"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange

Thursday, October 23, 2014

change is in the air

For  a variety of reasons, I am closing my studio in the Livestock Exchange Building on November 30th.  I will continue doing portraits on location.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

if you've been wanting a studio portrait by me, you should probably book it now.

there are some nice pieces of furniture in the studio that will have to find new homes.

i will offer framed pastel drawings and a select group of framed photographs for sale at a reduced price.

i have many frames/glass also available for sale.

copies of my books convergence and kutuuka will be available for 50% off.

one soft box and stand will be for sale.

If you would like to contact me regarding any of the above, please do so at gbfeinstein[at]gmail[dot]com.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

on the street

Here are some more street pictures I made in New York.

Monday, October 20, 2014


I've just spent the most fabulous weekend in NY, putting memorable and meaningful final touches on the celebration of my 60th birthday - with the help of seven close girlfriends.

I took some time to see the Ray K. Metzker and Saul Leiter exhibitions, both of which really inspired my street shooting. Though I spent most of the time laughing, eating, talking, confiding, drinking, walking, seeing shows and laughing and eating and drinking some more, I did make a few pictures.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

rooting for the royals

Our town is giddy. Everyone everywhere is in love with each other. It's a party. Last night Eddie and I went to the game. It was a blast.

No one can believe the Royals have come this far. The post-season magic is making us all feel like there is hope in the world. Believe in yourself! Dream big! Work hard and you'll succeed! Be nice and respectful and you'll gain many friends! Teamwork is the key! Shake off the bumps in the road! Love one another! Put your ego away and work wonders together!

I love that baseball can make people feel this way. Lord knows we can all use a dose of optimism, joy and fun these days.

It's so cool that America seems to have caught on to the scrappy, wide-eyed, playful, determined and tremendously talented guys that make up the Kansas City Royals.

In honor of the team, I'm posting a portrait I recently made of little Theo, a very young but very devoted Royals fan. His parents grandparents and great grandparents are all baseball nuts. He already watches the game highlights in the morning before he heads off to pre-school, and he sings "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" (inserting "Royals" at just the right place, even though he lives in Cardinal territory) with glee.

Go Blue!

Monday, October 13, 2014

ray k. metzker

The world lost one its greatest photographers last week. Ray K. Metzker died at the age of 83. For those of you who had the opportunity to see the gorgeous Metzker exhibition at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in 2011, I trust you fell in love with his work then - if you hadn’t already been a fan. Metzker’s talk in Kansas City was, at it turned out, his last major public appearance.
Keith F. Davis, curator of that sweeping survey of Metzker’s work (the show also traveled to the Getty in LA and the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle), had this to say then about the work, the man and NAMA's collection of prints:
“Metzker’s photographs strike a unique balance between formal brilliance, optical innovation, and a deep human regard for the objective world. Ray Metzker is one of the most dedicated, innovative, and influential American photographers of the last half-century. His work is at once varied in approach and rigorously unified in creative sensibility: he is interested in both the reality of the world and in the inventive potential of the photographic process itself. Thanks to a 2009 gift from the Hall Family Foundation, the Nelson-Atkins now has the largest institutional holding of Metzker’s work (92 prints) in the country.”
“Ray had a relentless pursuit of personal growth as an artist,” long-time dealer Laurence Miller said of the photographer, whose career spanned six decades. “It didn't take him long to realize a single-frame image is not as interesting as a multi-frame image. He kept exploring and pushing.
“Over the years, the graphic qualities of his work became more emotional. Where black and white images were about light and shadow [in his early work], in his later work they became more about light and darkness as a spiritual thing. The pictures became richer and richer.”
Metzker used a variety of in-camera and darkroom techniques to create his work, including multiple exposures, superimposition and juxtaposition of negatives, and solarization.
He was born in Milwaukee in 1931. After earning a degree at Beloit, he attended the Institute of Design in Chicago from 1956 to 1959. There, he studied under Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind, among others.
“What Callahan and Siskind gave to Ray was the belief that you could pursue a lifetime of making pictures, that it was worth doing, rather than being a journalist, or fashion photographer, or commercial photographer as most others did,” Miller said. “Ray chose to live a humble life and make pictures. His work wasn't on the cover of Vogue. He didn't need to scream out, I'm great. He did it very quietly.”
After graduating from the Institute of Design, Metzker spent about two years in Europe before settling in Philadelphia in 1962. In his earliest work, he photographed unaware pedestrians in unassuming urban landscapes, concerning himself with the interplay of light, shadow and graphical elements.
From the mid 1960s to the mid 1980s, he created several ground-breaking bodies of work, including his Composites series, using entire rolls of film to creating single images that could be read in various ways; and his “Pictus Interruptus” series, for which he held objects in front of his camera lens to partially obscure the scene, creating abstract images that juxtaposed in-focus and out-of-focus elements.
During the last three decades of his career, Metzker returned to photographing cityscapes, particularly in Philadelphia, making poetic images that incorporated the vocabulary and technique he had honed over the years.

Ray was an extremely gentle and caring human being who possessed very little ego,” Miller said last week. “He really cared about the average person. His subjects were just ordinary people like you and me. There was no fashion, no models, and it was just about the everyday world. I think that reveals a lot about him. He had a great sense of humor, but he still took things very seriously.”
"He discovered things you'd never notice, never expect - the pattern on something or some cubbyhole," said his wife, the photographer Ruth Thorne-Thomsen. "And the world would never be the same again."

Ms. Thorne-Thomsen would occasionally walk with her husband through Center City, into South Philadelphia, all over the city.
"He would squint, leave one eye open, and then look at his watch," she recalled. "That was so he'd know what time of day it was."
What emerged from his darkroom - Mr. Metzker never used digital technology - "was rich, endlessly rich," she said. "Everything was to be mined, a treasure to be mined."

[some excerpts from an article in PDN were used in this post]

Friday, October 10, 2014

village shalom

A few years ago I was asked to photograph some of the residents at Village Shalom, an assisted and independent living place not far from where I live. The photos ended up becoming an exhibition in the beautiful gallery there; later they were assembled into a permanent installation running the length of one of the hallways at the facility.

I was shooting film back then - using my Hasselblad. It was a great project. Getting to know these folks was inspiring and rewarding. Several of the residents were in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s. When they finally engaged with me and looked squarely into my camera, I was moved by their honesty and directness, fleeting as it might have been. All of the people I photographed were delightful.

Since the images are still on display at Village Shalom, I often receive comments from people who've been there to visit a friend or relative. Every now and then, I get a call from someone who wants to purchase a print of their father, grandmother, etc.

I got such a call last week. While going through the files, I decided to share some of them here on the blog. (I've featured them here before, but it was many years ago.) 

The following is the artist statement I wrote to accompany the installation:

“I came away from these portrait sessions with more than rolls of exposed film. Inspirational stories filled my head, words of wisdom rang in my ears, gifts of kindness filled my heart. Warmth, strength, humor, grace and dignity defined each and every person I encountered during my photographic journey at Village Shalom.

When I was about ten years old and a girl scout, I went with my troop to a nursing home. Beforehand, we carefully and lovingly prepared potted flowers to take to the men and women who lived there. Upon our arrival, we were each paired up with one of the residents. My partner had thick white hair and didn’t have much to say. As soon as I handed her the pot of begonias, my face beaming with pride, she put her fingers in the dirt, and then, to my horror and dismay, began to eat it.

It was a long time before I felt comfortable returning to any sort of assisted living facility.

I have never been to one as life affirming and uplifting as Village Shalom. Thanks to each of you who agreed to sit for a portrait. I’m glad you were able to squeeze me in between work, water aerobics, lunch dates, lectures, shopping trips and Tai chi. Mostly, though, I am grateful that you gave me back those begonias – bright, beautiful and in full bloom.”


Wednesday, October 08, 2014

william gedney

Photographer William Gedney made these pictures of Kentucky mining families in 1964 and 1972. These images, only a few of many more, are from the Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, which provides the following description:

"William Gedney made two trips to eastern Kentucky. In the summer of 1964, he traveled to the Blue Diamond Mining Camp in Leatherwood, Kentucky and stayed for awhile at the home of Boyd Couch, head of the local United Mine Workers Union. Then Gedney met Willie Cornett, who was recently laid off from the mines, his wife Vivian, and their twelve children. He soon moved in with the Cornett family, staying with them for eleven days. Twenty-two of the photographs from Gedney's 1964 visit to Kentucky were included in his one-man exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (December 1968 through March 1969). Gedney corresponded with the Cornetts over many years, and finally returned to Kentucky to visit and photograph the family again in 1972."

Photographer Roger May, who was born and raised in Appalachia writes eloquently about Gedney’s work, which I am happily discovering for the very first time (thanks to my friend Susan). Here are some excerpts from Roger May’s thoughts on Gedney and his work:

 “His work resonates with me on a number of different levels, but I suppose I'm most impacted by how he chose to look at, to see Appalachia. It wasn't a one-off way of seeing for him, for he brought that same quietness, stillness, and earnestness to other parts of the world: New York, India, San Francisco. The consistency is appreciated. The grace with which we made note of moments he wanted to remember, wanted to share, needed to share.

I'm fascinated by his eastern Kentucky photographs. Try as I may, I haven't been able to figure out why he chose Appalachia to make photographs, but I'm so very glad he did. Nowhere can I find the reason that led him to Perry County, Kentucky. In the early 1960's, Appalachia saw a flood of photographers, news crews and filmmakers (think Charles Kuralt's Christmas in Appalachia circa 1964) come into the hills and hollers as part of the War on Poverty campaign. By and large, they formed a disparaging visual narrative of the place I was born and raised. Yet somehow, he transcended that tendency and instead made photographs of grace, beauty, and simple existence all the while capturing the challenging environs of those he photographed. There must've been something about his spirit that caused him to see what others did not, would not, perhaps could not.

His journal writing (1964) reveals a keen insight into some of the region's problems: ‘The region is rugged and isolated, the people are trapped in a circle of poverty, bad schools, corrupt politics and unskilled labor etc. Though I do not consider myself a 'social-problem' photographer, I hope something of this part of America and its people is conveyed to you."

Gedney's Appalachia work is refreshing to me because it feels so incredibly real. Margaret Sartor, a photographer, writer, and teacher at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke, noted that, ‘We keep looking because it (Gedney's work) feels so genuine.’ I couldn't agree more. His unassuming presence allowed him to capture moments so obviously absent from most of the work I've seen from Appalachia, that one has to wonder why so few photographs like this exist. Certainly at the time he was photographing in Appalachia, there was a stream of imagery coming out of there that I feel shaped the way we look at Appalachia today. For me, Gedney chose to see and show the deeper humanity of my home. How he saw the world, my world, challenges me to be truer, to be more authentic when I work.

William Gedney died on June 23, 1989 at 56. In his lifetime, he was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for photography (1966-67), a Fulbright Fellowship for photography in India (1969-71), a National Endowment for the Arts grant in photography (1975-76), and several other grants and fellowships. Four years after his death, in 1993, Duke University became the repository for Gedney's work. Margaret Sartor was approached by the Rubenstein Library and asked to put together an exhibit of Gedney's work. In 2000, she and Geoff Dyer coedited What Was True: The Photographs and Notebooks of William Gedney.

Gedney's work always commands my attention. It isn't forceful, overbearing, or gimmicky. He presents grace, beauty and humanity in a people often marginalized and dismissed. These are things that are important to me, qualities he captured about the people and place that means so much to me. He didn't shy away from poverty or hard times, instead he chose not to make it the focus of his work. Because of that, we get to see something so few who make photographs in Appalachia can show us. By pressing in close enough, quietly enough, in the words of Thomas Roma, he captured the beauty of our sameness.” - Roger May