe Hodges. A veteran firefighter who could have easily retired after 9/11, but chose to stay on. “The older guys have to stick around and show the younger guys the way,” was how he put it.

So we kept working. Our last subject was Rudy Giuliani. He finally came on the last night. We were out of money, out of time. We shot 2 Polaroids of hizzoner, and closed the doors.

Things you don’t think about while you are in the throes of a project like this, are, what happens next? After ebeing xhibited in seven cities in 2002, seen by almost a million, I became the owner, lock, stock and metal framework, of about 10 tons of photography. (The framed pieces, which form the traveling core of the show, are 4′x9′ and weigh about 300 pounds.) They reside in museum quality, climate controlled storage in a warehouse in New Jersey.

Monroe Gallery of Photography is honored to include 6 Giant Polaroids in the forthcoming exhibit. The exhibit opens with a public reception for Joe McNally October 3, and continues through November 23. You can tune in to a special Google+ Hangout with Joe McNally and Sid and Michelle Monroe on Monday, September 29  10:30 Eastern time. Joe will tell some of the stories behind the photos featured in the visit. You'll get to see the gallery and get a feel for what goes into creating an exhibit like this one. Questions are welcome. To listen bookmark this link. (Also available live or for later viewing on YouTube here.