Time-Lapse Video of the Pier 24 Photography Exhibit A Sense of Place

Today I was lucky enough to visit the Pier 24 exhibit A Sense of Place before it closes at the end of May. Pier 24 is an amazing, free photography museum right under the Bay Bridge. Only 20 people are allowed in at a time to view an amazing selection of photos. This exhibit explores how photographs shape our perception of environments. I really enjoyed seeing work by Paul Graham, Stephen Shore, Robert Adams, Edward Burtynsky, Todd Hido, and Rinko Kawauchi. The absolute highlight was an entire room full of Lee Friedlander's America by Car series. Unfortunately this book is currently out of print. And speaking of print, Pier 24 has exhibition catalogs from some of their previous shows available at very reasonable prices. The next exhibit is scheduled to open in August of 2014.

Time-lapse technical details: The time-lapse was shot with a Ricoh GR camera on a strap around my neck. The exposures were 1/30 at f/4, ISO 800. The camera was set to shoot small jpegs every 2 seconds. The resulting 1,425 images were minimally processed and then cropped to 1280x720 in Lightroom. The time-lapse was assembled and output in Photoshop. Titles and music were added in iMovie. The music is Perfect Dream from the 2006 self-titled album by Natural Dreamers.


Words: Ted Orland on art, marketing, and fame

Josef Albers teaching at Black Mountain College
Josef Albers teaching at Black Mountain College

Still, if the only goal were to attain quick visibility in the art world, the formula (at least on paper) is absurdly simple: devote ten percent of your effort to artmaking, and ninety percent to marketing and self-promotion. But that gambit works (when it does work) only as long as you keep sprinting down the fame & fortune treadmill -- pause for an instant and it's a straight drop into oblivion. The fact that cultivated fame has little substance behind it, however, hardly slows the stampede. In our media-dominated culture it's an open question whether fame is the result of accomplishment, or whether fame -- all by itself -- is the accomplishment.

Page 90, The view from the studio door: How artists find their way in an uncertain world / by Ted Orland.


Nevada Car Forest Night Photo Rendered in Wood by Ian Smith

Ian Smith is a marquetry artist based in the UK. He creates amazing hand made images by designing, cutting, and laying out wood veneers. A few months ago he completed a wood version of a 360 night panorama that I shot of an old gas station in Desert Center, California. The gas station piece was a hit in a recent art show, and will soon be making the journey from England to California, where it will be displayed on my wall. Last week Ian finished a wood picture inspired by one of my night photos of the International Car Forest of the Last Church. The original photo and Ian's wood version are below. I love the way he rendered the cars, and the way the wood grain looks in the sky. You can see more of Ian's work at themarquetryshack.com

A row of cars under star trails at the International Car Forest - by Joe Reifer
A row of cars under star trails at the International Car Forest - by Joe Reifer
Car Forest marquetry by Ian Smith
Car Forest marquetry by Ian Smith

Marquetry artist Ian Smith: 360 night panorama made of wood

Desert Center Gas Station Full Moon 360 Panorama — by Joe Reifer
Desert Center Gas Station Full Moon 360 Panorama — by Joe Reifer

In January, an artist named Ian Smith from Manchester England contacted me about creating a wood version of my Desert Center 360 night panorama.

Ian Smith works in the ancient art of marquetry, which involves cutting pieces of wood veneer by hand to create an image. Ian described the project as:

I am hoping to do a more modern pastiche of the baroque style (defined by bold curving forms and dramatic effects with a touch of the bizarre). I have been checking out your amazing work and in particular I love the 360 degree picture of the old gas station.

I sent Ian a high resolution image to work from, and the piece is nearing completion. I was really blown away by Ian's interpretation of the image.

Desert Center Gas Station Full Moon 360 Panorama -- marquetry version by Ian Smith
Desert Center Gas Station Full Moon 360 Panorama -- marquetry version by Ian Smith

After being marveled by Ian's work for the last few days, I decided to buy the marquetry gas station pano after Ian's big art show next month. I'm planning to hang the wood version on my wall. You can view more of Ian's work on The Marquetry Shack. And stay tuned -- Ian is already considering doing another wood version of one of my 360 night panoramas.


Top Art Books of 2012: Part II

Who needs a tablet under the tree anyways -- I want photo books! Here are 7 works that I read in the second half of 2012 that were an artistic inspiration.

Infra: Photographs by Richard Mosse I saw Richard Mosse's book Infra when browsing the photo section of The Strand book store in New York last month. My only real association with color infrared is the classic Beefheart and Zappa album covers. Mosse has pulled off an amazing accomplishment. This book contains amazingly beautiful large format war photos from the Congo shot on expired color infrared surveillance film. Lying somewhere between photojournalism and art, Infra is hypnotizing. Hands down the must see book of the year.

William Eggleston: Chromes While in New York, I thought I was saving money by crashing with photographer Gabriel Biderman for a couple of nights. On top of his excellent collection of photo books was a fresh copy of William Eggleston's Chromes. The lost scrolls of contemporary color photography? Beautifully produced by Steidl, Chromes is 3 hardcover books in a case. It's like having 3 more Eggleston's Guides. The current $345 price tag is steep, and will only get steeper. After spending an evening with this amazing series of photos, there was no doubt that I needed a copy. Hey, $345 is about what 2 nights in a New York hotel would have cost me -- so thanks, Gabe!

Bruce Davidson: Outside Inside Did I mention that Gabe also had a copy of Steidl's 3 volume set of Bruce Davidson photos? Over 800 images chosen by Davidson. And at $195, this set is reasonably priced compared to Chromes.


John Bartlestone: The Brooklyn Navy Yard Also on the shelf at Mr. Biderman's was John Bartelstone's black and white documentary look at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, New York's oldest industrial facility. If you're interested in the history and transformation of World War II military facilities, this book is a must see. Bartelstone is an architectural photographer, and the compositions are very clean. The book shows a great feeling for the location. Highly recommended, especially if you're interested in this type of subject matter.

In Camera: Francis Bacon: Photography, Film and the Practice of Painting In Camera takes a deep dive into how one of the greatest painters of the 20th century used photography as an inspiration. In addition to the interesting biographical details that emerge from this look at Bacon's process, we are treated to some insights into how images can trigger feelings and memories. I picked this book up from the returns cart at the library, and it's a sleeper. Highly recommended, whether you're new to Bacon's paintings or already a fan of his work.

Jean-Philippe Toussaint: Camera Less plot, more character. Hinting at something. Making you think a little bit. Very subtle comedy -- this description of Toussaint's book could very well substitute for what I'd like my photographs to do.


Chris Ware: Building Stories Let's just get this out of the way first -- Chris Ware's 14-piece graphic-novel-in-a-box is a wonderful but melancholy work of art. Building Stories is also a riveting story, and amazingly designed.


Viktor Pelevin: Omon Ra What if you dreamed of entering the Soviet Space program and going to the moon. And what if you got your wish. And what if it turned out to be something very different than you expected. Life's funny that way. If you like black humor and space travel, this is your book.


Top 10 Art Books of 2012: Part I

What follows is a list of the top 10 books that have inspired me in the first half of 2012. The list is in no particular order except for Robert Irwin interviews (#1), which is one of the most thought provoking art books I've read in a long time. Have you read anything outstanding this year? Feel free to add a comment or connect on goodreads.com.

  • Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky - A new translation of the classic 1972 Russian sci-fi novel that was the basis for Tarkovsky's film Stalker. A really compelling story, even if you don't typically read sci-fi. Some key plot differences from Stalker make this a really fun read if you've seen the film. In the afterword, Boris Strugatsky talks about how one of the original words for the stalkers was prospectors -- a great metaphor for those interested in exploring mysterious ruins.
  • Talking Heads' Fear of Music - Jonathan Lethem has been on a roll lately and his homage to Fear of Music is no exception. At times the album is really just a point of departure for Lethem to wax poetic about growing up in New York in the late 70's, and the joy of finding music that speaks to you.
  • Blue Desert - Charles Bowden has a deep understanding of the effects of development on the Southwest. Recommended reading for desert rats.
  • Daniel Clowes: Conversations - Fifteen interviews over a 20 year period. If you're a fan of his work, and especially if you draw, this book is a really interesting read. Clowes is sarcastic, funny, and has some great insights into the evolution of his style over time.
  • The Pond - John Gossage's book is considered by some to be one of the most important photo books in the post-New Topographics continuum. I find Robert Adams' landscape work to be too subtle sometimes, but The Pond speaks to me. What a unique sense of framing, sequencing, and ultimately place.
  • Lee Friedlander: Self Portrait - I don't like self portraits as a genre. This book is the one exception. Friedlander expresses the pure joy and amusement of making shape, line, shadow, and reflection into a picture.
  • First Pictures - A collection of 140 photos in 4 bodies of work made by Joel Sternfeld between 1971-1980. It would be easy for this book to be overshadowed by Sternfeld's next phase that culminated in American Prospects. But First Pictures isn't just early work that's interesting when considering the development of an important and influential photographer - there are some amazing, raw, exciting photos here. The printing on the NY street work that was shot with open flash is especially fine - lushly dark, with no midtones. And the photos of people at malls holding up their purchases are hilarious for a child of the 70's. Highly recommended.
  • Headlands: The Marin Coast at the Golden Gate - If you've hiked around the bunkers and seacoast fortifications in the Marin Headlands, this book is a must see, and can usually be picked up for under $10 used. The historic photographs of the batteries being built are amazing. Mark Klett's black and white Type 55 photos are wonderful, and some of the other contributors include Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel.

23 epiphanies: Ramblings on artistic influences

Power plant accoutrements -- by Joe Reifer
Power plant accoutrements -- by Joe Reifer

My presentation at last week's Mono Lake Night Photography Festival was about the value of cultivating a diverse set of artistic influences. You are already doing this informally. The idea is to talk or write about your artistic input, as a playground for better understanding how these things are influencing your artistic output.

I had 45 minutes to talk, and spent just under 2 minutes talking about how each of these artists has influenced my night photography. As the presentation was both fast and media intensive, I've reproduced the list of artists below for those who attended the conference.

I encourage you to make your own list of influences. This could be a desert island list of your favorite films, photography books, novels, museum exhibits, dance performances -- whatever you're into. Making a list is the first step -- the epiphanies are born out of process of articulating why you love this work, and how the work has influenced you. The writing doesn't have to be lengthy -- start with one sentence for the why, and one for the how. Have fun, and feel free to share your list.

  1. Gordon Matta-Clark: Conical Intersect [video on UbuWeb] [photos & bio on artnet]
  2. John Divola: Vandalism Series [photos on divola.com]
  3. Roger Ballen: Outland | Shadow Chamber | Boarding House
  4. John Pfahl: Altered Landscapes
  5. Draw on your image: To be discussed in a future blog post
  6. Gaspar Noe: Enter the Void [Netflix]
  7. Matthew Barney: Cremaster Cycle
  8. Werner Herzog: Of Walking In Ice
  9. Mark Rothko: Rothko's Rooms[Netflix]
  10. William Vollmann: Imperial
  11. Michelangelo Antonioni: Red Desert [Netflix]
  12. David T. Hanson: Waste Land
  13. Flotation Tanks
  14. Haruki Murakami: A Wild Sheep Chase
  15. Ikeda Carlotta: Butoh Dance
  16. Yasujiro Ozu: Tokyo Story [Netflix]
  17. Master Musicians of Jajouka: Apocalypse Across the Sky | Pipes of Pan
  18. Lotte Reiniger: The Adventures of Prince Achmed [Netflix]
  19. Caspar David Friedrich [friendsofart.net]
  20. John Hind: Our True Intent Is All For Your Delight
  21. Chris Verene: Family | Chris Verene
  22. Jacques Tati: Playtime
  23. Erik Kessels: In Almost Every Picture #9 Black Dog

Note: Book and movie links go to Amazon, and help put a few extra pennies into the epiphany research jar.


Hi-Fructose Magazine #18: Billboard Liberation Front

Second generation operatives of the BLF ponder their next mission in an outtake from Hi-Fructose Magazine #18 -- by Joe Reifer
Second generation operatives of the BLF ponder their next mission in an outtake from Hi-Fructose Magazine #18 -- by Joe Reifer

Issue 18 of contemporary art magazine Hi-Fructose hit the streets recently, and features a 6-page piece on the Billboard Liberation Front (BLF). I've been a huge fan of the BLF's advertising improvements for a long time, so it was a big thrill to photograph 3 generations of BLF operatives for Hi-Fructose. BLF honcho Jack Napier found this amazing empty warehouse location, which I scouted a few days before the shoot. I was really fortunate to have friend and talented photographer Riki Feldmann on this assignment to help with the lighting.

We used the huge 86" Alienbees PLM with a diffuser on the key light, and then kicked a bare-bulb fill light off the floor from the other side. A Canon 5D Mark II with a 24-70/2.8L was tripod mounted for the group shots, and a second 5D II with a 70-200/2.8L was used for the individual portraits. PocketWizards were used to trigger the strobes, and everything worked without a hitch. The shooting time was about 2 hours for 25 portraits and 4 group shots.

As expected, the BLF was a rowdy and hilarious group to photograph. Riki and I were about to mark where to stand for the portraits with tape on the floor, and then someone spilled some whiskey. When people asked where to stand for their portrait, we told them "between the puddle of water, and the puddle of whiskey." In the large group shot in the magazine, there is a dead bird on the floor. One of the BLF members made an amazing disguise out of a bucket and a cardboard box while he was waiting to be photographed.

In addition to the piece on the BLF, issue 18 of Hi-Fructose features some really amazing art -- I was particularly blown away by the eerie, futuristic ruins of Jean-Pierre Roy. The interview with Mr. Roy is superb -- he speaks very eloquently about his work, and I found some interesting artistic parallels to abandoned places night photography (more on that later). Attaboy and Annie Owens put out a really fine publication -- look for Hi-Fructose at a bookstore, gallery, or museum near you.


New Topographics: Show review and selected books

Lewis Baltz -- North Wall, Semicoa, 333 McCormick, Costa Mesa 1974
Lewis Baltz -- North Wall, Semicoa, 333 McCormick, Costa Mesa 1974

New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape opened yesterday at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and runs through October 3, 2010 along with the companion exhibit, Picturing Modernity. I visited the museum yesterday, and really enjoyed the show. I've spent quite a bit of time with the superb New Topographics book -- viewing the actual prints was exciting.

Most of the exhibition contains small silver gelatin black and white prints with an open, low/medium contrast style of printing that is befitting of the subject matter. A few of the Lewis Baltz prints are a notable exception, with very deep blacks and stark high contrast printing. Stephen Shore's photos are the only color images in the show.

Seeing the Joe Deal aerial subdivision views all together on the wall gave them a lot more weight than in the book. There is so much tension in not having any sky or horizon line. My eye wants to see something in the image as the horizon, which gives an off-kilter feeling to some of the images.

Finding a photographic approach that deferred and complexified meaning rather than specifying it, is what made these pictures interesting to me. -- John Schott

John Schott's work was also better on the wall than in the book. His accompanying audio segment is especially poignant. I'm still puzzling out how Nicholas Nixon's Boston rooftop images fit into the show - they're dense with the detail of the city skyline. Gohlke's irrigation canal image is a deceivingly simple image that reflects the man vs. nature theme of the show so well with the beautiful sky and reflection balanced by weeds and tire tracks in the mud.

After seeing large prints of the Becher's Industrial Landscapes a few years ago, the smaller prints in this show seemed lackluster, and a few are in need of conservation. This re-staging of the 1975 exhibit really shows the modest scale of the prints in the current era of giant 10 foot prints that are trying to compete with painting. After spending a considerable amount of time contemplating these intimate black and white prints, the large scale of the work in the Fisher Collection seemed rather ostentatious at times. Perhaps you'll want to save that exhibition for another day.

Tip: Pick up the free audio tour to the left of the staircase as you walk into the museum. The New Topographics exhibit features about 2 minutes of commentary from most of the photographers.

Books from the Photographers in New Topographics

The New Topographics book is outstanding. Published by Steidl this year, the title seems to regularly go in and out of stock with each press run. I recommend reading the essays before seeing the show. The reproduction of the original catalog in the book is very cool. Below is a selected book list of photographers in the show, some with brief commentary. If there are photographers in the show that you'd like to investigate further, hopefully this list will save you some time.

Robert Adams

Lewis Baltz

Bernd and Hilla Becher

Joe Deal

Frank Golhke

Nicholas Nixon

John Schott

  • No monographs other than inclusion in the New Topographics book.

Stephen Shore

Henry Wessel


Night Photography: Night Light show at Lightbox Gallery in Astoria

Lightbox Show -- by Joe Reifer
Lightbox Show -- by Joe Reifer

I'll have 4-5 night photos on display at Lightbox Photographic Gallery in Astoria, Oregon. The show is called Night Light, and runs  from May 8 - June 9. The images above are 12x18" color darkroom prints made on a Lightjet printer using Fuji Crystal Archive matte paper. The prints are signed, and then matted to 18x24" using 8-ply Alpharag matboard and archival materials. The 12x18" matted prints are a numbered, open edition that is currently priced at $200.

Many thanks to Jody Miller for recommending me to the gallery, and to Michael at Lightbox for putting together a great show. If you live in Oregon, why not head out to the coast and take a look!