Arrangements: Clayton Cotterell

Clayton Cotterell, Arrangements

New feature up on Paper Journal, this one on Portland photographer Clayton Cotterell, his series Arrangements, and abstraction in photography. Arrangements is currently on show at the Ampersand Gallery through October 24. A little snippet:

This thematic abstraction hinges on the razor-sharp timing of Cotterell’s photographs. He captures seemingly chance confluences of vivid colour, clear and simple form that at times rests in the purely geometric, and momentary, fragile light to create the sense that the images are instantaneous abstract compositions. If time were shifted even slightly forward or backward, the house of cards would fall or the thin curtain may blow out of place; the light may dapple the foods in the water in a way that lacks the zap of familiarity that runs so deeply through Arrangements.


I had a really interesting time researching the concept of abstraction in photography for this one. Because of the physical nature of photography – light radiating from/bouncing off/shining through the subject and activating some photo-sensitive material to create an image – it’s difficult to achieve truly abstract images. A painter or a sculptor is limited to basically whatever they can imagine and can make their artworks as non-representational as they want. Where Rothko can ooze some color onto a big canvas to create his specific desired effect, a photographer needs to take a picture of something. If the subject doesn’t exist in some way, there’s no way for the camera to capture it. Because of this, abstract photography tends to be very technical – think Man Ray’s rayographs and digital manipulation of contemporary photography.

Man Ray, Rayograph, (1922)

What Cotterell does well in Arrangementsis approach abstraction in his work while keeping it firmly anchored in representation – a really great metaphor for the nature of abstraction in photography as a whole. None of the pictures in the series are unique technical depictions of their subject, as a lot of abstract photography tends toward, but they are surprising in their composition and careful positioning of light, shape, and timing.

From Arrangements

At Water, Los Angeles: an interview with Nathanael Turner

Nathanael Turner, from At Water, Los Angeles

I have a new post up on Paper Journal this morning, a really exciting interview with Los Angeles-based photographer Nathanael Turner. I spoke to him about his bi-costal influences, photo book publishing, and his method of capturing intimate yet abstract portraits of people in everyday situations.

From At Water, Los Angeles

The piece coincides with the opening of the NY Art Book Fair 2013 today at MoMA’s PS1 over in Queens. This is the eighth-annual Art Book Fair, the world’s premier event for artists’ books, catalogs, monographs, periodicals, and zines. Turner’s newest work, At Water, Los Angeles, is getting exhibited at this year’s fair with the rest of Fourteen-Nineteen’s books, zines, and periodicals. Here’s an excerpt of our interview:

What drew you to the idea of publishing your work in book form?

For this project, it all stemmed from Fourteen-Nineteen’s interest in collaborating on a book with me. I proposed a few ideas and one turned into At Water, Los Angeles. In general though, books have always made a lot of sense to me. Most of us have been experiencing books since before we could speak. My own work, most often, takes place within a narrative, so it lends itself to that structure. The book form also forces the viewer to engage in the work in a fairly systematic way. The images in At Water, for example, were made with very little structure, so the book creates an organized, linear composition of the images.

Do you think there’s importance to the fact that your new book focuses on LA and the west coast, but is being exhibited at the New York Art Book Fair and is printed by a London-based publisher? What do you think of the globalisation of contemporary photography as it applies to your own work and to the field as a whole?

It’s exciting. I’ve been able to work with amazingly talented people from several different cities around the world, and I’m not sure those opportunities would have been possible a short time ago.

You can read more about the NY Art Book Fair at their website. If you’re over in New York this weekend, be sure to check it out and grab some books!

Your Own House: Maurice Van Es

From the series “The Past is a Strange Place” via Maurice Van Es

Way, waaaaaay late, but check out my feature on Dutch photographer Maurice Van Es over at Paper Journal. I looked at and discuss a few of Van Es’s projects, including To me you are a work of art, The past is a strange place, and Textures of childhood. He’s got some really great images, and straddles the lines between dreamy and crisp, and claustrophobic and familiar in a very interesting way. An excerpt:

In To me you are a work of art, he trains his camera to Duchampian ‘sculptures’ created by his mother – a pile of folded towels, two remote controls stacked upon one another – making his parents’ home a sort of museum to the art of domesticity. Van Es’s photographs are remnants of everyday existence, modern ruins and ziggurats and pyramids of domesticity unwittingly cast in cloth or wood. They are accidental monuments to a crisp moment, a memory preserved in pixels. Yet they are terribly familiar. According to Van Es, ‘You can find these traces in your own house too.’

I’m really excited to watch Van Es and see where his career grows from here – the dude’s like 24 years old and churning out some fantastic stuff.

via Maurice Van Es

I’ve got a few more projects in the works for Paper Journal that are coming soon, including a piece on one of the exhibitors at this month’s New York Art Book Fair, so keep an eye out for those.

Abyss Gazing

Shark, Florida. via Spencer Murphy

Shark, Florida. via Spencer Murphy

Thrilled and excited to have a feature I wrote on UK photographer Spencer Murphy up today on Paper Journal. In it, I looked at Murphy’s series The Abyss Gazes Into You, a pretty fantastic set of images that details life on the edges of progress and documents what happens when the world keeps moving forward without you. A little excerpt:

Murphy seems to be grasping at the ominous cloud hanging in the present, obscuring the future. His work lies in the turbulent, tectonic moment where past and eternity grind into each other.

I’m really looking forward to contributing more to Paper Journal – it’s a pretty fantastic new online magazine covering contemporary photography and visual arts, and the writing on there is, to say the least, fantastic. The website has sections for features (like this), reviews of new photo and artist’s books and some killer long-form interviews with contemporary photographers.

Right now, I’m working on a similar feature on Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, a duo of artists working out of England. They won the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize this year for their absolutely incredible book War Primer 2, and are being exhibited everywhere from London to Belfast to Paris to MoMA in New York right now. Broomberg and Chanarin are simply making books and pieces that are light years ahead of anyone else, and it’s incredible to watch and write about.

Broomberg and Chanarin, Holy Bible

More progress: proud to announce I’ll be joining the Blood of the Young team as a media/PR intern for Blood of the Young, an independent publishing house out of Toronto that works with established and emerging photographers and artists with a focus on producing hand-made artist’s books and zines. Go check them out and buy  a watch or something (I have one and love it).