George Slade

Schon als Teenager begeisterte sich George Salde für die Fotografie. Dank seines Vaters verwandelte sich eine Rolle 35 mm Film, die er belichtete und vor der Haustüre abstellte, wie durch ein Wunder nach ein, zwei Tagen in einen Umschlag mit Fotoabzügen. Während seines ersten Studienjahrs in Yale war Slade öfter in der Dunkelkammer zu finden als in der Bibliothek. Trotz dieser Ablenkungen und fotografischen Abstechern nach Colorado und New York City, schaffte er schließlich doch seinen Abschluss in Amerikanistik. Seine Mentoren waren Alan Trachtenberg, Ben Lifson und Tod Papageorge. Inspiriert aber wurde er durch John Szarkowski and Garry Winogrand. Anfang der 1990er kehrte Slade zu seinen Wurzeln zurück und engagierte sich für das spätere Minnesota Center for Photography (MCP). Er arbeitete als freier Herausgeber, Kurator, Autor und Ratgeber für das MCP, schließlich wurde er 2003 dessen künstlerischer Leiter. Von 1998 bis 2008 kümmerte er sich federführend um das McKnight Foundation Artist Fellowships for Photographers Program. Daneben arbeitete er zwischen1995 und 2015 für das Minneapolis Institute of Arts, das Photographic Resource Center at Boston University, für FORECAST Public Artworks, die Givens Foundation for African American Literature sowie für M&E Small Engine Repair in Traverse City, Michigan. Seine gesamte Laufbahn hindurch beriet George Slade Organisationen und Einzelpersonen in fototechnischen Fragen. Er verfasste zahlreiche Rezensionen von Fotobüchern, Artikel für Black & White sowie Essays für Monografien zu einer ganzen Reihe von zeitgenössischen Fotografen, wie etwa Susan Burnstine, Lydia Panas, Tom Arndt, Todd Deutsch, Stuart Klipper, Stuart Rome, Priya Kambli und Karen Klein. Er beteiligt sich an Podiumsdiskussionen, hält Vorträge und kritisiert Fotomappen. Nach seinem M.A. zum Thema Organisatorische Leitung an der St. Catherine University, St. Paul hält er zudem Vorträge und veröffentlicht über das Thema der Führerschaft in den Bildenden Künsten. Slades führt einen Blog: re:photographica. Zudem postet er auf Tumblr, Pinterest und Twitter. Auf Instagram findet man ihn unter dem Namen @rephotographica und @photographytweets. Im echten Leben treibt er sich an den Great Lakes herum und schießt dabei Fotos aus dem Festern seines Wagens.

Photography grabbed hold of George Slade when he was a teenager. Miraculously, courtesy of his father, a roll of exposed 35mm film left by the front door reappeared a day or so later as an envelope of prints. Freshman year at Yale found him in the darkroom more than the library. Despite his preoccupation, and detours into la vie photographique in Colorado and New York City, he earned his BA in American Studies. The earliest acquisitions in his photobook collection date from this early 1980s period. His mentors were Alan Trachtenberg, Ben Lifson, and Tod Papageorge; his inspirations were John Szarkowski and Garry Winogrand. Slade returned to his Minnesota roots in the early 1990s. He also began an involvement with what became the Minnesota Center for Photography (MCP); he served as a freelance editor, curator, writer, and consultant for the organization until 2003, when he became MCP’s artistic director. From 1998 to 2008 he led the McKnight Foundation Artist Fellowships for Photographers Program. Between 1995 and 2015 he has worked with many organizations, including the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University, FORECAST Public Artworks, the Givens Foundation for African American Literature, and M&E Small Engine Repair in Traverse City, Michigan. Throughout his career he has provided organizations and individuals with counsel and programmatic input related to photographic matters. He has written reviews for photo-eye books for a decade, profiles for Black & White magazine, and essays for monographs by a range of contemporary photographers including Susan Burnstine, Lydia Panas, Tom Arndt, Todd Deutsch, Stuart Klipper, Stuart Rome, Priya Kambli, and Karen Klein. He is an experienced panelist, lecturer, and portfolio reviewer; he also speaks and writes on leadership in the visual arts, which was the focus of his MA in Organizational Leadership at St. Catherine University in St. Paul. His blog is titled re:photographica. You may also find him on Tumblr, Pinterest, and Twitter. He posts on Instagram as @rephotographica and @photographytweets. In real life, he drifts around the Great Lakes and takes pictures out of his car windows.

Last but not least. Almost a postscript.

All month long I’ve had a tab on my screen, teasing and taunting me, about a show that helped set the tone for these last four weeks of blogging. I opened and saved the tab in late January as I was preparing to take on “Identity” as my topic here on Fotoblog. In my first post, it was this Haggerty Museum exhibition I was looking into—“I was browsing a museum site for information about an exhibition”—when I was happily and productively distracted by Shilpa Gupta’s flapboard work 24:00:01.

When I returned to the tab I rediscovered what I’d left open for viewing later—the Flickr album compiled from the Haggerty’s 2011 The Truth is Not in the Mirror: Photography and a Constructed Identity. I have to admit, this was a provocative phrase and a fine thematic exhibition, closely linked to my thoughts for HC Fotoblog February. Perhaps too closely; I might have spent the whole month addressing it, and the work in the show. Not a bad thing, necessarily, but my wandering eye got the better of me.

I was fortunate to have Googled it up in January. I exchanged an email or two with the show’s curator, Walter Mason, who is now the Director of the Sheldon Museum of Art at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He wrote that the show arose from an accumulation of meetings with “young photographers who were asking questions about truth, or constructing truths.” Wally found himself matching these young questioners with older artists who had clearly shared concerns. So, it was an exemplary line-up: Tina Barney, Claire Beckett, Valérie Belin, Dawoud Bey, Jesse Burke, Kelli Connell, Michael Corridore, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Rineke Dijkstra, Jason Florio, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Andy Freeberg, Lee Friedlander, David Hockney, Nikki S. Lee, Graham Miller, Martin Parr, Thomas Ruff, Scott Schuman (aka “The Sartorialist”), Alec Soth, Will Steacy, Larry Sultan, and Mickalene Thomas.

Please see the exhibition catalogue PDF here, because I would need another month to go through all of these artists. Their truths are entirely relevant to my musings, and I am glad Wally and I overlapped on Nikki S. Lee; as I noted earlier, I think her work is brilliantly conceived around the challenge of both recognizing and articulating identity in images. There are several artists on Wally’s checklist I would have gladly considered (even did consider, in passing) during my IQ month, and even a few I didn’t know before. In my opinion, these identity-interrogating works are essential to knowing where I end and you begin. The Cs, to my B and the artists’ As.

The sun has set in Ostfildern. This is where my monologue ends, and Fotoblog March begins. Danke sehr, Hatje Cantz. Auf Wiedersehen!

George Slade

p.s. And as a real postscript, here are six images that reflect my identity from a period of time, roughly four years ago. Since I made them and know the back stories, the IQ of these half-dozen images is very high. In Johari window terms, though, they are more façade than arena. And I’d guess there’s some blind spot and completely unknown in there as well. Much more musing to be done. Tschüss.

P1000034 P1000053 P1000078 P1000126 P1000196 P1000235

Triangulating identity.

It seems to me that both the artist and the person viewing the artist’s work have responsibilities when it comes to the image of identity. Both parties have to claim the ground they stand on, what they bring to the viewing process. To judge an artist’s work as somehow tied to identity, we need an affirmative statement from the artist to this extent. Otherwise, how are we to differentiate between identity-centric work and other person-focussed imagery in modes such as metaphoric portraiture (e.g. Sarah Jones), anonymous figure studies of people in public (Beat Streuli), or complex politico-historical self-imaging that relies more on stereotype than identity (Yinka Shonibare, MBE). You can probably suggest your own favorite counter-identity examples and modes; it seems a simpler matter to find work that is not about identity, that seems to veer away from it, than it is to assign the label with confidence.

Subjectivity has an enormous amount to do with a work’s “Identity Quotient.” How can it not?

I see three points that may help diagram this notion. The artist, A, and the audience, B. A and B exist on a line. The distance between A and B is never clearly delineated. The artist’s work in question—call it C—is a third point. C can be very close to A, very close to B (on a direct line between them, in fact), or far away from both artist and audience. But these three points will always, as geometry tells us, signify a two-dimensional plane. I think the plane reflects the commonality of being human, and the fact that identity must derive from what we perceive as distinctive about other humans on the spectrum. We are not being asked to recognize the identity of a frog, for instance, or an extraterrestrial. For the moment, though, I am more interested in the triangle. The proximity of C to either A or B indicates knowledge, insight, comfort, familiarity, or likeness extant in the work of identity. Point B in this identity configuration is highly mobile. The artist and the work, A and C, have a fairly fixed relationship to each other; the former typically has a grasp on the piece’s IQ, and knows whether that IQ derives from his or her personal sense of identity, or from a more distanced, yet still tangible mission of identity.

But when B sees C, funny things may happen to what A saw and put in C. Unless the artist knows exactly who will be seeing the work, the IQ may wander all over the place as B situates him- or herself with relation to what they read in the work. The net effect may be that the viewer identifies with the crafted identity, is repulsed by it, or remains entirely nonplussed.

I’m running short on time. It’s early on February 28 here in the Eastern time zone of the United States, but the month is in its last twelve hours in Ostfildern and Berlin. There are artists who have successfully fashioned images that describe identity without much in the way of supporting words. I think of Nikki Lee as someone who has consistently defined the challenge of identity. Wing Young Huie, a friend of mine from Minnesota, uses the notion of ethnocentrism freely in his photographic projects, and that focus allows a very clear stream of identity to flow through his images. In some circumstances Wing has utilized the hand-held chalkboard message device, which I first saw in images by Martin Weber. Weber asked his participants to write a dream on the slate, while Wing has requested other comments, drawing out succinct capsules of identity. Following the participant hand-written line, Jim Goldberg’s seminal Rich and Poor project offers tantalizing windows into the identities of people regarding themselves in Goldberg’s portraits.

And, somewhat parallel to Lee’s identity-transference project but more personal, Eufália C Paz creates a body of work in which she inhabits a floating, spectral version of her father, exploring spaces that he inhabited without her. Points A and C are overlaid in this work.

And so many more. Always more.

Artists/Books

Nikki S. Lee

Wing Young Huie

Jim Goldberg

Martin Weber

Eufália C Paz

Taking stock.

Time is running out on this guest blogger’s shift at the helm of the good ship H. C. Fotoblog. If you are like me, you want to survey the work accomplished, address a missing point or two, and tie the ends together. All the while murmuring to yourself about how quickly the month has passed (well, it was February, the shortest month, after all), and regretting that you wrote less than you had set out to write.

Here’s where I started — February 3

I attempt to align my guest blogger bio with the artwork that was central to my theme — February 4

I chew on an especially meaty bit and suggested a window diagram — February 12

I finally mention a bunch of artists and books — February 18

I offer two more substantial references — February 19 I and February 19 II

Hmm. How much can I tackle in three days? I’m wishing this was a Leap Year.