2- Stacked logs in Weyerhaeuser sort yard, Cosmopolis, Washington
3- Adult books, firewood, and truck for sale, Port Angeles, Washington
4- Rogue River, Oregon
All visuals are taken from Eirik Johnson's book Sawdust Mountain (Aperture/Henry Art Gallery, 2009)
The rural dream of the woodman's cabin is fast dissolving into a mountain of sawdust.
A native of the Pacific North-West, photographer Eirik Johnson roamed the region for four years. He wandered along the banks of rivers Hoh, Siuslaw, Sol Duc, Elwha; near small towns heavily dependent on the wood and fish trades - Sappho, Aberdeen, Arlington, South Bend; he roved across the whole of Oregon and Washington State, through the clearings left by dozens of trees freshly cut, the abandoned offices of logging companies and the old dams, timeworn, obsolete, sublime, that will keep blocking for a few more years the passage of a half-million fish towards one of North America's most important fluvial ecosystems.
Far from the mythology of the settler, isolated in the heart of an awesome wilderness, yet free to extract from it the natural resources necessary to his survival and subsequent prosperity, and bequeathing this legacy to the ensuing generations, Eirik Johnson's world is a breathless one, asphyxiated by the ravenous appetite of the civilized world. His pictures resist the temptation of sophistication. An approach whose results, raw and seemingly unmanufactured, sometimes recall Joel Sternfeld's recent Oxbow Archive (2008). This mimetic photography, exquisitely attuned to the environment it picks up, lets us feel the damp cold that pervades the landscapes we visit. It is our task to distance ourselves, and build our panorama of the earnest Northwest from the pieces Johnson entrusts to us.
Eirik Johnson, Sawdust Mountain, Aperture/Henry Art Gallery, 2009
The book's page on www.aperture.org
Michael Wolf, from The Transparent City (Aperture, November 08)
Michael Wolf was offered the opportunity to live out in Chicago the fantasy of billions of city-dwellers: spying with a powerful telephoto lens the mysterious life of the people who live in the building across the street. A sentimental affair, a conspiracy - why not a murder, even? Michael Wolf saw none of that.
To tell the truth, voyeurism was only one of the aspects his project involved. Commissioned in 2007 by the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Photography, Wolf's work bears on the influence of architecture upon the social, professional, and private lives of downtown dwellers. The artist was riding Chicago's aerial train in 2005 when he first thought of photographing the city and its architectural clashes. For in Chicago, a neo-gothic building can stand next to an ultra-modern, glass-clad highrise, level differences can reach tens of floors, and one is often greeted by the surprising sight of private homes where offices are expected, and vice-versa.
These pictures, collected inside The Transparent City, are a counterpart to Architecture of Density (2004), Wolf's recent work on the city of Hong Kong. The terrifying linearity of the Asian metropolis gives way to more varied urban panoramas spanning different depths. But the same care for graphic composition crops up, as well as the sense of oppression crafted by removing the horizon line.
The long November nights on the roofs of Chicago did not turn Wolf into a witness of shady goings-on. Instead, they leave behind the image of a giant termitary ploughing away in monotonous routine, a world where solitude is palpable, nestled in office meetings and listless nights spent before a computer or television screen. This emptiness strengthens the sensation of vertigo induced by these distressingly beautiful pictures.
In this environment of white collars and undershirts, imagination has precious little to go on. Unless, of course, it is all happening behind the closed doors of corridors the camera cannot reach, behind the pulled-down blinds, or inside the darkened spaces of this city - opaque.
Michael Wolf, The Transparent City, Aperture, New York, publication November 2008
Michael Wolf exhibits his work at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Photography, November 14, 08 through January 31, 09
1- Winter in America, Two Guns
2- Branded, Priceless #1, 2004
3- Branded, A Bullet with His Name on It, 2004
4- Studio X, In Loving Memory of, 2007
5- Book Cover
Hank Willis Thomas, in Pitch Blackness, Aperture, October 08
© Hank Willis Thomas
This promising young man, aged 27, was starting to blossom into the person his family had invested so much time and energy into allowing him to become. Pitch Blackness invites us into his childhood, in the middle of family reunions, or at his grandma's, amidst his college friends, in parties with his pal Hank, the same Hank who created this photographic Requiem... Little by little, we get to know him. Ties grow.
Then, Songha died.
He was robbed on a parking lot, then executed by gangsters although he did not resist. His face looks composed on the autopsy picture.
Hank Willis Thomas exposes the event, transcribing it into a comic strip with GI Joe's reprising the role of all protagonists. He also exposes the conditions that surround it, by stripping the text from ads addressed to the African-American market, thus revealing their underlying currents, or by introducing Black characters inside the familiar advertisement campaigns he subverts. The ironic and jarring messages make you laugh, but rage roars beneath every montage. The photographer's ambiguity towards his own community is palpable, as early as the book's title; Pitch Blackness - it's the darkness of being Black.
Naturally, when oneself is a young man of 27 who feels like he hasn't yet lived a minute of his life, the trajectory documented by Hank Willis Thomas strikes even deeper. As one Mr. Obama has shown recently, there are several ways of being Black, and several ways of being White, and a lot of hues in-between. More importantly, you don't have to be a believer to believe in sympathy.
Hank Willis Thomas, Pitch Blackness, Aperture, October 08