By the time Josephson was completing and exhibiting some of his most compelling and now classic works— Chicago, ; Drottningholm, Sweden, ; and the postcard collages of the late s and early s—the early conceptual works and influential writings of Sol LeWitt and others were gaining the attention of the most forward-looking individuals in the art world.
Josephson had very different influences from those of the emerging conceptual artists in Europe and New York. Josephson explains, "One of the main reasons I conceived this photograph is that I wanted to deal with the idea of a contained sequence of images rather than the usual serial progression. In other words, I wanted to find a way of containing seriality within one image, and move through space and a period of time in one image. In a student work that depicts his then-roommate Joe sketching at an easel, the photograph shows not only Joe and the self-portrait he is rendering but his image in the mirror that he is employing to render the self-portrait Joe, Another conceptual breakthrough for Josephson was that he began depicting his own body through cast shadows or reflections in glass or water or by placing an outstretched arm into the composition.
Although earlier photography did present images within images, albeit with a different purpose, the appearance of the photographer's arm or shadow as an integral part of the composition had not been generally seen, as such things would be considered mistakes made by amateurs. As early as , Josephson had placed himself in a photo by capturing a silhouette of his arm against a warping grid of darks and lights, in Chicago, The trope of appearing in one's own photo by means of a reflection in glass or a cast shadow was further explored in such images as Stockholm, , which shows the photographer's full shadow through a window, cast against the contents of a magazine shop, and Matthew, , in which Josephson's shadow falls over his infant son.
Josephson's Drottningholm, Sweden, , however, was the first instance of what came to be a trademark: the inclusion of his arm thrust into a photograph, holding an image or object. This tour-de-force work of art, documentation, and sociology recently found a fitting use as the signature image for the Art Institute of Chicago's exhibition The City Lost and Found. Clever and seemingly effortless, Josephson's postcard collages actually required precise planning and exacting execution, resulting in complex works that utilize the photograph as a tool to create statements about art as they explore and comment on the nature of perception.
Once it became clear to Josephson that the ideas were the most important aspect of his photography, the ideas came quickly. Individual explorations became ongoing series. In Marks and Evidences , which began with the serial examination of a tree Chicago, , he presented situations that raised the immediate question "What exactly is going on here?
With the History of Photography series, the earliest examples of which were completed in the s, Josephson began to overtly comment on the history and nature of his chosen medium, a complex visual and intellectual endeavor that is in fact a mainstay of conceptualism. Yet as Grundberg and Lippard point out, this humor was serious business. One of the most subtle allusions in this series is in Chicago History of Photography Series 2 , , which shows a globe-shaped refinery storage unit that almost preternaturally duplicates the ten zones of Ansel Adams and Fred Archer's famous system for the optimal shooting and printing of photographs.
Josephson had struggled mightily to learn and properly practice the zone system at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Out of this struggle came an important insight: that a photographer had to have control over every aspect of his craft in order to be successful in producing images using all the required procedures dictated by the zone system. This control simply was not attainable in a school environment of shared darkroom chemicals and equipment.
Josephson decided not to completely follow the "system," but to put to use the core principle of understanding the relationships between film exposures and development and the resulting values obtainable on printing papers. No doubt this was a liberating realization given the tyranny of the zone system in midcentury American photography, and one can only imagine how gratifying it was, years later, for Josephson to discover, Duchamp-like, a "ready-made" zone system out there in the real world.
One of the more recent images in the History of Photography series is even more difficult to decipher than the zone system reference in Chicago History of Photography Series 2 , , unless one knows that it was made at the site of one of the world's most famous photographs, Ansel Adams's Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. Following his own dictum of trying to avoid influencing the viewer with information in a title unless such information is essential, Josephson helpfully called this work Cemetery, Hernandez, N.
He originally intended to document a sunrise instead of a moonrise, but through a series of misadventures, which included driving past the site because the road sign identifying the town had been removed by locals to misdirect photography tourists, he arrived too late to photograph the sunrise. The resulting image of a ramshackle building with the iconic, now sad-looking, cemetery close at hand is masterful in demonstrating how photography is a medium that can be highly manipulated by the choice of perspective and by how much detail is offered.
The romance and mystery of the grand landscape of Adams is replaced by a more contemporary skepticism. Josephson threw off many of the strictures of twentieth-century photography, but in one regard he remains a traditionalist: the time-honored subject of the nude makes a frequent appearance in all his series.
Historically, for feminists and others, the nude as a subject has been a highly contentious issue, with concerns centering on the exploitation of women and the tyranny of the male gaze. Yet Josephson's nudes consistently signal collaboration with the model most are photographs of his wives or girlfriends , and the resulting images are not presented merely for their erotic or sensual qualities. As always, the idea behind the image predominates. Josephson's use of women as models who are familiar to him resembles that of the great practitioners of nude photography, such as Alfred Stieglitz, who did his best work with wife Georgia O'Keeffe, or Edward Weston, whose two wives and mistresses—including Margrethe Mather, Tina Modotti, and Charis Wilson—were memorialized in extraordinary images.
For Josephson, however, the eroticism of the female nude was largely conceptual. One of the early History of Photography works, Michigan History of Photography Series , , shows a Weston-like nude lying on a bed also presented as an independent work, Chicago, This photograph is inserted, upside down in an expanse of sand and rephotographed in these new surroundings.
It is a clear reference to Weston's famous series of Charis Wilson lying in the sand in Oceano, California; the sensuous nude depicted in Josephson's work makes the point that the sensuous nude in the Weston is also merely a photographic image. Michigan History of Photography Series , calls to mind Josephson's highly disciplined working habits. As he prepares to photograph, Josephson habitually carries images of made photographs with him that he thinks he might wish to employ in creating a new piece.
He had obviously been thinking about the image in Chicago, for a good length of time given the nine-year gap between the two related photographs. Like Weston and Stieglitz, Josephson had wives and lovers as muses. His first wife, Carol, tragically died from a brain tumor only a few short years into their marriage. A haunting portrait remains Carol, that features her face tilted up against a dark background, transformed into a virtual Noh mask.
The transformative quality of water is further explored in Nude in Water, Sherrill, the mother of Josephson's three children, whom he wed in , is in the bathtub, her rounded belly breaking the water line, forming a brilliant circle of reflected light. This work is all the more poignant because she is pregnant with Matthew, their first child, and thus it marks the beginning of Josephson's extraordinary photographic collaboration with this son.
For Josephson, the work also connects to Rebecca Salsbury Strand by Alfred Stieglitz, a portrait of the wife of Stieglitz's friend, photographer Paul Strand—an image Josephson greatly admires. In this erotic masterpiece, the fulsome torso floats, mostly submerged, the delicate tones of gray barely revealing the water line. Almost fifty years later, Josephson returned to the theme of a woman in a bathtub in M.
Z, ; the subject is his companion, Marilyn Zimmerwoman. This photograph especially speaks to Josephson's debt to surrealism, an influence he has freely cited over the years but which has garnered scant critical attention. Josephson's work, however, diverges considerably from classic surrealist photography, which is largely defined by the use of photographic techniques, including photograms and solarization, in the creation of bizarre or dreamlike imagery.
A recent example is a new entry in the Images within Images series, Marilyn, , in which Marilyn Zimmerwoman appears to merge almost magically with the image of Marilyn Monroe on a large poster. Josephson's third wife, Sally, appears in a number of works, including the naughty Polapan, In this work, the photographer placed a Polapan Polaroid of Sally's naked crotch over her lying fully clothed on a bed, granting the viewer the adolescent male fantasy of possessing X-ray vision.
In Chicago, , from the Marks and Evidences series, Sally's breasts are outlined by a contour gauge a tool used in wood- and metalworking , and in Chicago, , from the same series, a lightly held pencil, in a sort of archeological investigation, points out the lines of her underwear on her skin. Sally holds an empty photo mat in Sally, , creating an image within an image through this simple framing device. One of the most unusual, and surreal, of the images with Sally as a subject, however, is Chicago, , which shows a pair of legs, with sandals on the feet, emerging from a gigantic book, a windblown page forming a sensuous curve in the center of the composition.
This image was produced long before Laurie Simmons made her career showing works such as Walking Camera , which featured mock-ups of everyday objects with human legs. While many of the people who appear in Josephson's works are those he knows well—family members, lovers—a significant number feature anonymous people on the street. One of the most striking examples is Chicago, , which captures a man in profile, his head perfectly framed, walking in front of a painted Red Cross logo. The subject's light-colored hat and shirt form sensuous passages of white within the dark cross and background.
Other anonymous subjects include the veiled figure in Delhi, India, ; the shadows of anonymous passersby reflected in a store window in Chicago, ; and a female pedestrian's head, framed by a photo mat held up by Josephson, as she walks past a mural featuring a distorted skyscraper in Chicago, What we gain from [Josephson's] work is no less than the ability to see beyond the apparent reality of photographic description into the realm of photographic representation. I was at a New Year's Day gathering in A gentleman of pre-digital origins was standing, beaming with delight, amidst a cadre of old-timers like himself.
I thought immediately of Ken.
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If he'd witnessed this, his laughter would have burst forth like a rumble of thunder on a late summer's afternoon. Gnocchi indeed. How do we capture, process, and make sense of our existence, and perhaps most importantly, how do we remember it? More and more, it seems the answer is by using photography. Kenneth Josephson couldn't have envisioned, as almost none of us could have, an era in which the "selfie" would contribute millions of new images to our collective visual inventory every minute.
Nor could he have predicted that people would document their meals on Instagram, or post every snapshot that they take on their Facebook pages, or search the Internet for interesting, inspirational images to "pin" on their Pinterest boards. Indeed, it used to be hard , a technical challenge, to make a photograph.
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Josephson admits that one of his main reasons for working in black and white was the difficulty of developing and printing color film. A serious photographer needed cameras, various lenses, flash equipment, film, darkroom equipment, chemicals, photo paper, a tripod, filters, light meters, and other photo gadgets. Josephson said, in a interview, that he had purchased a great deal of equipment through the years. He had little trouble "seeing in color" after years devoted exclusively to black and white.
As he explained in a interview, when he is working in black and white, the colors in the scene he is contemplating don't influence him; he "sees" in terms of value, a habit developed over a period of time. When working in color, however, his ideas center on color. Josephson's toddler daughter, wearing a floral printed dress, is shown in a straightforward black-and-white image surrounded by a simple black frame, and both are mounted in the center of the actual dress hanging on a white plastic hanger.
The entire assemblage is presented in a shadow box. The deep blacks of the flower-print fabric in the photo are revealed to be bright red "in reality. The SX subjects tend to be casual, explorative. A number of them feature translucent orange drafting triangles that cast equally translucent shadows, as in Chicago, These same triangles figure in a number of black-and-white images, such as Chicago, Other works feature the nude in a more active and performative mode than in many of the black and whites, as in Untitled, , which shows a piece of fabric streaming up and out from a model's crotch.
This quote by Kenneth Josephson comes at the end of his personal reminiscences about his firstborn, published in the evocative and poignant book Matthew. He goes on to say, "I only know Matthew through photographs now. He is the small boy fitted into a rectangular box in Matthew, and swinging on a door handle in Matthew, , both widely published images. He is the little blonde boy in pinstriped overalls in the seminal Matthew, The images in the book demonstrate that Matthew was a collaborative model for some of the photographer's best-known and most personal works.
Matthew, is one of those images that seem like they must have been staged, at least in part. The contact sheet of the negative strip , however, shows the clear progression Josephson nimbly captured, being well prepared for such situations as they arose. In the first frame, Matthew appears to be puzzling over this thing in his hands, a Polaroid of him just made by his father.
In the next two frames, he is shown holding the Polaroid up to his eye, using it as a camera, and cocking his little index finger in imitation of snapping a picture. In the next frame he laughs, as if he is in on the joke of taking a picture with a picture.
In the last frame he puts the photo right side up against the brick wall that forms the backdrop for all the shots, and points to himself, his face now serious in the way only a young child's can be when figuring out the world. Given the fact that children imitate their parents, it is not surprising that this toddler would have behaved this way around a father who constantly had a he camera obscuring his face, snapping away with his index finger.
Josephson also explains that the photograph would have been translucent and that Matthew would have been able to see through it, to some degree. Frankly, for those familiar with Josephson's oeuvre, his being a family man is not what immediately comes to mind, certainly not in the way one thinks of that great chronicler of childhood, Sally Mann, or of Josephson's mentor, Harry Callahan.
But collected together as they were in the book Matthew , the photos of Josephson's firstborn are revealed to be remarkably tender, and they perceptively record what it is to be a child. Matthew rolls on the floor with newspaper comics in Matthew, , and holds up a translucent piece of paper on which he's done a drawing in Matthew, Josephson's daughter Anissa also appears in iconic works, such as Anissa, , which places a snapshot of the baby reaching toward the camera, her face slightly out of focus, atop a photo of her being snapped.
It takes a few moments to realize that the snapshot that obscures the photograph is in fact the image that was being captured at the time of Josephson's recording of the scene between mother and child. This tenderness without sentimentality is a rare thing, a value transmitted to Josephson by Harry Callahan seen in his extraordinary photographs of his wife and daughter, including Eleanor and Barbara, Chicago in the s was a bleak place.
When not deep in shadows, the city was an unremitting gray. The brick and stone and metal of the buildings and the bridges and the elevated tracks provided a harsh counterpoint to human flesh, and that flesh was typically encased in dark, thick clothing: hats on the men and gloves on the women, overcoats that protected against the seemingly endless cold winds.
In this cold, bleak world, Callahan posed a young wife and toddler child against the background of a pipe and slabs of concrete. At that moment, Callahan apparently found the shades of gray provided by the cold concrete backdrop more interesting than the beloved flesh of his family, as the figures are tiny within the composition. Yet the warmth and trust the subjects felt for their chronicler shines out in the face and posture of Eleanor. The casually deposited bag to her left further humanizes what otherwise would be a formal study of lights and darks. In , paralleling Callahan's work, Josephson photographed his wife Sally, sons Bradley and Matthew, and daughter Anissa, along with the family pet, Zorba, against a geometric concrete background.
But it was summer, judging from the sitters' clothing, and the bright sunlight cast deep shadows. The poses are much less formal than those of the stock-straight Eleanor and Barbara in Callahan's photo. Anissa tilts to one side and Zorba perhaps is scratching himself because he's rather blurred. Flat on her back, Sally relaxes, her gaze turned to the sky, and the boys seem to be in the middle of trying to slide down the concrete slabs on which their father has asked them to pose.
As in the Callahan photograph, this is a rather anonymous urban space. Since Kenneth Josephson relocated from Detroit to attend the Institute of Design in , he has not lived anywhere but Chicago, except during yearlong guest-teaching stints, notably in Stockholm in , Honolulu in , Los Angeles in , and Saint-Etienne, France, in During his student days, and after separating from his wife Sherrill, he lived on Chicago's south side, near ID.
Il nous fascine.
Il est plein de belles histoires et de promesses ; plein de barbaries aussi. Elle est avec nous partout, toujours. Emigration massive des Juifs qui font leur Alya. Paru chez Gallimard le 3 avril avec un tirage de Comment ne pas aimer les moutons? A peine croyable! Parle pour toi rose! On tente de piger, mais que pouic, efforts vains. Avec celles de Philip Roth et de J. Gallimard, p. Du napalm. Pas la raillerie, pas la satire, pas le sarcasme. Vera en est la grande ordonnatrice. Mais sans doute ne savent-ils plus bien lire.
Un monde totalement corrompu. Tous des pourris, sauf Mimi.
Non, je plaisante! Mais si!
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Bon, pas tout de suite non plus. Ben non! Bon, soyons aimable.. Dans le genre, la critique de J. Naturellement, seuls une douzaine de commentaires sont pertinents. Comme quoi, chacun sa lecture. Je croyais pourtant avoir tout vu. Les gestes nous trahissent. Il se mire dans le visage des autres. Elle a soudainement 20 ans. Il est exclu du Parti communiste en Il arrive en France en et publie, en , La Valse aux adieux. Sinon, gare. Car de qui et de quoi sommes-nous les marionnettes, pour marcher avec de telles semelles de plomb? Je le sais.
Les sous-estime. Elle est avec nous partout et toujours. Le redire. Viva Kundera!