Bringing Attention To Important Topics Through The Use Of Humor

by Pierre Beteille I am proud to say that the Annenberg Space for Photography's "Digital Darkroom" is my very first photography exhibition. I was excited to be given the opportunity to go to the show's public opening and witness, for the first time, people react (if they reacted at all!) to my images in a public setting. I take my photographs in my apartment in France!!

by Pierre Beteille I am proud to say that the Annenberg Space for Photography's "Digital Darkroom" is my very first photography exhibition. I was excited to be given the opportunity to go to the show's public opening and witness, for the first time, people react (if they reacted at all!) to my images in a public setting. I take my photographs in my apartment in France. I mostly shoot self-portraits and work alone, without an assistant. As a result, I have no direct feedback on my work. Of course, I get comments and messages from people on the Internet, but they inevitably come only from those who are receptive to my work. Coming to Los Angeles for "Digital Darkroom" was really my first opportunity to see people's instinctive reactions - either good or bad - in person. While it may seem rather childish and narcissistic satisfaction, to see people smile and react with such pleasure to my photos brought me an incredible sense of fulfillment. My work sometimes deals with serious issues that are important to me but I try to juxtapose the more solemn subjects with humor. For example, my latest photos focus on the speculation on the cereal markets and the nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in Japan. Glamorous themes, aren't they? My goal is to make people think about these important topics without boring them or putting them off, and the only way I can accomplish this is through the use of humor or satire. Humor can sometimes be very specific to different cultures, and I was not sure that it would be perceived in the same way from one continent to another. This is why one of my fears was to see people remain indifferent to my pictures. On the day of the "Digital Darkroom" public opening, a young girl in a wheelchair visiting the Photography Space came to me and with a great big smile said to me, about my photographs, "Thank you; you made me laugh." Even if I am a big boy, I must confess that I was very moved and that it almost brought tears to my eyes. This single sentence is the most beautiful reward and the best encouragement that I could receive for my work. Thank you all for your smiles! Pierre Beteille is a self-taught talent in Paris who has an unbridled humor and wit. He takes pride in never having read a book, watched a tutorial or taken a class on photo manipulation. His digital creations are highly original, each image functioning as both a punchline and an act of rebellion. See his work in "Digital Darkroom" which runs from December 17, 2011 - May 28, 2012.

Grace Jones is Chris Levine's 'Superstar'

For Grace Jones' 2009 "The Hurricane Tour," "Digital Darkroom" photographer Chris Levine designed an element of the show in which a laser shined at the lustrous Swarovski crystal-encrusted bowler hat the singer wore during her performance of "Love is the Drug." This created a surreal and magical effect on stage that mesmerized the audience. Levine recreated the moment for his stunning photograph of Jones, entitled Superstar, which is above,

Said Chris about the moment in the show: "I got the Royal Festival Hall (in London) to take all lights to black out when we did it first time. The laser coming directly down from above onto (her) crystal headpiece...the audience went wild. It was a magical moment-a kind of flash point. Grace was back! It has to be one of the best live shows I had ever seen by any artist. It was electrifying!"

Want to see for yourself how well Levine's design played out during the show? Then watch Jones' "electrifying" performance of the song in the clip below.

Claudia Kunin On Her Debut At The Photography Space

by Claudia Kunin

I first visited the Annenberg Space for Photography during it's grand nighttime gala opening in March, 2009 and was truly wowed by its dedication to the exhibition of digital photography. Here was this eye-shaped gallery with gigantic digital displays in a darkened atmosphere. It was the first time I had ever seen a space like it. In fact, I don't think there is another like it in the world! For me, a dream was set in motion that night: I wanted to show my work in the Photography Space.

I didn't know how I would go about doing it.....as it seems that promoting one's own work is often times fruitless. It was in April of 2010 that I met Pat Lanza, the passionate genius, behind-the-scenes curator at the Annenberg Space for Photography, and she told me that my work would be perfect for an upcoming show she was putting together called "Digital Darkroom." Huzzah!

Now here I am, part of a fabulous group of 17 talented artists lighting up the walls at the Photography Space. Because I knew I was going to be part of the show, it inspired me to push myself further, beyond the technological boundaries I had previously been working in. I put my nose to the grindstone, learning how to animate my pieces so they could be projected at the Photography Space. I'm proud to say that my work will indeed be shown in that mysterious eye-shaped room - 3D animations and all. I am so very excited to have a long term goal come to fruition. Just another example of how the impossible can be made possible!

Claudia Kunin worked for years as a commercial photographer before experiencing a transformational moment and devoting her life to fine art photography. Her 3D photography is dedicated to exploring the past, making connections and expressing the inexpressible. See her work in "Digital Darkroom" which runs from December 17, 2011 - May 28, 2012.

Ted Grudowski: "Go Into a World that Doesn't Exist Anywhere Else"

By now many of you have seen Ted Grudowski's incredible 3D photography in "Digital Darkroom." His exhibited work includes images that feature Bruce Springstreen and U2's The Edge. Watch this short video (it's less than 2 minutes) and learn more about how Grudowski goes about creating his photographs. Also, don't forget that you can look through all of the 3D images in the print show here.

Digital Darkroom Hands-On Workshop

The Annenberg Space for Photography recently hosted students from local colleges and art schools enrolled in photography classes for a "Digital Darkroom" special, hands-on workshop with Bonny Pierce Lhotka and Russell Brown.

Bonny taught the attendees how to print the photos on treated aluminum plates to create a vintage tintype look.

While Russell gave an introduction to using mobile software apps with lots of opportunity for creative expression and, as you can see, included various props, costumes and various backgrounds.

Bonny taught the "cooking" of aluminum plates to create antique surfaces that look decades old.

After distressing, washing and cooking the plates, participants will compose and alter both the plate and the image that has been printed on a transfer film. Bonny will show how to easily transfer your print to the aged plate resulting in a new vintage tintype look. Check out the great results!

Coming back to Russell's portion, shared tips and techniques for enhancing the photos taken by the students and also explained how to achieve a classic look and feel as well as how to prepare the final image for printing.

It was a unique learning experience for everyone involved. Looks like no only did everyone have fun but they produced some impressive work!

Chris Levine's Vision Comes To Life

By Chris Levine

In 2004, I was commissioned by the Island of Jersey to create a modern portrait of the Queen of England to commemorate the island's 800 years of allegiance to the crown. When word came back from the palace that Her Majesty 'was tickled by the idea of being made into a hologram' things got serious and a date was put in the diary for the shoot. When I initially got the call for the commission, I thought it was someone playing games. It seemed so far-fetched and hard to believe that, until an official date was set,  I told myself that shouldn't get too attached to the idea because I imagined it would all fall through. It was of course a great privilege and honour to be selected and it was a commission I put my heart and soul into. I couldn't have imagined the success of the work today.

As the project gained momentum I went through a series of reality checks. I am not a holographer though my vision for the piece was holographic. I chose as my collaborators the creative holographers Rob Munday and Jeffrey Robb who I'd worked with on many occasions and had made some incredible holograms together, and the US master holographer Dr John Perry who produced the original hologram as shown at Buckingham Palace and the Jersey Museum in 2004 as unveiled by Prince Charles. These were in my opinion the world's leading holographers and my ideal team. Luckily they all accepted the invitation to get involved. My assistant Nina Duncan was selected for me by the office of my friend the fashion photographer Mario Testino and I had the confidence of a highly capable team behind me. In developing the creative direction for the work, the inspiration came to me through my practice of meditation. [www.dhamma.org] and both images "Equanimity" and "Lightness of Being" relate fundamentally to meditative practice. I wanted to develop a piece of work that would be timeless and not bound by any iconography or stylistic language and resisted the use of any props or suggestive devices in the image. The portrayal of Her Majesty was in itself to communicate the basis of the relationship with the monarch and the Island and is intended to convey a sense of power and dignity in perfect harmony, equanimous to all. I got to choose Her Majesty's attire with her dresser Angela Kelly including the beautiful diadem she wore for the shoot. It was a surreal moment when Her Majesty arrived on the date, on time, wearing the clothes I had selected for her. I was very happy with the results of the first sitting though we had some frustrating technical issues on the day.

Within minutes of the first sitting being complete, one of Her Majesty's aides came to me and said that the Queen had enjoyed the sitting and if I'd like another to please write. Of course I was overjoyed to have another sitting and in the benefit of hindsight with one sitting under my belt, I decided on some fundamental changes to my camera angles and lighting and the work published is all from the second sitting. Perhaps one day I will show work from the first sitting which is in fact quite different. I also captured images of Her Majesty using a laser scanner 3D data and have yet to explore that material. "Equanimity" was the working title as used in the development stages of the project and I proposed it to Her Majesty and we agreed it as the formal title at Windsor Castle 2004. During the same meeting, the final choice of image for production as a hologram was made. The sense of stillness and calm was in part captured by through timing the exposures with the breathing cycle of Her Majesty as she sat for the lengthy exposures. The work has had extensive coverage around the world and I created a body of work out of the material from the sittings.

To commemorate the Diamond Jubilee this year, I worked again with holographer Rob Munday to use the original image sequence to create a holographic postage stamp for the Island of Jersey. It is to be mass produced using an advanced holographic dye process whereby a relief pattern of the holographic data is pressed into metallised foil. When light hits the surface of the foil, it is diffracted into the form of the image, a perfect scale reproduction of the original hologram. The stamp will be released by Jersey Post in June 2012. The image "Equanimity" will also appear on the forthcoming 100 pound bank note to be released this year. Both "Lightness of Being" and "Equanimity" will be featured in the forthcoming Queen Art and Image show at the National Portrait Gallery in London in May 2012, the first and final pieces in the show that celebrates the imagery that has been created of the most portrayed woman in history. Sometimes I have to pinch myself.

Chris Levine burst onto the scene in 2004 when he was hired to take the first 3D photographs of Queen Elizabeth II. He calls what he does “light-based work,” utilizing lasers, lenticular images and other cutting-edge techniques. See his work in "Digital Darkroom" which runs from December 17, 2011 - May 28, 2012.

Above two photos © Nina Duncan

In Focus: Jerry Uelsmann

Decades before the advent of Photoshop, Jerry Uelsmann was already creating an impressive and groundbreaking collection of photographic work. His darkroom-developed images combining multiple negatives would ultimately lead to a revolution of mid-20th century photography and a career that spans five decades. His black and white images are part of the Annenberg Space for Photography’s current exhibition, Digital Darkroom. We are thrilled to have Uelsmann as one of our featured artists and excited to learn what the “forefather” of manipulated photography may be up to next.

Born in Detroit in 1934, Uelsmann developed an interest in photography as a teenager.  After receiving his MFA from Indiana University, he began teaching photography at the University of Florida in 1960. It was during this decade that other photographers would evaluate his work of combining unrelated negatives into imaginary and fantastical scenes as not being true photography. Uelsmann says “I would show my work to other photographers, they’d always say, ‘Well, this is interesting, but this is not photography.’ I’d buy the same cameras, spend hours in the darkroom, but somehow they were locked in to the sort of documentary, camera-conceived imagery tradition, which still dominates photography.”

A major break for Uelsmann occurred in 1967, when his images were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.  His collection of work, that just a few years earlier had been criticized, was now viewed by a dedicated faction as avant-garde and boundary breaking. “It was like being blessed by the Pope,” he later joked about the experience. Uelsmann would continue to defy and challenge tradition over the following decades leading to a retrospective of his work with the publication of “The Mind’s Eye” encompassing fifty years of his photography.

Despite the readily accessible digital photography programs such as Photoshop, Uelsmann has no interest in changing his work routine, even now at 77 years old. When recently asked why he continues to work in the darkroom, rather than transition to digital he said, “I fell in love with the alchemy of the photographic process and to this day, watching that print come up in the developer is magic for me. I still find it a wonderful, challenging experience.”

Learn more about master craftsman Jerry Uelsmann with a visit to the Annenberg Space for Photography. You can catch his surreal images along with the work of our additional sixteen featured artists in Digital Darkroom now through May 28th.

The Final Days of Digital Darkroom

The last day to see Digital Darkroom is May 28 (Memorial Day!) and that date is right around the corner. Not only does that mean that those lovely street banners all over town will be coming down soon but so will the photographs currently hanging on the ASP gallery walls. Seems like the show just opened but in fact there are only a few mere weeks left to see the exhibit in person.

For those who have yet to experience Digital Darkroom, come for the first time and for those who have, drop by for a second or even third time! Pick up a pair of free 3D glasses and enjoy the 3D images on display; watch the original 30-minute documentary film in beautiful 4K resolution; See the 14-minute 3D film in our special screening room; Most of all, come immerse yourself in the astounding worlds created by the 17 artists and photographers.

Richard Ehrlich Steps Up to the IRIS Nights Podium

Photographer Richard Ehrlich opened up his IRIS Nights lecture last night by saying that he loved quotes so much that he would incorporate many of them into his presentation. His first quote of the night was a light-hearted one by photographer Elliott Erwitt: "It's about time we started to take photography seriously and treat it as a hobby."

Richard stressed that he wanted his lecture to provide him an opportunity to be an advocate for photo manipulation, or rather, photo optimization as he prefers to call it. Tinkering with photos, he said, has been a part of photography since the medium's inception in the 19th Century.

He pointed out that the cannonballs in this photo taken during the Crimean War had been added to the original photo over 150 years ago. A convincing image even by today's standards.

Another favorite quote by Richard is credited to Richard Avedon: "A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth."

Richard talked in depth about the "decisive moment," the point in time that a photographer finds the right image. Learn more about his thoughts on this when his lecture is posted on our website very soon.

He also spoke about recent technological advances with digital cameras, detailing the impressiveness of Femto photography and the amazing Lytro and Red cameras.

One of our favorite quotes of the night was said by none other than the man of the hour himself. Said Richard, "There's nothing like the ability to realize your dream and the imagination than the digital." We couldn't agree more.

Thanks for such a great lecture, Richard! Check back soon to view his lecture online.

You can learn more about Richard on his official website.

All images by Unique for the Space

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