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Archive for August, 2006

In 1907, the US Postal Service began allowing personal messages written on the back of postcards. At about the same time, Kodak came out with an easy-to-use camera for the masses. And thus the photo postcard was born, flourishing into the 1930s. Harvey Tulcensky, a New York-based artist, has passionately collected real photo postcards for the last twenty years—real photo postcards being images developed directly on the postcard rather than lithographed. flyinghorse.jpgPostcards have come to represent the ultimate cliché—commercially-produced images from an idealized world. In Real Photo Postcards (Princeton Architectural Press), Tulcensky introduces us to this genre of vernacular photography at a moment when it was still naïve, inventive and personal. The book is broken into scenes from everyday life like Parading, At Work, Motion & Machines, Catch & Kill, Disasters or Uncanny. This image of a horse and rider hurtling into a pool of water for spectators falls under Amusements. Tulcensky chooses subject matter that is surreal—“exaggeration” postcards doctored to show men battling giant grasshoppers or the Mona Lisa in evening gown strutting through Brussels. As well as the more prosaic—the wonders of solar eclipses, incandescent light, snowflakes or hurricanes captured by the everyman. Viewed today, in a world glutted with images, Tulcenksy’s collection of real photo postcards recreates the lost drama of taking pictures.

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cm_vignes28131.jpg On Friday night I drove to a quiet corner of North Beach at dusk, walked down a flight of cement steps, through a dark narrow corridor then out into a garden. Hidden at the back of the courtyard on the bottom floor of a small, white wood-framed house was the Bonnafont Gallery. Inside, bright lights, picture windows, clean white walls, sisal-covered floors and a slightly musty odor reminiscent of a wine cellar, made the place seem like a forgotten bohemian cottage in the middle of the city. On show was a series of vintage black and white prints from the 1970s by French photographer Michelle Vignes, chronicling the dying breed of Parisian concierges. Suspicion is their trademark and Vignes reveals them in their full tight-lipped glory with arms folded across bosomy chests, equipped with brooms and keys and curious gazes, peering out from porte-cochères and lace-curtained loges, gossiping, watching, waiting, minding everybody’s business. SFGate did a nice write-up of her American documentary work during the countercultural heyday of the 70s, Black Panthers, Playboy bunnies and all.
Michelle Vignes, Concierges, The Bonnafont Gallery, 946a Greenwich Street, 415-441-4182, August 12 to September 3, Weekends 2-5.

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Non Facturé: Rejected Photographs gathers together all the double exposures, underexposures, overexposures, out-of-focus, blurred prints that the photo labs didn’t think anyone could possibly want. Blurred neon, faces cropped at odd angles, accidental midriffs, shaky and tremulous street scenes, forests of legs and feet shot by a camera while the owner wasn’t looking. Viewed together, these cast-off images might convince you an artist was behind the camera the whole time. Mistakes repeated over and over begin to look like genius. Published by Pepin Press. A CD of all these images comes with the book.

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