Friday, March 19, 2010

B: Q & A with Pelle Cass

Estimable Oregon photographer and blogger Blake Andrews has posted an interview with me. If you crave more (much more) of my wit, charm and verbiage, take a trip here. The subject of the interview is whether it's okay to digitally fiddle with photographs and why/why not. I'm a bit of a fundamentalist on this subject, and insist that artists have the freem to do whatever they want. But read Blake's blog and check out his work, which is free-wheeling, wide-ranging, and very interesting. If you carefully read the whole interview, you will be rewarded with the comedy of me actually using the phrase "our democracy" with zero irony and plus sincerity.


I'm going to FotoFest in a week (March 28-April 1). FotoFest is a big photo biennial in Houston, which runs something called The Meeting Place, a conference in which photographers show their work to curators, dealers, and collectors et al. in a sort of round robin of speed dating. Here's the list of the people who will be there. I'll see about sixteen of them as determined by the FotoFest robots. It's intense, and there's a lot of good work at these portfolio reviews, so I'm looking forward to mixing it up in Houston.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Another composite portrait. I'm trying to figure out exactly what I'm doing and where I'm going with these.


Here's another composite portrait, made by taking dozens of extreme close ups and piecing them together in photoshop. I like how they are distorted and strange, but it's hard to figure why. Being so close up is what does it, somehow.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Purism: A visit to Blake Andrews's blog "B"

Oregon photographer Blake Andrews has written an interesting criticism of people like me who make composite photographs of people on the street. He points to my work (flatteringly, but with a breath of condescension) and the composite images of Peter Funch, Viktor Szemzo, and Manuel Vasquez as examples that can be "great so long as you understand that their methods are closer to Uelsmann than Cartier-Bresson."

Hey, I'm after the truth as much as the next guy. The debate about purism vs. the screwed-up stuff I do is not that compelling to me. Street photography and a kind of purist approach to photography was crammed down my throat in art school and was dominant in the photo biz for many years. My work partly satirizes it, Oedipally, if you like, and partly is just trying to do something different.

A response to a review of a show I'm in

I have one picture at Seattle's Photographic Center Northwest in a show called Exposed: Critical Mass 2009. Here's a link to a review of it (yes, I'm mentioned) by Pete Brook of the blog Prison Photography.

Pete's review makes the work sound pretty appealing, but what I was most struck about the work  reviewed was its do-goodism. If I sound dismissive of social conscience, I apologize, kind of. But I have little interest in this kind of work when it isn't formally or intellectually innovative. Occasionally, I'll be drawn to it as intended. In the PCN show, for example, Carl Bower's beauty pageants in Columbia are fascinating. On the other hand are the pictures dedicated to raising awareness of animal welfare by Mary Shannon Johnstone are not. The pictures are upsetting. They certainly confirm my opposition to animal cruelty and, not that I needed much persuading, to death in general.

It's funny how photography works this way, divided perfectly between form and content, window and mirror, subjective and objective, facts and truth, blah, blah, blah. But I guess what I want out of art is some sort of mystery or poetry or confusion, something that adds to what I know or, better, challenges the way I think or feel. I know there is injustice in the world, but the mechanism of the kind of photography I don't like has a formula--exposing ills leads to remedy--which I don't find nourishing at all, even though photography can help solve problems. That's a big "even though," I admit. Using photography to right wrongs is entirely commendable. The social good is surely more important than art. But I guess I'm self-involved jerk (but let's just say "a man of feeling"), because nothing is more important to me than art. William Carlos Williams wrote, "it is difficult/to get the news from poems/yet men die miserably every day/for lack/of what is found there."

Thursday, March 11, 2010


A new picture, done earlier this week. It's hard to take pictures in cool weather, because people are generally scurrying to wherever they're going. I like it better when the mill around, which is why I like summer and tourists. I'm usually vague about numbers, but this picture took 396 exposures and 182 layers in photoshop. I stood there (at the supermarket behind the Prudential Center building) for about an hour. Alas, I did not time it.

What I find interesting about this picture is all the different levels and how people often seem to be inhabiting different worlds. I also like the way people's heads are just visible over the truck, and I plan to do a whole picture focused on the idea.