Sur la route de Reims

Friday, September 10, 2010

Les KRIMS in Rochester NY (September 2010)

Les Krims at the GEH.

The emperor’s self-designed new clothes. On the nakedness and rawness of esthetic erring and treasures of imaginative energy wasted.

© Bruno Chalifour, September 10, 2010.

[After listening to him at the GEH on September 9, 2010 presenting his work but above all–time wise–renting against academia (but not relinquishing his tenure position), “the left, the communists and the liberals” and a few feminists. Using blind insults, angry stereotypes, outrageous caricatures).]

Listening to Les Krims is enlightening. The sheer blindness and extreme narrow-mindedness of his thinking, in spite of a somewhat brilliant imagination, is in fact enlightening. It raises the issue of content in a piece of art, and how relevant it should be regarding the very definition of the term.

At first sight (no pun intended), Krims’s very elaborate tableaux are entertaining: they seem to combine the shock of the new and the freshness of provocation. They stay with the beholder and his/her legendary eye and alleged idiosyncratic taste (also alluded to by Krims, another cliché on the road to hell I guess). Some of his images have accompanied me for decades and a “Les Krims” is easy to identify. The guy had style, his own often-rehashed style–the one for which he is known and with which he will be buried, the one he seems to be leaving by the wayside on his way to Photoshop and HDR. When he strays from it using HDR the way a college student would, the results are just disappointing. So many years of practice to come to that! Banging one’s head too many times against the same relenting issues leaves traces. Krims is a casualty of the world he has carved for himself out of resentment, anger, and outrageous positioning towards his own world–as proved many times by his reiterated lashing against academia that provides him with a living from which he has not walked away. Put your actions where your mouth is Les! Les pretends to be Don Quixote: he does have his wind-mills and his Sanchos (the willing side-kicks of his photographs, sometimes his own students) but he lacks the guts and the action.

Krims’s world seems to have something not so much of Dada but of surrealism in its challenging of established values, its association of unlikely elements, and maybe, to a point its use of the human, often lightly-clad, body, especially female. It is definitely a male vision and a male’s world. Beyond the entertainment and the rubbing of ideas that Krims’s work surely generates, what had always bothered me was its overwhelming irony, acidity and repeated, overstated tone, its strange relationship with sexuality, the female body, including his own mother’s body. I have no competence in psychology, psycho-analysis, or even psychiatry, for lack of a better word it feels strange if not weird, it feels singularly deprived of tenderness, love or even empathy (even his most recent HDR “street” portraits convey that very same impression). Les Krims has become a blind, bitter, pontifying old man. It is disheartening especially when you compare him to some of the photographic academic “liberals” against whom he constantly and indiscriminately lashes: Nathan Lyons, Carl Chiarenza, John Pfahl, Jerry Uelsmann… Krims never does it namely, except against a few feminist extremist of the 1980s and the Society for Photographic Education, of which the above-mentioned luminaries (and Krims’s local colleagues, two of whom Lyons and Chiarenza even attended his talk at the GEH) were co-founders.

Krims, just as Peter Witkin has, has created his own idiosyncratic world and brings it to us. However in many cases it is a narrow and closed world within which his imagination thrives. It lacks the humanist and artistic background and motivation of Witkins’s world. Can diatribe be art? Can art be the result of a mind, a world that has narrowed itself to a cell? At his point the reader may have figured out my answer to the question. Art and somewhat content may be in the eye of the beholder (who must be full of it by now), but I know many a beholder that would agree with me and with whom I would agree. Relativism too is relative and after all revisionism is there to be revised, isn’t it?

Bruno Chalifour, Rochester 2010.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Fall 2008 Update...

December 2008:

Summer and Fall went by...

Summer was mainly dedicated to:

-taking care of my new show "High Falls" (13"x40" panoramic images) after its being shown in Limoges in the spring at the Pavillon du Verdurier. As usual I had an interesting conversation on it with Gérard (Desplanques).

-doing my research for the Henri Cartier-Bresson symposium (see below).

-teaching my now usual annual workshop in the Rencontres d'Arles–which I always enjoy.It was a very diverse group this year (not that different from the previous ones though), ranging from dedicated amateurs to dedicated professionals (photographers and gallery owners). There were some interesting exhibitions and the showing of the books running for the European Publisher's Award was quite impressive. I enjoyed the night projection dedicated to Koudelka's work in 1968 in Prague and met some very interesting personalities and photographers among whom Shai Kremer, a sympathetic young Israeli photographer who photographs the Israeli military complex in the wake of Richard Misrach and Simon Norfolk, Vanessa Winship, a wonderfully sensitive photographer whose work in black and white is highly recommendable... and all the usual followers of the festival although I missed Yvette Troispoux's alert eyes this year. My students seemed to have enjoyed the workshop that felt as if it were ending too soon.

On the way down to Arles I stopped and spent the day in Toulouse with Stéphane. He and his wife were expecting, and close to delivery (she was and could not joy us on that hot day spent visiting the Galerie du Château d'Eau and the new Toulouse art space, Les Abattoirs). Then two days with François walking in the Pyrénées and photographing in Ariège, above St Girons.
On the way back I stopped and photographed in Argelès and Collioure

and then I spent the rest of my stay in Limousin revisiting the Rebeyrolles museum in Eymoutiers (which I also did in the fall). I am always baffled and mesmerized by the quality and power of his painting.

© Paul Rebeyrolles

Then back to the US just on time to photograph Valerie's cousin wedding–my second wedding this summer with the D3 after the problematic use of the SB 80 in Couzeix for Philippe.

The raw format saved the images where the communication between flash and body did not work. I am going to turn the images resulting from into another Blurb book.

Then back home to work on my History of Photography course at UB, and to sort out and print a few images.

Fall 2008 saw a lot of interesting activities and opportunities:

-my proposal for the Henry Cartier-Bresson 100th-anniversary international conference was accepted. My topic was "Cartier-Bresson et l'Amérique". The presentation was given last October in the Centre International de Rencontres/Château de Cerisy (Calvados). It rained the whole time but the symposium was interesting and enjoyable on all levels (other presentations, co-presenters, organization, location, accommodation, food...)

Henri Cartier-Bresson symposium (Cerisy library, Oct. 2008)

-this gave me an opportunity to see a few shows in Paris, meet Roland Quilici (a co-writer for and my main source of daily information on the French photographic scene),

Roland (left) and Alain Rio (another Photophiles writer) in Mortemar (87)

family and friends. Philippe embarked me on the plateau de Millevaches on an assignment photographing a vintage Ferrari rally. Fortunately the day was gorgeous and the local foie gras and omelette aux cèpes in Tarnac excellent.

-Time in Limoges and Pierre-Buffière (not forgetting a visit to Gérard and to l'espace Rebeyrolles) was enjoyable as usual.

Pierre-Buffière (87) from my window
overlooking the Breuilh valley {childhood memories].

St Germain des Prés (oct. 2008)

-I taught a History of Photography course at SUNY Buffalo which was a lot of work as no supporting book quite satisfied me: I had to redesign all the lectures and create supporting audio-visual documents. I must say I enjoy being challenged and engaged this way and it allowed me to update my teaching supporting materials. The room that was allocated to the course was extremely well equipped and the class, although very quiet–I guess history is not a very debatable topic [I thought it was though]-turned out to be a pleasant group. On the whole, their final presentations were more than satisfactory, some were creative and lively, and it looks as if they have learnt a few things.] I tried to "anchor" a few key facts, notions, concepts and images through repetition and reinforcement rather than bury them under a sea of... facts, dates and debatable arguments. Efficiency first, hoping to open a few doors for those who would like to investigate further, and bring some light over a topic that, according to the initial test I gave, looked pretty obscure to most of them. The audience ranged from freshmen to graduate students.

-I taught 2 full workshops at Community Darkroom: my "usual" "Landscape" and "Snapshot to Series." I had a good attendance and participation, not to mention the fact that several former students were taking it again. Their progress is a joy to witness and participate in.

Current state of affairs:

-I had the smart idea of designing a 9-page final test for my UB course and am buried under 270 pages waiting to be graded.

-I have to finish preparing the course on the state of Contemporary Photography for next semester.

-doing more work on the Mendon Ponds project:

-working on 3 separate self-published book projects.

Mendon Ponds (another Book project)

-I have to complete the final editing/slashing of my Cartier-Bresson presentation for publication by Textuel.
-I have to recontact the Médiathèque in Gosier (Guadeloupe) as the intended summer exhibition featuring my work and book "Kazes Kwéoles" (Blurb) has not happened in spite of our agreement. Tropical operating mode...

On the recent improvements to my work and life style, I have upgraded a few tools... (which just gave me more work):
-my Panasonic DMC-LX2 to the LX3 model [zoom starting at 24 mm (35 mm equiv.), max. aperture of f.2, and better behavior (less noise) at 400 and 800 iso]

...which results have been meeting expectations with the exception of noise at 400 and 800 iso, better than with the LX2 but still with room for improvement–not to mention the fact that with the new raw format (RW2), there is no way to upgrade Photoshop CS3 for it except move up to CS4. Same with Lightroom whose version #2 has not been upgraded for it yet... not to mention Aperture (always slower than Adobe).

LX3 against the sun by very cold morning.

-updating image-processing software [time and money, the price of competence I guess.

...and now, getting psychologically ready another winter in Rochester,NY.

Lake Ontario at Charlotte Beach