Nearby Café Home > Art & Photography > Photocritic International > On the Front Burner

A. D. Coleman: On the Front Burner
Issue 39, January-February 2009

Happy new year to my readers everywhere, along with my hope that none of you got lumps of coal in your stockings. We've had the first snow of winter here on Staten Island, with more surely to come. Hunkering down and staying warm, the house — built 99 years ago, and they truly don't build them like this anymore — always cozy this time of year.

Photo by Zhang Xinmin.
Various projects in China moving forward steadily, some already discussed in this newsletter, some still under wraps. No present plan to return to the PRC until April, though that could change.

As I write this, we're just days away from the opening of the China: Insights exhibition at The Light Factory in Charlotte, NC. This is the cross-section of contemporary Chinese documentary work that I curated with Gu Zheng of Fudan University. (See Burner 35 for more on this project.)

For those of you in the area, the reception will take place on Thursday, January 15, 6-9 pm; the show will run at TLF through March 29, 2009. TLF has organized a concurrent show of work by Chinese teenagers and their Charlotte counterparts, one component of an exchange program sparked by their commitment to this exhibition. Titled "China I-Sights: Connecting Students in Charlotte and China Through Photography and Video," that show will run concurrently with "China: Insights," but will extend through April 12.

Photo by Yu Haibo.
TLF will also sponsor a visit to China by a group of Charlotte-area teens later this year, and, if all goes well, will host a group of Chinese students in Charlotte some time after that. Exactly the kind of cultural exchange I envisioned this project sparking. I'll give a lecture in Charlotte in conjunction with the show sometime in late March, date TBA.

Meanwhile, Saga: The Journey of Arno Rafael Minkkinen, Photographs 1970-2005, the retrospective that I curated with Todd Brandow for the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, has returned to North America from Europe and the Nordic countries. "Saga" will wind up its run outside the U.S. at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, its sixth venue to date, where it closes on February 8. Thereafter it will be available for rental from Curatorial Assistance, Graham Howe's Pasadena operation.
So, for the brief stretch of January 15-February 8, I will have three shows I've curated (or four, depending on how you count) on view at the same time: "Saga" in Winnipeg, "China: Insights" in Charlotte, and the two-person Jerry Uelsmann-Maggie Taylor show at See+ Art Space / Gallery in Beijing. An auspicious start for what promises to prove an extremely productive year, and the harvest of seeds planted as far back as 2001.
More curatorial projects in the developmental stages. The past decade has taught me, often painfully, not to announce things until they're done deals. So I'll wait till things reach their final stages before breaking the news here.

On the writing front, George Malave has just published Creatures, with my introduction: ISBN13: 978-1-4257-8872-8, $19.99 softcover. This is the fourth book of his own work that Malave has issued through Xlibris, the online print-on-demand (POD) publishing house. (To learn about the other three, and about Malave himself, click here. Better yet, visit Malave's own homepage.) This one collects some of his images of animals, drawn from two distinctly different bodies of work, one unnerving, the other melancholy, complementing each other very well.
In addition to the intensity of Malave's images, I find myself impressed by the quality of reproduction he has managed to extract from the Xlibris production system. I've now seen a number of photography books generated through a variety of the new POD systems, as well as some PDF downloads of photography projects. (I also contributed a text to Michael Rosen's Vanilla Sex: Explicit Fine Art Photographs, which he self-published in 2007 as a free PDF download.

The best of these publications, of course, come from photographers who — like Malave, and Rosen — have learned to tweak their digital files and adjust them to the specifics of these printing/publishing technologies, just as earlier photographers (and current ones) learned to print in silver-gelatin for the particularities of gravure or duotone or single-run halftone, and for the idiosyncratic capacities of individual printing houses.

And I think we're getting scarily but exhilaratingly close to the point where a "Best of POD/PDF Photobook Award" will become not just thinkable but necessary. The history of self-publishing in photography goes all the way back to Talbot's The Pencil of Nature, and I see these new digital technologies as belonging to and extending that lineage. Books such as Malave's and Rosen's collectively represent the incunabula of the digitally generated photo book; I hope some canny curator or librarian has begun to build a collection of these bookworks, because we'll want access to them as documentation of the evolution of these new communicative forms.

The possibilities excite me enough that I'm determined to conduct my own first experiments with these forms — POD book and PDF download — in 2009, for books of my writings.

Upcoming travel: In late March I'll head to Charlotte, NC for the opening of "China: Insights" at The Light Factory. I don't plan to attend the SPE National Conference this year, skipping it once again; too much on my plate, and it hasn't proved as professionally productive in recent years as it did in the past. Still, I miss seing my friends and colleagues there; hope to catch up with you elsewhere on the circuit.
In this edition you'll find the text of "Creature Features," my introduction to the Malave monograph discussed above. (PDF format.) Also "Jerry Uelsmann: Prima Facie," my introduction to the catalogue accompanying Uelsmann's ongoing show at See+ Art Space / Gallery in Beijing. This text will appear again in the catalogue of a retrospective forthcoming soon from the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Jacksonville, FL. (PDF format.)

The essays I post here remain on the Writings & Publications menu until I post a new issue and replace them, at which point they move permanently to the Photography Criticism CyberArchive, available thereafter to that repository's subscribers. A small selection of my texts will stay semi-permanently on the Writings & Publications menu here, along with links to other work of mine that appears elsewhere on the web.

For your convenience, we've set up an online store through which you can order my books, with a shopping cart, secure credit-card transactions, and other e-commerce frills.

This section of C: the Speed of Light contains brief synopses of recent, current, and upcoming projects and activities related to my work as a critic, historian, teacher, lecturer, and internet publisher.

back to top

All contents © copyright 1995-2009 by A. D. Coleman/CODA Enterprises. All rights reserved.