10/8/2014 (Photo's Exclusively Published on TPW)
American Photographer based in Eugene OR, Portrait, Street, & Documentary: Blake Andrews
That is a tough question because I have a fairly constant flow of them running across my desk. So the answer changes quickly from week to week. Some books that have caught my eye recently are Larry Fink's On Composition and Improvisation, Janet Delaney's South of Market, Henry Horenstein's Honky Tonk, the Charles Marville monograph, and Daisuke Yokota's Site Cloud. I just found a used copy of Ralph Gibson's Deja-Vu last week. It's not a great book but Lustrum has a place in photo history so I had to pick it up, and it's interesting to browse. The first few pages are scarred with burn marks which create strange textures on the page. They look almost intentional, and they made the book quite cheap, so double bonus. I found an old copy of Singular Images by Ansel Adams at the same time. It's a collection of b/w polaroids by him from the early 70s which show a very intimate and refined eye. Sort of like Adams meets Sommer. I'm constantly scouring book shelves. You never know what you'll find. When I was in Paris last month Patrick Sagnes gave me a copy of his very nice book One Track Mind. I love small homemade books like this. They're real labors of love.
2)What was the last truly inspiring Photobook you saw?
Probably Moonshine by Bertien Van Manen. She has a wonderful eye.
3)Give us the name of your favorite overlooked or under appreciated Photographer, & Why?
Another very tough question. I recently found a used book of Lewis Morley photos. I think he was known mostly as a fashion photographer but the book included a small section of b/w street photos which was quite strong. I don't know what circumstances they were made under, or how they were selected, or what he thought of them. But I'm pretty sure his career as a fashion shooter caused his street work to be overlooked. Maybe even by him. I think that's fairly common. We all imagined that Arthur Tress liked to stage photos until his recent book of early San Francisco street work came out. And Larry Fink's early street work was maybe overshadowed in the same way. Or Ernst Haas with his color book a few years ago. At this point there aren't many photographers who fly completely under the radar. Everyone has a niche audience even if it's sometimes quite small. So maybe the overlooked stuff is made by well known practitioners. That said, one photographer who has managed to remain overlooked is Joe Lawton. I just picked up another used copy of Contact Sheet 108 last week featuring his New York state fair photos. As far as I can tell that's his only book. I think he's one of the strongest street photographers shooting today. But for whatever reason his photos have not really caught on.
4)What are your photographic guilty pleasures? Do you have a favorite genre/style?
I try to remain open-minded about all approaches. So in that sense I don't really have any guilty pleasures. I mean, I don't feel guilty about anything I like. I just saw some photos at a local art fair that most curators or critics would probably dismiss as wrong. They had been worked over and over in Photoshop to desaturate and combine layers and add various effects. They showed trite subjects like cowboys, barns, and country horizons, and they were displayed in cheesy frames of distressed wood. They looked like something you'd see at Pottery Barn. But after the initial resistance I realized that I kind of liked them. They had a voice. They weren't trying to be anything they weren't.
My favorite genre/style is probably snapshot.
5)If we came to your studio what would we see?
I don't have a studio. I shoot mostly outdoors in public. My office where I'm typing this holds a computer with scanner and printer. The walls are lined with binders holding negatives and prints. I've recently run out of room so I'am now storing larger prints and matted work in the hallway closet. My work area would probably look very chaotic to a stranger. I'm not tidy. I have loose papers and prints and mail and books and pens and whatever scattered on my desk and floor. But I generally know where to find things when I need to.
6)What’s the best Photobook on American Photography you’ve ever read?
I have no idea. Probably Szarkowski's Looking At Photographs. The photos aren't exclusively American but I think Szarkowski's writing reflects a particularly American point of view. Direct, modern, and forthright.
7) What subject other than photography,are you interested in ? That nevertheless informs your work.
I've been studying the art of floral arrangement for several years now. I think there are a lot of parallels with photography. The small details are important but you also need to see the big picture. Every aspect of the composition is important, not just the main flower head but also the small stems and leaves leading up to it. Even the water in which the flowers sit is important. It's the foundation really, but it's always shifting, ever completely settled. And there's a real art to sequencing flowers which reminds me a lot of photography. Some flowers just follow naturally from others, but it's hard to pinpoint in words why some combinations work and some don't. It's a very intuitive art. And it smells better than photography. I do weddings, baptisms, receptions. Every floral job I do I learn something.
8)What was the last Photobook that made you happy?
I was pretty happy to see Trent Parke's Minutes to Midnight last winter. The reprint by Steidl had been rumored for years but the publication date kept being delayed and delayed until I had finally given up expectations of ever seeing it. So when the book actually showed up in my mailbox in January, it didn't seem quite real. The realization took a moment to set in. It was a happy surprise.
9)What was the last Photobook that made you sad?
At Zenith by William Eggleston. I think it's complete shit. Eggleston is one of the best photographers of all time. So it makes me sad to see a book like this produced in the late stages of his career. His Paris book was horrible too. I don't know what's going on. Either he has lost his grasp of reality or his career is being manipulated by outside forces. Either scenario makes me sad. It's like listening to a new Rolling Stones record or something. It's pointless.
10)What kind of person were you as a child? And what were your favorite childhood memories, which made you a photographer? How have you grown over the years, what has changed what remained the same.
I can trace my life as a photographer directly back to a few patterns in my childhood. 1) I was a bit of a loner. 2) I was very interested in math and geometry. 3) I liked to explore and be outside. 4) I was always a packrat who collected various items: baseball cards, stamps, magazines, books, you name it. Combine all those facets and you have a good foundation for the type of photographer I am today.
11) Whom do you consider Photographic Masters? Do you believe in mastery.
Nicolas Nixon, Eugene Atget, Lee Friedlander, Weegee, Masao Yamamoto, Garry Winogrand, Diane Arbus, Frederick Sommer, Larry Fink, Josef Koudelka, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alex Webb, Sylvia Plachy, Ray Metzker, Lewis Hine, Roy DeCarava, Tony Ray-Jones, Judith Joy Ross, Gerry Johansson, Leonard Freed, Stephen Shore, and many others.Yes.
12)Which Photographers have had the most impact on you as a Photographer ? Is there a particular Photo that made you want to be a Photographer? Please upload image to justify your statement
It's a big list and it's impossible to narrow down. But when I was first developing as a photographer, Andre Kertesz was a big influence. I loved his sense form and possibility, and his photos seemed to expand the territory a bit. They reached further than a lot of similar street work I was viewing around that same time. They embodied a sort of mystical awareness. I felt he could make a photo of just about any subject and he could transform it into something special. His photo Rainy Day, Tokyo, 1968, was a personal favorite for a few years. I couldn't understand how he'd found that scene. I still can't.
Andre Kertesz Rainy Day Tokyo 1318
13) What gear do you use, and how does your gear, support your photographic vision?
I have several cameras but my primary daily camera is a Leica M6 with 40 mm lens. I shoot b/w film. My gear is small, light, and simple, all of which aids my work. I don't like to be burdened by a lot of equipment or knobs or thinking. I just want to walk, see things, and shoot them with minimal fuss.
14) Do you have any regrets with regards to your photography especially when starting out. What would you do differently ?
I would do everything exactly the same.
15) In your genre style of work, what are the challenges/opportunities to your business.How do you envision yourself 5 years from now.
I don't really have a business. My main challenge/opportunity is to keep myself supplied with enough fresh visual material to translate into new photographs. I'm basically a walking breathing photo factory. I wander through the world. I turn it into photos. That's my primary creative purpose. And expect it to be will be my purpose in 5 or 10 or 20 years.
16) In your photographers Imagination, how do you perceive India. What photographs would you like to make of Her ?
I don't have much imagination of India. My favorite Indian photographer was Raghubir Singh. I think his photos are extraordinary. I like what I've seen shot recently in India by Maciej Dakowicz, Larry Hallegua, and Swapnil Jedhe. I'm sure there are many others working there but it's hard for me to keep tabs on all of them.