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“There is one thing the photograph must contain,
the humanity of the moment.” 
— Robert Frank

Painters, sculptors and many other artists start with a blank canvass and create art – their view of the world.  On the other hand, photographers start with the realities of our world and reflect that back to us. The photograph reflects a moment of the world we are a part of and live in – its trials, tribulations, anxieties, as well as those moments of joy, hope, aspiration and beauty.
An article on June 30th, 2017 in Time magazine noted that photography is our eye to the world. Photographers “inform us, they inspire us, they amaze us, they put our world in the broader context of history.” Photographers sort out the chaos of the world into singular images that bring clarity to the free-for-all of life. “They are the witnesses and artists who can distill the mayhem and beauty that surrounds us. They call our attention to the things we miss in our everyday lives… Photographers teach us to look again, look harder. Look through their eyes.”
Recently, The New York Times posted a series of images entitled “Still Life”. This article/photo essay introduces a number of photographers with different perspectives/subject matter in the context of the current coronavirus situation — “in this unnatural state of isolation, photographers show us the things that bind.”  In another New York Times article they recently asked readers to submit photos taken before the virus that might have seemed like small moments and now feel weighty and important – some of the “last moments you felt like life was normal.” 
Whether we make images ourselves or whether the photographs are ones that we look at and enjoy, the photographs of this time (and other times) help us make sense of our lives.  During these days when we all stay home and social distance, nothing feels normal and time vanishes in front of us. However, we all have images of captured moments of time — even as the time moved onward. The images of personal experiences, from the past and present, become important memories. And today, those important times and memories are no further away than the phones that are in our pockets and almost always with us. Other images may be on your desk or maybe they take the form of a beautiful print that you admired and now hangs on your wall.
Whatever the format, the images show us more than just a moment lost to time.  They reflect back to us our priorities, values and our engagement with the world. Photographs speak about the way we experience our lives.

Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever…

It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.”
— Aaron Siskind

“How do you tell others what you think is worth telling…you see what is really there.”

“All photographs—not only those that are so called ‘documentary’– can be fortified by words.” 

Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange is best known for her depression era photography for the Farm Security Administration, most notably her iconic Migrant Mother photograph.  Her 40+ year career resulted in many remarkable photographs that included the conditions of interned Japanese- Americans, environmental degradation and African-American field hands, to name just a few.  Much of her work was social documentary in nature. She and her husband, agricultural economist Paul Schuster Taylor, collaborated on a book, An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion (1939).  This book brought together her images with direct quotes from the people she photographed, detailing the realities of their life. Some examples are included in this video from the Museum of Modern Art. Her interest was in art’s power to deliver public awareness and to connect to intimate narratives about the world.

In the current Museum of Modern Art Exhibit, Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures, Lange is quoted as noting,

“Am working on the captions. This is not a simple clerical matter, but a process, for they should carry not only factual information, but also added clues to attitudes, relationships and meanings. They are connective tissue, and in explaining the function of the captions, as I am doing now, I believe we are extending our medium.”

Dorothea Lange, Kern County, California, 1938 The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase

The importance of using words to build an informative narrative around images is sometimes debated in the photography world – some believe that the photograph should stand on its own without commentary while others believe a written and verbal narrative adds important context and perspective.  Perhaps it is not an either or answer. However, it is an interesting question.  In the case of Dorothea Lange’s outstanding work one can conclude that the photography itself stands on its own. Her photography also benefits from the realities and context that she details with words.

“This benefit of seeing…can come only if you pause a while, extricate yourself from the maddening mob of quick impressions ceaselessly battering our lives, and look thoughtfully at a quiet image…the viewer must be willing to pause, to look again, to meditate.” – Dorothea Lange

For more on the current exhibit check out the New York Times review or the column at AnOthe.  Tyler Green at Modern Arts Notes Podcast has a wonderful discussion with MOMA’s curator of the exhibit, Sarah Meister.

This is an excerpt from my monthly newsletter, where I write about photography and share some news.  You can get a feel for the previous newsletters and sign up for the mailing list here.

And here is the video from MOMA.

Every photograph tells a literal story.  The image itself is a story.  Then there is the story behind why the photographer took it — what was included in the image or left out, why it was taken, the lighting and mood.  And then, there is the story that is told because of the viewers’ response or what it means to someone looking at it.

In Henry Carroll’s book, “Photographers on Photography, How the Masters See, Think & Shoot,”  I was struck by this quote from Jason Fulford:

“When a person looks at a photograph you’ve taken,
they will always think of themselves” 

Henry Carroll in his commentary notes, “right after we interpret the literal aspects of the image…we enter into a second, much more personal meaning. The second reading is informed by elements such as our memories, personal experiences, tastes and cultural backgrounds…this second reading is unpredictable and entirely outside the photographer’s control.  For Fulford, this gap between what is pictured and what it might mean is where photographs come alive”

There is an image on my website whose owner told me it touches her deeply to the point of tears when she reflects on it. Another image has been described by its owner as “art that stirs the soul.”  For yet another owner, their print has an intimate feeling, and a nostalgic tone with a sense of timelessness.  It is these kinds of personal reflections that turn the literal stories behind the images into art that means something to you. That is what brings an image to life and gives it real meaning.

It is personal reflections like these that I value in delivering Limited and Personal Exclusive editions to you.  For example, these two images, “No More General Store” and “Guard to History”, became fine art Limited Edition prints as a result of direct discussions about the photographs with people who had seen them and wanted prints for their own reasons.  In the case of “Guard to History,” the backstory is this photograph is of the guard booth on the grounds of Mount Vernon near George Washington’s tomb. It is empty and even a little weathered. It was taken in the winter months…but there is a little light reflection on the bushes.  Perhaps the title should have a question mark after it?

Behind PhotoNexus 2019

PhotoNexus 2019 launched today.  It is a new, distinct and immersive weekend experience about the art of photography. PhotoNexus brings together curators, gallerists, photography educators and photographers to share their personal perspectives and behind-the-scenes insights with a small group of people who are curious and/or passionate about photography as art.  Whether you are considering or already collecting photographs, or you want to understand more about the art form, the PhotoNexus weekend is an experience for you.

When I started BinhammerPhotographs, PhotoNexus was the idea and dream of doing something to support understanding and insights about the art of photography and the photograph as art.  More than just sell small batch limited and personal exclusive edition prints, I thought it would be fun to create an experience where a small group of people could come together to explore the creation and realization of the photograph as art.  It was first referenced and foreshadowed here. I’m excited that this idea and dream is now a reality.

Details and Registration are here.

The Idea of PhotoNexus and the Path to Reality: The thinking behind PhotoNexus was that I was a self taught photographer.  Once I started down that path, I also became a self taught lover of photography as art.  To understand photography as art (beyond making the photographs) I read books, such as: Why People Photograph; Core Curriculum; At the Edge of the Light; The Nature of Photographs; and, The Photographer’s Eye.  I went to museum exhibits, read the wall plaques and looked at the photos on my own. Many of those (and the gallery visits) were focused on individual artists or thematic shows.  You learned from them but not necessarily about the art itself in a more general way.

I went to galleries to see photography exhibits but not having the thousands of dollars to buy any, I never really asked the gallerist too much — thinking it would be kind of embarrassing to me, and since I wasn’t buying, sort of a waste of time to the gallery.  One exception to that was a visit to the Andrew Smith Gallery (when it was in Santa Fe) years ago.  The staff person welcomed me and my dog with open arms.  I explained I was not in a position to buy an Ansel Adams worth tens of thousands of dollars. He said it didn’t matter, said he would show me around and after a little highlights tour, took me into the back room where the drawers of pictures are that are not on display opened them up and said, “OK who would you like to see” and what else can I answer.

With the Andrew Smith Gallery exception, all of my learning has been on my own…and sort of compartmentalized.  PhotoNexus was an idea that we could bring together a diverse group of people involved in different aspects of the art of photography to share their insights and passion with a group people who would like to learn more about photography — and do it in a fun, engaging way.

The People and Program: Over the last several months, I have reached out, “cold-calling” and emailing dozens of private collectors, museum curators, private curators, photography and art critics, galleries and photographers. To all of those who replied and gave this event consideration or made referrals, I am extremely appreciative and thankful. Since December I have been reaching out wondering if the idea had merit.  Along the way, there was a lot of encouragement and support, including from many who could not be involved for various reasons.

The result is PhotoNexus brings together an outstanding and diverse community of people across the “sectors” of photography in Santa Fe.  I am excited by the talented and special people who have agreed to contribute to the event and share their talents and expertise.  It is their personal perspectives, passions and talent that will deliver real insights and value to people who love photography and want to learn more about it as art.  To them I say a huge thank you.  To each and every one of them from my heart.  There may be two or three others yet to be announced, but for now, this is an outstanding and generous group:

Mark Berndt is a photographer whose work celebrates people and the circumstance of life. He brings the experience of a long and varied career in the visual arts, including more than 20 years of private teaching.  His commitment to the art and business of professional photography brings considerable knowledge to the art of photographing and photography. http://markberndt.com/

Reid Callanan has a deep passion for photography and has spent his entire adult life focused on it, especially as a photographic educator — the past twenty-eight years as Director of the world-renowned Santa Fe Photographic Workshops and before that working at Maine Photographic Workshops.  Well known for his workshop “Cameras Don’t Take Pictures” he also makes time to photograph every day and for his ongoing projects. https://www.santafeworkshops.com https://www.reidcallanan.com/about

Natalie Christensen is a photographer and has shown work in the U.S. and internationally including London, Dusseldorf, New York and Los Angeles. Her photographs are in the permanent collections of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art and the University of Texas at Tyler.  In addition to pursuing her interests in art and design, Natalie also worked as a psychotherapist for over 25 years. https://nataliechristensenphoto.com

Anne Kelly is the director of the Photo-Eye gallery.  Photo-Eye was founded in 1979 as a mail order photography book source. It is the world’s foremost online photography bookstore featuring more than 30,000 fine-art photography books.  It has grown to include one of the world’s foremost websites devoted to contemporary photography. The Photo-eye gallery was established in Santa Fe in 1991 and has been selling prints online since 1996. https://www.photoeye.com

 David Michael Kennedy has a body of work spanning over 40 years which is held in both private and museum collections including The National Portrait Gallery, The Smithsonian Institution and The Harwood Museum.  His body of work includes iconic portraits of musicians, actors and artists. Leaving New York and commercial photography in 1986, David Michael Kennedy moved to New Mexico and focused on his fine art photography. His images are materialized through the traditional analogue technique of Platinum/Palladium printing, of which he is widely considered to be one of the best in the world. https://www.davidmichaelkennedy.com

Pilar Law has been in the business of photography and a photographer’s advocate for 14 years. She’s worked with photo stock agencies, technology companies and photo labs to bring them online and to develop new approaches to fine art printing, book making and exhibiting, social media marketing and sales.  She is also a curator, gallerist and photographer.  Her Edition One Gallery is a unique contemporary photography gallery specializing in editions of one both from emerging and established photographers. http://www.pilarlaw.com/about.html https://www.editiononegallery.com/

Sidney and Michelle Monroe maintain extensive personal connections with important photographers, clients, collectors, dealers, estates, auction houses, and archives world-wide. They advise private collectors, museums and corporations with an emphasis on building significant collections with a variety of prudent focuses. Their Monroe Gallery of Photography specializes in classic black & white photography with an emphasis on humanist and photojournalist imagery. http://www.monroegallery.com/

Alan Ross is an internationally respected master photographer and educator who worked side-by-side with Ansel Adams. He was personally selected by Ansel to print his Yosemite Special Edition negatives. As an artist, Alan is known for his tonally exquisite black-and-white photographs of the American west; his photographs hang in collections and galleries around the world including Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, The Yale Museum of Art and the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson.  He teaches the art of seeing and is also a master printer. https://www.alanrossphotography.com/

Jennifer Schlesinger is the owner and director of Obscura Gallery. She is also a curator, educator and artist. Jennifer has approached her fine art photography with an interest in how the historical development of photography has influenced the contemporary artistic medium. Jennifer graduated from the College of Santa Fe in 1998 with a B.A. in Photography and Journalism. Jennifer has exhibited widely. https://www.jenniferschlesinger.com/  https://www.obscuragallery.net

Scheinbaum & Russek, are celebrating 38 years in business and they specialize in 20th century vintage and contemporary photography as well as representing the Estates of Beaumont and Nancy Newhall and Eliot Porter. Scheinbaum & Russek have approached the gallery world through their roles as educators, artists, and collectors and bring to their gallery an appreciation of photographers, the fine print and the history of photography. http://www.photographydealers.com

Join us at PhotoNexus and engage more deeply with the art you love.

  • Discuss the creation of images, their realization in prints and the world of photographic art
  • Meet Santa Fe’s premier gallery owners for professional perspectives about what to look for when viewing photographs
  • Learn about photobooks and the evolution of online photography galleries
  • Understand trends impacting the art, the market and a world awash in imagery with leading photography experts and educators
  • Experience and explore fine art prints with a first-hand look at how they are made at one of the world’s leading platinum/palladium printers
  • Take a photo walk with some of Santa Fe’s finest photographers and go behind the camera to take a look at what they see and why they are shooting. Bring your camera
  • Engage in a dialogue with a panel of contemporary and internationally acclaimed photographers about their visions, fine art work and photography today

As noted in the Collectors Guide,

“New Mexico,” Ansel Adams said, is “the most completely beautiful place I have ever seen.” Everywhere, it seems, there’s a scene just waiting to have its picture taken: horses grazing in the shadow of Shiprock, the bustle of the SantaFe Plaza, the sunlight raking the adobe walls at the Ranchos de Taos church. Then there’s the photo scene itself. Galleries, museums, colleges, even bookstores, continually hang new photographic exhibits and hold openings, book signings, and lectures.

For photographers and those who appreciate their art, Santa Fe may be the most rewarding destination on the planet – and the third largest photo market in the country.”

Hoping you will join us for the experience to explore the art of photography with people behind the art. See the program and register here