A LETTER TO HIROSHI WATANABE about his new book "The Day The Dam Collapses"

“The Day The Dam Collapses”
Daylight Books, 2014 © Hiroshi Watanabe

Dear Hiroshi,

I received your beautiful book, "The Day The Dam Collapses." I'm moved by both the images and the text. Actually I'm floored by the text. I relate to it in every way. You have put into words what everyone ignores each day while trying to control their lives and the lives of others around them. It is beyond Zen, even beyond Dharma taunting the principles of cosmic order.

I’ve always been drawn to your work beginning with your book, Findings. Then I discovered your theatrical images of traditional Noh Masks of the Naito Clan, Ena Bunraku puppets, Kabuki Players (I'm crazy about Marina Ema and Kazusa Ito), and later, Suo Sarumawashi, the "Monkey Dancing" portraits. You took a different turn in your series "Love Point,” photographing artificial Japanese Sex Dolls as models, along with almost identical live models. 

And now, the images in your new book balance somewhere between the real world and images pulled to form a single kigo. What is meant to be your point of view in this work?

Hiroshi Watanabe: I have been struggling to write my thoughts on the topic. Writing is always hard for me, but this time is harder. I am not sure if I put words together correctly.

If I have to say succinctly what my point of view is in this book, it will be simply, “there is no point.” I don't know what the truth is for sure, and you probably don't know it for sure, either. But I am thinking about it, and thus I am curious. That is why I keep looking and I keep photographing. For me, fact/reality comes first and my point of view later. This approach of mine is probably the opposite of most artists'. Most artists start with ideas, convictions, or sometimes by divine afflatus, to create something. They have the talent and they have the intelligence; they have the goals and they lead others to the artists' visions. They use art to convince others of their points of views. But I sometimes wonder--isn't reality (things happening outside) much more surprising and more creative than one can conjure up in his/her mind? Isn't the outside world more interesting and intriguing than their closed "originality"?

EA: What came first; your text, or your images?

HW: In my work, images always come first. I photograph what I am intrigued by--things that puzzle me and make me curious. Then I gather what I photographed and start thinking about the images--why I photographed them--why they are important to me, and so on..... then I edit them and put together a body of work. Only after that, I start working on text. It is always a struggle for me and I do it only to the extent that is necessary.

EA: What is your "artist statement" for this work?

HW: Here is a small section of the text from the book:
Disaster movies, like the ones with infernos, big earthquakes, or the arrival of aliens, often begin with depictions of normal daily life. For instance, we watch a mother trying to wake up a child, who resists getting up but then runs to school without having breakfast, while the mother shakes her head as her husband ignores the whole episode with his face buried in the newspaper. These mundane scenes are usually avoided in other types of movies, but they bear importance in disaster movies. The viewers know that what they are watching is a disaster movie, and so they sense these mundane scenes are in fact preludes to the terrible and unusual thing that will happen to the people on the screen.
What is important here is the fact that while the audience anticipates it, the movie characters do not know they may be involved in a huge, horrible disaster. The audience is in a sense like prophets looking down from above the clouds on the people who are living peacefully only because they are not aware of what is about to happen.
The truth is, we are all living like the characters in a disaster movie. We know we may some day face a disaster or a terrible event, but we keep living calmly because we do not know exactly what might occur and when it would be....”

“...someday I will be swallowed by the rush of the water from the broken dam and die happily, without knowing the true meaning of my life.” 

–Watanabe, Hiroshi. The Day the Dam Collapses. Daylight Books, Fall, 2014

EA: Have your children influenced your observations in your life?

HW: I am almost hesitant to say this because it is such a cliché, but it is true that children teach parents much more than parents do children. Children are curious about everything around them and they see small details that we don't see. This morning, my son stopped on the way to school, squatted down, and kept staring at a half-dried dying worm on the sidewalk until I told him that we had to go. I would never have noticed it if he didn't make me stop and look. This sort of things happens all the time. In my book, there are many small lives dead or dying. I think I started noticing them because he opened my eyes.

EA: How did this book - as a whole - come about?

HW: Initially I did not mean to start this body of work. After my son was born 6 years ago, I could not carry my usual camera, a Hasselblad.  Instead, I had to carry the baby along with diapers and bottles when we went out. I was also asked to take family pictures. So, I started to carry a small digital camera. And I stopped looking around for some time. But then I started to see things and I could not resist to photograph them.  So, I used what I had--a small digital camera to record what I saw. For five years, I took pictures of things, without much intention, that I could not ignore.  I saw and photographed many small lives, dead or dying.  Later I found these images on my computer in between my happy pictures of my happy life. I gathered them and I started to think why I took those pictures. That was how it came about.

EA: You once told me over the phone when I worked at photo-eye Gallery that you were either inspired by or influenced by Richard Avedon's photographs. 

HW: I remember talking about Richard Avedon with you. I’m not exaggerating if I say he is the biggest reason I got into photography. When I was in high school I saw the movie "Blow up" by Michelangelo Antonioni. The photographer in that movie was supposed to be modeled after David Bailey. I was young and I thought it was "cool" to be a fashion photographer. With that reason and with my way of avoiding the rigor of studying, I told my parents that I wanted to study photography in a university in Tokyo.

Richard Avedon was the most famous and coolest fashion photographer at that time, and I dreamed to be someone like him. That is why I came to U.S. (although I went to L.A. instead of N.Y.). Years passed and I happened to be in N.Y. around the year 2000 when the Whitney Museum was doing a big exhibition of Richard Avedon's work. There I saw his portrait work very closely and was amazed by the impact of those photographs. For the first time I felt like I was facing and staring at those famous people in person, as if I was just an inch away. Skin, wrinkles, eyeballs, hair, and expressions were there to see.

Strangely we always try not to see people's faces much when we stand in front of them. It is not nice to stare at people. That is what we were taught. So, being able to stare at faces for a long time was a big surprise for me. With photography we can do that. Photography helps us to find, look, and study.

EA: Hiroshi, once again it was great talking with you. Thank you for your time. 

All the best, Elizabeth.

 Photograph © Hiroshi Watanabe

 Photograph © Hiroshi Watanabe
 Photograph © Hiroshi Watanabe

Photograph © Hiroshi Watanabe

  The Day the Dam Collapses by Hiroshi Watanabe

Daylight Books / Tosei-sha, Japan

Photograph © Hiroshi Watanabe

Photograph © Hiroshi Watanabe

Photograph © Hiroshi Watanabe

The Day the Dam Collapses, By Hiroshi Watanabe
Daylight Books, 2014. 88 pp., 66 color illustrations, 7½x9½"
Published in conjunction with Tosei-sha Publishing Co., Japan



SAUL LEITER: Early Black and White Photography from the 1940's and 50's

Jean, c. 1948
Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

Scarf, c.1948
Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

Debra and Regina, c.1948
Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

‘He has a rapturous way with color, which stems from his love of the masters of modern art,’ writes Max Kozloff in the introduction to "Saul Leiter: Early Black and White." ‘But his black and white production is just as indebted to lessons he learned from those same masters.’

Saul Leiter 
to October 25, 2014

Saul Leiter, presented by Howard Greenberg Gallery, represents the first solo show of the artist’s early black and white photography from the 1940s and 50s, focus's on more than 40 images including many unique prints that have never before been exhibited. Leiter made an enormous and unique contribution to photography with a highly prolific period in New York City in the 1940s and 50s. His abstracted forms and radically innovative compositions have a painterly quality that stands out among the work of his New York School contemporaries. Well-known for his color work, Leiter’s earliest black and white photographs also show an extraordinary affinity for the medium. His distinctive imagery stems from his profound and touching response to the dynamic street life of New York City. This show includes the artist’s iconic street photography and intimate portraits of friends and family.

The exhibition coincides with the publication of "Saul Leiter: Early Black and White" a two-volume monograph published by Steidl / Howard Greenberg Library, a new imprint at Steidl. With text by Max Kozolff and an additional essay by Jane Livingston, the volumes show the impressive range of Leiter’s early photography.

From Wedding as a Funeral, c.1951
Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

LIFE Magazine, September 3, 1951
"Saul Leiter, who is a young free-lance photographer, spends a great deal of his time searching for incongruity...."text accompanying Leiter's award winning "Young Photographers Contest" spread in Life Magazine, displayed at Howard Greenberg Gallery.

Saul Leiter's 1951 LIFE Magazine "Young Photographers Contest" Entries displayed at Howard Greenberg Gallery.

Wedding as a Funeral, c.1951

Saul Leiter 
41 East 57 St NY NY
to October 25, 2014 

Many thanks to Howard Greenberg Gallery for images and text


YOLA MONAKHOV STOCKTON: Fields of Inquiry opens at Alice Austen House Museum

  Blue China, 2011
Northern Cardinal, Manomet, Massachusetts 
Photograph © Yola Monakhov Stockton

Tapestry, 2013
Tufted Titmouse, Manomet, Massachusetts 
Photograph © Yola Monakhov Stockton

 Ivory Gate, 2013
Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Manomet, Massachusetts
Photograph © Yola Monakhov Stockton

"By collaborating with scientists, ecologists, and naturalists, I gain access to wild birds captured for banding or captive birds in a research lab, and bring them into conversation with motifs common in religious iconography, ideas of the sublime, and transcendentalism, including horticulture, wilderness, Renaissance depictions of landscape in frescoes and tapestries, and Modernist painting and sculpture."– Yola Monakhov, "Field Guide To Bird Songs" (Schilt Publishing, 2015)

  Young Man in Quarry, 2009. Westchester, New York
Photograph © Yola Monakhov Stockton

Sing Sing Prison with Bird and Fawn, 2011.
Ossining, New York
Photograph © Yola Monakhov Stockton

"For years, New York based photographer Yola Monakhov honed her craft documenting the conflict in the Middle East and with personal projects in Russia. But after completing her MFA in photography at Columbia in 2007 and accepting a position teaching introduction to photography there, Monakhov realized that she longed for the complete control that the black and white medium allows. In Empire Pictures, she approaches her subject matter much in the same way as she did when shooting news stories abroad but chooses instead to slow down the process." read more, "Yola Monakhov's Empire State" by Natalie Matutschovsky, TIME LightBox

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Join the Alice Austen House for the opening of their newest exhibition, "Fields of Inquiry: Photographs by Yola Monakhov Stockton." The show features work from two series Field Guide to Bird Songs and Empire Picture of the Hudson. Stockton's work provides commentary on the photographic process through traditional documentary photography and constructed compositions. Curated by Natalie Matutschovsky, senior photo editor, TIME

"Fields of Inquiry"
Photographs by Yola Monakhov Stockton
09/21/14– 12/28/14

Exhibition Opening 
Sunday, September 21, 11am-5pm

2 Hylan Blvd at Edgewater Street
Staten Island, New York

Austen lived in “Clear Comfort,” a Victorian Gothic cottage that dates back to a 1690. The house, which is one of the oldest in New York and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1973, overlooks the New York Narrows and has a stunning panoramic view of lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Verrazano Bridge.

Directions from Manhattan by Staten Island Ferry: Subway to South Ferry (1), Whitehall Street (N/R), or Bowling Green Station (4/5) or bus or taxi to: Staten Island Ferry (25 minute ride). At the ferry terminal in Staten Island #S51 Bus to Hylan Boulevard (15 minute ride). Walk one block east to water and Alice Austen House.

Alice Austen House keeps alive the daring spirit of early American photographer Alice Austen (1866-1952) with exhibits and programs in her historic home. Austen was one of America's earliest and most prolific female photographers, and over the course of her life she captured about 8,000 images. Though she is best known for her documentary work, Austen was an artist with a strong aesthetic sensibility. Furthermore, she was a landscape designer, a master tennis player, and the first woman on Staten Island to own a car. She never married, and instead spent fifty years with Gertrude Tate. A rebel who broke away from the ties of her Victorian environment, Alice Austen created her own independent life.


PHOTOVILLE: SVA BFA Alumni Exhibition In Brooklyn Bridge Park

Photograph © Nir Arieli

Photograph © Supranav Dash

An Exhibition of Works by select School of Visual Arts BFA Photography Alumni from the classes of 2013 and 2012. Curated by Department Chair Stephen Frailey for PHOTOVILLE, a Public Exhibition Space built from Shipping Containers in the heart of Brooklyn Bridge Park.

9/18 – 9/28

9/18 – 9/28


NICHOLAS VREELAND: Street Photography

Navigating Monsoons, Hubli, India
Photograph © Nicholas Vreeland
(please double-click to enlarge!)

Lodi Gardens, Delhi, India
Photograph © Nicholas Vreeland

Lodi Gardens, Delhi, India
Photograph © Nicholas Vreeland

Nicholas Vreeland is a Buddhist monk who loves photography. He's had a long history on that front acquiring skills assisting Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, and from his friends Henri Cartier-Bresson and wife Martine Franck - before and after becoming a Buddhist monk. He is now a rather famous monk, having several titles. He is also known as Ven. Geshe Thupten Lhundup, a fully ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk, who is now the abbot of Rato Dratsang.

In May of 2012, the Dalai Lama gave Nicholas, then Director of The Tibet Center in New York, a daunting new assignment. He was enthroned as the new Abbot of Rato Monastery in southern India, one of the most important monasteries in Tibetan Buddhism. He is the first Westerner to hold the position as Khen Rinpoche.

 Nicholas Vreeland, Bodhgaya, India 1986
Photograph © Elizabeth Paul Avedon

Nicholas Vreeland (above as a novice monk) leaving to receive his full ordination bestowed by H.H. 14th Dalai Lama, early morning, December 1986, The Ashoka Hotel, Bodhgaya, India. Accompanied by Jamyang Chojor of Tibet, nephew of Khyongla Rato Rinpoche. Photograph © Elizabeth Paul Avedon.

 Nicholas Vreeland, Broadway, NY 2012
 Photograph © Elizabeth Paul Avedon

Nicholas Vreeland on his way to his solo photography exhibition at the Leica Gallery, Broadway, New York, 2012.

GREG GORMAN: 'Portraits' Opens in Berlin

Andy Warhol, Los Angeles, 1986
Photograph © Greg Gorman
Archival Pigment Print 50 x 40 inch
courtesy galerie hiltawsky

Tom Waits, Los Angeles, 1980
Photograph © Greg Gorman
Silver Gelatin Print 20 x 24 inch
courtesy galerie hiltawsky

American photographer Greg Gorman's exhibition PORTRAITS opens at Berlin-based galerie hiltawsky, September 13th. The 30+ portraits include actors Jeff Bridges, Robert De Niro, Leonardo de Caprio, Marlon Brando, Sophia Loren, Johnny Depp; music legends David Bowie, Jim Morrison, Tom Waits, Michael Jackson, Frank Zappa, and Philip Glass; and Pop Art icon Andy Warhol, to name a few. Many of these iconic black-and-white images became movie posters, covers of CDs or appeared in Life, Newsweek, Vogue and Rolling Stone magazines.

Greg Gorman: Portraits
Opening: September 12, 7 pm
September 13 – November 9, 2014
galerie hiltawsky, Berlin


VALERIO SPADA: Gomorrah Girl, The Interview

"Gomorrah Girl" © 2014 Valerio Spada

"Gomorrah Girl" © 2014 Valerio Spada

"Gomorrah Girl" © 2014 Valerio Spada

Valerio Spada Talks To Elizabeth Avedon: Gomorrah Girl

In Gomorrah Girl, Valerio Spada tells the story of the murder of Annalisa Durante, a young woman caught in the crossfire of a Mafia shootout, and the problems of growing up in a crime-ridden area. Bound together through an innovative, book-within-a-book design, are Spada’s photographs documenting adolescence in the land of Camorrah (the name for the Mafia in Naples) and pages detail the police investigation. Twin Palms Publishers will release a new edition this Fall.

Excerpts from my

Elizabeth Avedon: How did you conceive Gomorrah Girl?

Valerio Spada: I had not thought of it as a book. After several years of shooting in Naples and after some fights and threats in the streets that were by far too dangerous for any meaning when you compare the value of your life to a picture, I decided it was time to stop and think about giving a shape to what I was documenting and the book form was there to save me. The book wasn’t ready, but I’d started to be more aware of what I was missing and taking the pictures needed to complete the book became easier.

EA: How did you arrive at such decisions to make this book?

VS: The Procura della Repubblica (higher grade than police in Italy) denied me permission to shoot the evidence of Annalisa’s murder; they told me I could take pictures of their pictures if I wanted. They offered me their original notebook with forensic pictures in it and gave me, as a gift, some 4x6” prints, which I’ve found amazing. It was 2010 and the day was depressing, since I wanted to photograph the original evidence from the murder. I was obsessed by Annalisa’s delicate beauty and the bullet that killed her. It was a contrast too strong to handle, but I decided to get to the heart of it. After several months I went back to the photos in the notebook, and began to picture them each as a page and thought, this will be a book within a book. It was like rewriting that history today with girls that are, to my eyes, like Annalisa, never forgetting the background of where they lived their lives. 
Read the entire  

Gomorrah Girl by Valerio Spada
Unique hand assembled book with fold-out hard cover case

Twin Palms Publishers, Fall 2014

Gomorrah Girl by Valerio Spada
Twin Palms Publishers, Fall 2014

Gomorrah Girl by Valerio Spada
Twin Palms Publishers: Fall, 2014
9 x 13", casebound. 54-color plates, 78 pages
First Edition, $85
ISBN 978-1-936611-07-2


LORETTA AYEROFF: Photography at LACMA, Class Starting September 13th

Mountain View, Edris Drive
Los Angeles: Dedicated To Raymond Chandler
Photograph © Loretta Ayeroff

Pool and Cactus
The Motel Series, Desert Hot Springs, Ca
Photograph © Loretta Ayeroff

Hollywood and Highland, From My Car
Photograph © Loretta Ayeroff

Orange Umbrella
The Motel Series, Desert Hot Springs, Ca
Photograph © Loretta Ayeroff

"If I lived in L.A., I wouldn't miss this class!"–Elizabeth Avedon
Create a body of work, inspired by LACMA’s collections. Simplify camera controls and design principles to best express your vision. Includes 4 daytime on-campus photo shoots and 1 twilight (late afternoon) class. All camera formats welcomed. The class will be guided by fine art and editorial photographer, Loretta Ayeroff.

5 Saturdays: September 13, 27, October 11*, 18, 25. LACMA, classes meet on the Los Angeles Times Central Court | 10 am–1 pm; *except the October 11th class will be held from 5 to 8 pm. Bring your camera manual to the first class. Parking fees included in tuition; limited enrollment. Tickets: #323-857-6010. Online here

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"Loretta Ayeroff is an editorial and fine art photographer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles, California, New West, and Westways Magazines, amongst other publications. She has taught photography at UCLA Extension; Otis College of Art+Design, Continuing Education Dept., where she ran the AFA Photography Certificate Program for several years; currently teaching at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Loretta has coordinated documentary film series for Otis College of Art+Design and The J. Paul Getty Museum. Her personal work is in several permanent collections, including the Palm Springs Art Museum, where she was included in “Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography, 1945-1982” part of the 2012 Getty Trust Initiative “Pacific Standard Time: Art in Los Angeles, 1945-1980.” She considers the camera her best friend."

Sid Caesar, Men Series, 1985
Photograph © 1985 Loretta Ayeroff

Ansel Adams, Men Series, 1980
Photograph © 1980 Loretta Ayeroff