Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Construction without consensus

Certainly everyone in Stuttgart and most people who read the news in Germany is aware of the controversy around the plans to bury the train station in the city.

The documentary film maker Gary Hustwit highlighted the problems in Urbanized (2011). In the part about Stuttgart 21 the main arguments for and against the project are brought to light. At the end of this section there is some footage about the major protest from September 30, 2010, which shocked not only the citizens of this rich and peaceful city but also people around the globe. How did it come to this?

The project has torn up our city, divided our friends into two camps and is threatening to send fissures through our walls as tunnels are dug through town. When the drill starts turning 50' under my house, I'll let you know if I can feel it.

In my exhibition of 33 photographs at the Carl-Schurz-Haus in Freiburg, you can see from now until Sept. 11, 2013, what I observed as I walked through town these past five years.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Stuttgart 21: Construction without consensus

The time is rife. After years of photographing the changes in the city of Stuttgart that this massive project have brought with it, I am finally going to be able to show a selection of these pictures in a solo exhibition in Freibug.

   Too many people failed to take seriously the plans put forth by the Deutsche Bahn and the city of Stuttgart for a complete overhaul of the terminal train station here. The 16 tracks will be squeezed into an underground tunnel just wide enough for 8 tracks and will run perpendicular to the present train lines. The real estate that has been freed up by this plan has already been sold to investors to offset some of the costs of the construction. The current state of the site can be viewed in the various webcams set up by the Bahn for this purpose. Time-lapse films of the tree felling in the park and other big steps in the construction process can also be viewed online.

   Please join me for the opening of the show at 7 p.m. on August 7, 2014, at the Carl-Schurz-Haus in Freiburg. The solo show will consist of 32 large photographs and one huge collage, all images I have shot over the past four years.
   If you can't attend on Thursday evening, I will be in town till Sunday evening. Get in touch with me and perhaps we can meet up and go through the exhibition together on another day.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Exhibition 4

The One Night Stand at Café Babel

Canvases by Adi (4), Christel (2) and me (from the right)
The Transatlantic Art ConneXion, which meets at least once a month in the DAZ in Stuttgart, organized and put on an art happening for the third time as part of the American Days on May 22, 2014. We decided on one central theme for the evening and one format. We have used the square format in previous shows and will offer our artwork to the Museum Ritter near Stuttgart, which specializes in all things in a square format.

Sabine did a wonderful job of capturing the evening's theme "Connections" in her work
Mixed media is one of Uka's strengths, mixing photography and drawing on the canvases.

Nic found inspiration in the solar system.

Juan went all out and made delicious finger-food for the 30 participants and visitors.

In addition to showing three canvases, Adi also put her handmade jewelry on display.

To complement the 40 x 40 cm canvases we put up all around the café, the Writers in Stuttgart, read from their work.


In two years the American Days will roll around again and we'll be looking for another interesting venue to do our happening. Please tell me if you know of a good place!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Exhibition 3

 Diverse Perspectives

Joel Micah Miller, Jim Martin, Edwige Damron, Uka Meissner-deRuiz, Martin Greeson and Jim Palik
The big show at the Café Künstlerbund was a success due to the terrific people who organized it and participated in it.
Jim Palik and Uka Meissner-deRuiz were the veterans among us, each of them having over 50 years' experience as a photographer! We hung the show on May 18, 2014, and will take the pictures down a week from today on June 29.

Jim helped Uka transport her huge pictures

Bernd Mückenhaupt, also a photographer and member of the Künstlerbund, helped us hang our pictures and by the time I arrived at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning had pasted up the newest poster advertising our show.

Bernd puts up the billboard announcing our show

Edwige Damron is the youngest in this group, but she has experience in both the U.S. and in Germany as a professional photographer. Her specialty is newborn photography but she appears to be just as comfortable capturing the beauty of six million year-old rock formations in Arizona.

Edwige sticks an information tag onto one of her pictures
Eight in the morning is early, especially on a Sunday. But we all gathered there with our four pictures each and watched the experts hang them high and straight. 
Joel helps align Jim's pictures with his own
On the one wall we decided to hang the photographs which showed cities or towns. My four from NYC are at the front of this picture and Uka's triptych from Alabama are hanging near the bar.

On the opposite wall were Edwige's landscapes from Arizona and Joel's from California.

Martin Greeson, a photographer for the US Army, showed his four images up at the stage, including one ingeniously hung picture of ducks and their reflection in the water. Viewers could actually rotate the image 180° to see what it looked like upside-down.

Jim Palik and Martin Greeson talk after the hanging.
My good friend Christof Schmidt played an American program on the trombone, accompanied by Frank Zuckschwerdt, who is an accomplished trumpeter and pianist.

We were graced with the presence of over 100 visitors the evening of the opening and there were probably thousands more who came in to appreciate the show in one of Stuttgart's best locations for showing art.

 If you haven't had a chance to see the show yet, hurry up! BTW, the art is for sale.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

American Days 2014, Exhibitions 1 & 2

Last month I was able to reap the rewards from months (and years) of work. I was privileged to be asked to show in four exhibitions at one time.
The first was in the prison in Heimsheim (no cameras allowed, thus no pictures here), where I showed five of my black/white prints from my recent street photography production. This one was chosen to hang in the front hall where visitors go in and out. I had actually chosen the theme "In and out" for my images, and came up with a group that worked well together.

The next show went up at the DAZ as part of the American Days celebration. There I hung four pictures I had been aching to show because I liked them so much. They are not like anything I had ever done or seen before, so I was curious to see people's reactions.

I received many favorable comments on the photographs, most people wanting to know how exactly I had made them.

Last weekend I cooked something similar and took many more photos under better lighting conditions. Here is one of those.

The opening of the show was a big deal. A colonel from the US military base came and gave an interesting speech about German art. Two young girls from a local music school played Chopin's "Variations on a Theme from Cinderella" and kept our attention throughout their playing.

There was plenty to eat and drink, but it was hot and crowded. Most people were there to appreciate the art and the camaraderie of the evening, but there were also some people off the streets who were there primarily for the free food. And I guess that's fair. We had enough to go around. For those of you who have never been to an opening and are not sure how to avoid a faux pas, here is a list.

Since the opening was early in the evening, my entire family was able to come. I appreciate the support my family offers me in my artistic endeavors. I'm looking forward to continuing to work with them in the arts.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I found Vivian Maier

I'm a supporter of crowd-funding activities. A couple of years ago when I was thinking about doing a Kickstarter project and while I was funding a few more (still waiting for a DVD and a CD), I saw Jon Maloof's project about Vivian Maier. I was fascinated.
Last week I was fortunate enough to see a sneak-preview of "Finding Vivian Maier" and am still intrigued by the woman and her work. The movie shows many of her brilliant photographs interwoven among interviews with people who knew her during her life and with narration by John Maloof, who discovered her oeuvre after she had died. Having kept abreast of the developments around the film and having been given the book for Christmas, I thought I knew practically everything there was to know about this secretive street photographer: how her negatives had been bought at auction, were scanned and shared by Maloof on Flickr and on his blog and were considered brilliant enough by his audience on those sites that he got some media attention, ended up on TV and showed 80 posthumous prints at the Chicago Cultural Center. I also knew there was a film in the making and was looking forward to its release. Then a friend called up and invited me to the preview!

During the first 30 minutes of the film, the former nanny's charges remembered Maier(s) for the camera. Abrupt cuts in the interviews left the audience hungry for more details. In an attempt to hook the viewers into the biography by the apparent revelation of secrets, the director or editor cut the interview material just as one thought something was about to be revealed. Soon I bored of this game - as it just seemed to be going in circles and was not gaining momentum - and so I realized I was just going to have to take whatever came - at best, some more unpublished photographs, at worst, more unfortunate editing.
Maloof admits his concern at publishing a dead woman's work, yet says he is trying to share with the world the treasures he has found and which he feels need to be exposed. Maier is hardly King Tut, but one sometimes feels pulled between wanting to bury her secrets with her on the one hand and wanting to plunder her tomb (a storage rental space) to find more treasures on the other. For me, aside from the photographs, the most revealing moments came when I heard tapes played of her speaking voice, usually of her interviewing people in the yard or in the supermarket. These snippets, too, were cut too short, seemingly to leave enough material for "Vivian Maier: Found - Part II, the Continuing Saga". Perhaps the director thought that the visually-minded viewers of his film would want to see faces of interviewees (who one felt were rarely allowed to tell the whole story) rather than Super 8 films Maier made and cassettes she recorded.
The New Yorker published an enlightened article recently about the fact that the movie made her sound as if Maier were defective in some way because she didn't grab the fame and fortune that may have come her way, had she been well connected in the art world. In fact, what the article failed to mention is that she did try to have her photographs shown in the rural French town of Saint-Julien-en-Champsaur where her mother was from. Logistics seem to have made a cooperation with the owner of the camera store across the Atlantic impossible. And yet she continued to make photographs. The film makes no effort - whereas the article does - to portray her as an artist in her own right who lived with families so as to have a family and a home when it was convenient to her and so that she could continue to pursue her art while keeping her day job.
As a matter of fact, she pursued her art while she was on the job. She would take the children to the gothic sides of town where she could find fodder for her film. Like so many artists, she took a pragmatic approach to life. Knowing she would not be able to support herself with her art, she found a way to kill several birds with one stone. She would work for families taking care of their children. That way she would have family life - when she wanted it - without the emotional attachments which might distract her from her work. She would have a home without having to pay the upkeep or worry about its depreciation. Printing and marketing her work effectively while still walking the streets and shooting - which she loved - would have been too much for her.
Sadly, it seems that Maloof wanted to ride the wave of interest in Maier (his or the public's?) while it was still thundering through the media and he made this film before even developing and viewing all of Maier's work. I can only believe that he is hoping there will be some more revelations and enough material for a second film. One can only hope that he makes enough money from this movie and from the luscious books to be able to hire a professional documentary film maker for the second chapter.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


Café Künstlerbund at Schloßplatz in the background
The time has come. The days lie immediately ahead of me. The Exhibition Days!
On Thursday I'll hang pictures for a group show that opens on Friday, May 16, 2014. A wide variety of artists from the German & American Artist Group will show their recent work at the Deutsch-Amerikanisches Zentrum at Charlottenplatz in Stuttgart as part of the American Days 2014.
On Sunday I'll hang pictures for an group show that opens on Thursday, May 21, in Café Künstlerbund at Schloßplatz. Six American photographers in Stuttgart will be showing their work.
And in between I'll be attending a meeting of my art group, at which we'll discuss the final plans for our happening on May 22, where we'll show some of our paintings!

Juan in his Café Babel
The last show is for one evening only at Café Babel near Olgaeck (Urbanstr. 26) in Stuttgart if you want to stop by. Members of my former writing group from the Deutsch-Amerikanisches Zentrum (James Byrnes Institut) will be reading from their latest work. We artists from the Transatlantic Art Connexions group will be showing our new 40 x 40 cm canvases. The theme of the readings and in the paintings is "Connections."

Come join us for the shows!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Light for landscapes

Sometimes - even as a street and event photographer - you drive by a landscape on your way from Point A to Point B and you just have to pull over and see what's there for your sensor to feed on. That happened to me earlier this year as I was driving back from a friend's house. The morning sun hadn't broken through the fog yet and a field freshly planted lay embedded in thick morning soup.

 After wandering around the fields for a good amount of time, I started concentrating on the details of the agricultural tools lying around.

Then I thought I'd go for the standard up-the-antenna shot while I was there. With a white sky the struts stand out even better than normal.

One last series before leaving incorporated a foreground and a simple background. I also remembered reading somewhere to try vertical shots for landscapes, too. The final images reminded me somewhat of the photographs of Mark Seawell, whose work I admire so much. If you want to see some powerful landscapes, check out his collection.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Volksfest 2014

The annual spring fair at the Wasen in Bad Cannstatt is the largest of its kind in Germany.
For young children, it is an opportunity to go on carousels and other rides while eating cotton candy, sugar-coated almonds, french fries and chocolate-covered strawberries. OK, to be honest, that's also a big reason that the adults go there, too. For me and several dozen others, it's a great photo op!

Another reason adults go there is the beer. The Economist measures world-wide currencies based on the "Big Mac Index" in that it takes the price of a Big Mac in various countries and evaluates the currency based on the price of McDonald's iconic burger. Well, here in Germany it seems that they take the current price of a liter of beer and adjust the currency (raising and lowering salaries accordingly) so that a million liters can be bought (and mostly drunk) during this three-week festival! Currently, a liter of Festbier costs €9.10. That's obviously not too much for some Lederhosen and Dirndl types.

You think that's scary? Look at this! A little boy was walking through the fairgrounds with a "Scary Movie" mask on and was going up to everyone in his path and shouting "Boo!"

Think that's scary? These three Dirndl-clad lads nearly bowled me over as I was maneuvering my way through the crowded streets.

Still not scared? OK, then there are the rides. I'm sure they aren't as scary if you are clobbered, but if you are waiting below for your friends to get off the ride, watch out because all sorts of projectiles fall and flow from these whirling contraptions.

For photographers, I don't think there's a best time to go there, unless you are waiting for certain types of pictures. The evening is attractive because the lights are flashing, but on the other hand some people are getting out of hand by then and the next thing you know, lights are flashing on a police car or ambulance coming to haul away somebody.