Jack Crager

Jack Crager is a New York City-based writer, editor, and project manager who covers photography, people, the environment, and related topics.

Jack Crager is a New York City-based writer, editor, and project manager who covers photography, people, the environment, and related topics.

Ground Control to Major Starman

bowie

(From left) Brian Duffy’s cover shot for David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane album, © Duffy, 1973; David Bowie with Black Scarf, © Mick Rock, 2002

Well as a wise dude said, all things must pass. My month of happily guest-blogging for Hatje Cantz fotoblog comes to a close. Speaking of early departures, check out the dazzling David Bowie shows at Morrison Hotel Gallery. As it turns out, a couple of the key photographers will be at a private event later this week, as well as the opening of major Bowie exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. I’ll write about those events elsewhere—namely Medium.com, where I intend to continue blogging about photography, culture, environment, and other sundry subjects (as well as on jackcrager.com). Hope to see folks there. Thank you and adieu, fotoblog!

Ziggy Stardust on stage with the Spiders from Mars, © Mick Rock

Bowie as Ziggy Stardust on stage with the Spiders from Mars, © Mick Rock

I feel that David wasn’t thinking he was going when he went. The picture taken of him a few days before he died, he looked fine. I find it very difficult to look at the “Blackstar” video, even now. To be so creative right up to the end, that’s brave, that’s special.
—Photographer and close friend Mick Rock in David Bowie, A Life, by Dylan Jones

How poignant that David Bowie’s final album and testament was called Blackstar. For this man the very idea of being a star is a vast understatement. Often two or more steps ahead of his audience, Bowie shaped the starmaker machinery as much as it it shaped him. Visually and aurally the personae he inhabited—pinup wannabe Davy Jones, astronaut Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dog, gender-bender dandy, Man Who Fell to Earth, Thin White Duke, blue-eyed soulster, grand R&R statesman—are dizzyingly hard to keep track of. But plenty of brilliant photographers were on hand to try.

David Bowie, © Masayoshi Sukita, 1973

David Bowie, © Masayoshi Sukita, 1973

David Bowie, © Terry O’Neill, 1974

David Bowie, © Terry O’Neill, 1974

The breathtaking scope of Bowie’s visual odyssey underpins the multipart exhibition Bowieon view at Morrison Hotel Gallery through March 23. The show features hundreds of images spread out across the MHG’s three locations: Soho in New York City, West Hollywood in Los Angeles, and Mick Fleetwood’s joint in Maui, Hawaii. “He’s an enigma and masterpiece of his own creation,” says Marcelle Murdock, director of the New York MHG location. “It’s no secret that the multitudes of David Bowie have redefined the very essence of rock & roll.”

Keith Richards, Tina Turner, and David Bowie at the Ritz, New York City © Bob Gruen, 1983

Keith Richards, Tina Turner, and David Bowie at the Ritz, New York City © Bob Gruen, 1983

The organizers make no bones this is a commercial venture: All prints are for sale (from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars) and the Morrison Hotel Gallery ships internationally. Though the collection omits key Bowie chroniclers such as Steve Schapiro and Rankin, the photographer list is awesome: Duffy, Gerald Fearnley, Lynn Goldsmith, Bob Gruen, Guido Harari, Markus Klinko, Geoff MacCormack, Terry O’Neill, Neal Preston, Mick Rock, Masayoshi Sukita, Barry Schultz, Barrie Wentzell.

David Bowie, © Mick Rock, 1972

David Bowie, © Mick Rock, 1972

David Bowie, © Jake Chessum, 1995

David Bowie, © Jake Chessum, 1995

While all of Bowie’s aforementioned guises are represented in showbiz photos and onstage shots, the artist himself emerges in more intimate, candid pictures which reveal his warmth, party-boy zaniness, and naturally rugged good looks—as in the quiet moment captured by Mick Rock (above left) and the thoughtful portrait by Jake Chessum. Collectively these images show this restless chameleon as a complex, charismatic, and deeply creative soul. Now a starman waiting in the sky.

Yoga Journey

Krishna Balaram Temple (Iskcon Temple), Vrindavan, India, April 14, 2016.

Meditation on the Yamuna River at Keshi Ghat in Vrindavan. © Andy Richter

Seven years ago, Minneapolis-based photographer Andy Richter decided that his devotion to the practice of yoga was worth a trip to India, where he could explore the wellspring of the ancient physical and philosophical discipline both widely and beneath the surface. “Yoga is more than just asanas,” Richter says. “It’s a spiritual path; it’s a way of life. The postures are important, but that’s not where you stay.”

Richter’s pilgrimage sparked an ongoing relationship with India and its culture, resulting in his series Serpent and the Wilderness and a handsome book from Keher Verlag, as well as photo exhibits on view at MPLS Photo Center, Minneapolis, MN, March 23 through May 1; at Camerawork Gallery, Portland, OR, from March 31 through April 27; and at the Vermont Center for Photography, Brattleboro, VT, from June 1 through July 1.

A young devotee blesses pilgrims along the Govardhan parikrama, where Krishna is believed to have spent much of his youth. © Andy Richter

A young devotee blesses pilgrims along the Govardhan parikrama, where Krishna is believed to have spent much of his youth. © Andy Richter

Andy Richter—not to be confused with the actor/comedian with the same name—points out that much of his visual travelog centers more on the customs and philosophy surrounding yoga than it does physical poses. “I have traveled to places that are historically relevant to its past and others that embody its present, working with many of the world’s great yogis,” he notes. “Many great saints and masters humbly welcomed me, sharing their wisdom over the years.”

104-year-old Swami Yogananda in supta padangusthasana during the International Yoga Festival at Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh. He claimed that the secret to longevity is fasting. Yogananda passed away in January of 2015. © Andy Richter

104-year-old Swami Yogananda during the International Yoga Festival at Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh. Yogananda, who passed away in 2015, claimed that the secret to longevity is fasting. © Andy Richter

Yet Richter adds that the ultimate purpose of the project—and the spiritual journey—is one of self-discovery. “In Sanskrit, the word ‘yoga’ signifies connection or union and is associated with heightened awareness of oneself,” he says. “It’s not just about saints and holy people. While they can be inspirational, we can all be where they are—if we do the work.”

Thousands of yogis practice asana during a early morning class at Red Rocks Amphitheater near Morrison, Colorado.  © Andy Richter

Thousands of yogis practice asana in a class at Red Rocks Amphitheater near Morrison, CO. © Andy Richter

Richter’s recent travels extend beyond India to other locales where yogis gather and practice, such as the “Yoga on the Rocks” retreat in Colorado (above), which annually attracts more than 3,000 attendees. “This ancient Indian science has deep roots in Hindu mythology and doctrine, yet today it is mainstream, global and growing in popularity,” Richter points out. “With this series the idea is to put power in people’s own hands. This isn’t just about Sting or Madonna—it’s a journey anyone can embark on. We all have these capacities as human beings.”

A yogi does a bound asana during Saraswathi Jois's morning class in Mysore (Mysuru), Karnataka, India. © Andy Richter

Yogi in a bound asana during Saraswathi Jois’s class in Mysore (Mysuru), Karnataka, India. © Andy Richter

The project’s unusual title derives from a Biblical passage, John 3:14-15, in which Jesus is quoted: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.” The phrase also appears in Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi: “The word “serpent” here refers metaphorically to man’s consciousness and life force in the subtle coiled passageway at the base of the spine.” Richter says Yogananda’s spiritual, tangential use of the concept stuck with him: “It’s a title that just kept coming back.”

A yogi performs panch agni tapas, the five-fire-austerity, symbolically sacrificing himself to the fire in meditation during the Kumbh Mela in Ujjain. © Andy Richter

A yogi performs panch agni tapas, the five-fire-austerity, symbolically sacrificing himself to the fire in meditation during the Kumbh Mela in Ujjain. © Andy Richter

As well as exploring yoga’s roots, Richter hopes this work inspires modern practitioners. “Despite yoga’s worldwide growth and appeal, understanding and media attention tends to be superficial, focused on celebrity yogis, or on the physical, commercial, and health aspects of the practice,” he writes in the book’s Afterword. “Yet this project suggests it is something more: a profound spiritual path and way of life that is both accessible and transcends cultural barriers.”

A yogini lies in savasana or “corpse pose” at Yogi Yoga in Beijing. The Chinese people have engaged in mind body practices for centuries, yet the state has been slow to embrace yoga as a method of personal realization, lest the discipline undermine the collective order. © Andy Richter

Corpse pose at Yogi Yoga in Beijing. Chinese people have engaged in mind-body practices for centuries, yet the state rejects yoga as a method of personal realization, lest it undermine the collective order. © Andy Richter

 

Warhol the Shutterbug

Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College

Andy Warhol, Marilyn, 1967, screen print on paper; gift from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Alexander E. Racolin; © 2017 Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Artist Andy Warhol sought out and reveled in the reflection of beautiful people throughout his life, perhaps in reaction to his mixed feelings about his own appearance. A snap-happy photographer (he left behind more than 50,000 images, ranging from 35mm b&w prints to 16mm films to his favorite medium, the 3×4-inch Polaroid), he documented his glam world with casual abandon and a knack for candid elegance. While many collections of Warhol’s photography reveal a slipshod attitude behind the lens, we see a more refined side of his artistic eye in a thoughtfully curated exhibit, People Are Beautiful: Prints, Photographs, and Films by Andy Warhol, at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, NY, on view through April 15.

Warhol made a habit of incorporating photographs within grander works of art, most famously in his Marilyn series—the 1967 print above is front-and-center in the show, and similar large-scale silkscreen treatments of Jackie O, Ingrid Bergman, and others fill the front room of the Art Center gallery. But the bulk of the exhibition focuses on Warhol’s straight photography, including candid shots of nights on the town with celebs (and scattered “unknown” revelers), sequential body studies of friends (such as artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and actress Alba Clemente), and formal Polaroid portraits of ’70s stars (Dorothy Hamill, Liza Minnelli, Diana Ross, John Denver).

Anne Bass, 1981; Collection, Neuberger Museum of Art, SUNY Purchase; © Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Andy Warhol, Anne Bass, 1981; Neuberger Museum of Art, SUNY Purchase; © Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

  Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait with Fright Wig, 1985, Polaroid Polacolor print, Collection of James Curtis; © Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait with Fright Wig, 1985, Collection of James Curtis; © Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

“Because Warhol took so many photographs during his lifetime, most of them have not been seen by the general public so their full impact has not yet been felt,” says Mary-Kay Lombino, curator of the Art Center show. “Photography is not only a central component of all of Warhol’s work, but it was equally integral to his life. I think it’s important to include them in exhibitions so that we can more fully understand his work and his influence.”

Like many a fiscal-minded artist, Warhol courted wealthy patrons as subjects—such as art collector and philanthropist Anne Bass (above left), former wife of billionaire oilman Sid Bass—and portrayed them flatteringly, even in small Polaroid prints. His own self-image seemed to emerge behind a playful sense of camouflage, as in his above self-portrait suggesting he didn’t believe in brushes or combs.

Unidentified Model, ca. 1985, The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, SUNY New Paltz; © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Andy Warhol, Unidentified Model, circa 1985; The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, SUNY New Paltz; © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Andy Warhol, Ladies and Gentlemen (Helen/Henry Morales), 1974; Collection of Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Andy Warhol, Ladies and Gentlemen (Helen/Henry Morales), 1974; Collection of Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn; © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

As implied in the exhibition’s title, Warhol’s idea of beauty took many forms, ranging from classic pulchritude among the young models, artists and hipsters who populated Warhol’s Factory in the 1960s to the transgender subjects of his Ladies and Gentlemen series in the mid-1970s, which evinced his fascination with the disco-era underground and resulted in a wild collection of silkscreen prints.

Screen Test: Edie Sedgwick, 1965, film still; © 2017 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA

Screen Test: Edie Sedgwick, 1965, film still; © 2017 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA

In the back of the Art Center show is a room showing Warhol’s filmed screen tests of stars in the making, revealing his fascination with moving images as well as his penchant for tediousness in the medium (this is the man who shot the world’s longest dull movie, Empire, in 1964). Among the screen-test subjects is Edie Sedwick, who went on to make several films with Warhol, inspired songs by Bob Dylan including “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Just Like a Woman,” and tragically died young in 1971. The Warhol show reflects a time when young and glamorous people were beautiful, even if that beauty was fleeting.

Nu Som’s Nudescapes

Nude self-portrait at Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial, 3:02AM, from Nudescapes by Nu Som © 2017, published by G Arts, gartsbooks.com

Photographic artist Nu Som claims that she’s bashful about exposing her body. “Even growing up in France, when everyone around was topless I wore one-piece bathing suits,” she says. “So being nude in a public place (and now in published photographs) is definitely out of my comfort zone—but that is also why I love doing it. By facing that fear and actually doing it, I’ve come to realize that it makes me feel more and more powerful each time.”

For the past seven years, Nu Som has been shooting nude self-portraits in public places, often at spectacular and oft-visited sites such as the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Her ongoing series comprises a lavish new book, Nudescapes: Private Dreams in Public Places | Photographs (G Arts), as well as an exhibition on view at Ron Robinson in Santa Monica, CA through April 9.

The cover of Nudescapes by Nu Som © 2017, published by G Arts, gartsbooks.com

The cover of Nudescapes by Nu Som © 2017, published by G Arts, gartsbooks.com

Mounting her Canon DSLR on a Manfrotto tripod, Nu Som deftly composes her images and slips into place. A New York–based portrait and fashion photographer (aka Sandrine Lee, wife of bassist Will Lee), she brings a poetic sensibility to her self-portraits, which double as landscapes of her favorite places. “It’s a combination of where I find myself in my travels and special trips I made for the project,” she says. “In general, the city shots were in places I found myself, but in nature I took special trips to locations I wanted to explore and capture.” Here Nu Som shares the story behind this personal project.

Galway, Ireland, 6:20PM, from Nudescapes by Nu Som © 2017, published by G Arts, gartsbooks.com

Galway, Ireland, 6:20PM, from Nudescapes by Nu Som © 2017, published by G Arts, gartsbooks.com

What was the inspiration for this body of work?

Oddly enough, I had never thought of shooting self-portraits. To me, master Cindy Sherman and a few others had explored every artistic possibility, and the only alternative was self-centered iPhone selfies that were already flooding social media, something I had no interest in participating in. But one morning, the light coming into my bedroom window was so beautiful that I had to capture it. I was alone, I grabbed my tripod, set the timer and slipped into the frame for the exact result I envisioned—it was an epiphany. I could use my own body to be the human subject in any scene. I started exploring with different light sources, compositions, and situations. And when I entered a public place, where people normally roamed and could appear at any point, the thrill of it took over. I was terrified and therefore exhilarated once I got the shot—it was such an adrenaline rush, I was hooked!

Piazza San Marco, Venice, 4:00AM, from Nudescapes by Nu Som © 2017, published by G Arts, gartsbooks.com

Piazza San Marco, Venice, 4:00AM, from Nudescapes by Nu Som © 2017, published by G Arts, gartsbooks.com

You write that the trick is to be alone in these places. How do you manage that?

I study the place ahead of time and waits for my moment. There are many places that I have “courted” and still have not gotten, and others where after many nights, I finally got one shot and had to be satisfied with the result—or not! Overall it’s about going against the grain of what most people do, which I think as an artist is kind of what we are wired for anyway. So in the desert I shoot for the hottest day out there; in cities rainy nasty days are my friends, or the middle of the night …

So you mount the camera and set the timer to ten seconds … hmm … how fast can you undress?

Well I undress just before pressing the shutter that starts the ten-second timer, so that time is all for the run and pose.

Hudson River, NYC, 1:39PM, from Nudescapes by Nu Som © 2017, published by G Arts, gartsbooks.com

Hudson River, NYC, 1:39PM, from Nudescapes by Nu Som © 2017, published by G Arts, gartsbooks.com

Have you ever been arrested while doing this work?

No, but  I got very close to it at the foot of Abe Lincoln in Washington, D.C. The police officer who caught me was a woman and so I was able to just jump up and stop her in her tracks while she was calling in the indecent exposure offense by just saying “Stop, it’s just for art!” and getting dressed and walking away before she could gather her wits. I got really lucky—I don’t think I would have had the boldness to do that to a male police officer. Definitely thanking my lucky stars on this one!

Bryant Park, NYC, 3:28AM, from Nudescapes by Nu Som © 2017, published by G Arts, gartsbooks.com

Bryant Park, NYC, 3:28AM, from Nudescapes by Nu Som © 2017, published by G Arts, gartsbooks.com

 Do you plan to continue this project?

Yes I am totally hooked and I already have dozens of new photographs since we finalized the layout for the book. I will keep capturing these images for at least the next few years. But I also have other projects that I am working on, so I may show a very different type of work before releasing Part Two.

The Burren, Ireland, 4:47PM, from Nudescapes by Nu Som © 2017, published by G Arts, gartsbooks.com

The Burren, Ireland, 4:47PM, from Nudescapes by Nu Som © 2017, published by G Arts, gartsbooks.com

What would you like the viewer to take away from seeing these photographs?

I hope that it helps people understand that if you are afraid to do something you should do it. And that once you do, you will come out stronger on the other side. I also hope it will highlight why we need to keep some privacy in our lives and should stop sharing every moment, every meal, every meeting with the rest of our virtual friends. Start living for living again—not just sharing. These experiences can only happen if I keep to myself and find a moment alone. Privacy has become a precious commodity.

Finally, I hope it helps people see even more beauty in the world around them and make them care for it as much as they possibly can.