Saturday, February 2, 2008

Mini reunion

Met Mark Morelli and Bill Melville this morning in Beverly for coffee...made me realize how important this community of artists is. The three of us didn't solve any world problems, but we talked about mentors, directions of our projects and generally agreed that having people to bounce ideas off was more than valuable. I can't speak for Mark and Bill, but it was an incredibly insightful time in helping me sort out what I think I'm doing.
Wish all of you could have been there.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Residency summary

Below is a copy of the residency summary I just sent my advisor if anyone's interested.
Residency Summary
Jay Reiter

The only way I can adequately describe my first residency at AIB is to say I was turned upside down, inside out and sideways – and came away from it feeling both validated as an artist and challenged to go to greater heights than I imagined existed.

A number of issues were raised during the critiques and they are best dealt with as individual items.

- Work needs not be skillful to be meaningful. Since my transition from film to digital I have become increasingly technically oriented – at the expense of content. I have moved from light as a means of communicating to light as a good reproduction tool. I think my first task is to deskill my approach and think more about what the photograph communicates rather than how it will reproduce. It was suggested by one person critiquing my work that I allow myself to take some “bad photographs”, look at them and see what I can learn. In another critique the suggestion was to take some dark photographs – not mood but light. To see what’s in the deep shadows and then explore them.

- Work needs to have a slow release of information. Because of the nature of photojournalism and daily newspapers, I have adopted a style of photography that I can best describe as “in-you-face”. Little is left to the viewer’s imagination or interpretation. It’s all there and I probably have the viewer’s attention for mere seconds before he or she turns the page. A goal is to make photographs that are not so on the surface with their information, but hold the viewer longer. The goal is to have the viewer goes through a process of “Ah – ha’s” a number of times before they “get it.

- Change the location of the narrative. At present, my photography heavily depends on the environment surrounding the subject to tell the story, sometimes to the point where the subject is nearly devoid of meaning. The aim is to circumvent my familiar ways of working, whether it be by limiting my arsenal of equipment, going back to black and white or limiting the amount of information in the background. I need to try to find the story in the subject and tell it that way rather than have the context tell the story. Its almost as if I am telling the story without a subject in the photographs. If I can tell the story with just the subject and then put that together with the additional information of the environment I will tell a far more powerful story than now. Right now it seems I am dependent on the clichés of visual culture. The challenge will be to find a subject and explore a different way to tell the story.

- Slow down and fumble a bit. A number of people looked at my photos and commented that I can do it with my eyes closed. Now I want to try to do photography with my eyes open. Certainly slowing down will be a huge piece of that. The way I shoot now is instinctive – and though that’s not inherently a bad thing I need to become more intentional in my approach. “Less camera and more meaning,” was how Oliver Wasow put it. One of the hardest transitions will be to embrace the concept that I’m not working for a newspaper. Accept that there is a bias in my photography and allow my voice to be really heard. That in itself will slow me down since I’ll be asking myself as many questions if not more than what I ask the subject. I exist in a wonderful comfort zone – I’ve spent years developing it. However if I’m to grow its time to trade in the old familiar ways of seeing and doing and try on some new approaches. Faculty members who advocated the necessity of doing this have also been very clear that what I’m about to embark on won’t be easy.

- Do less. Adam McEwen said a very strange thing to me; “Sometimes in art you find meaning by doing less.” I haven’t quite figured out the total meaning of his statement, but I’m thinking that he’s suggesting I strip away the complexity of my photographs and just simply get to the point. At first I was confused about what seemed to be two messages at polar extremes. How could I be simple and not complex in my approach while at the same time being subtler? A lot of thought has brought me to the conclusion that the complexity in my photographs is often a way to hide the absence of my voice. I can confuse the viewer so they don’t know who is talking. It’s a copout; if I simplify the photograph my voice is either evident or clearly missing. When missing it gives rise to my being a spectator rather than a participant.

- Look at how painters use light. Tony Apesos suggested I look at the work of two painters, Caravaggio and Georges deLaTour, and see how they make use of light – and shadows. For me, this will be a whole new arena of discovery – I have not paid any attention or heed to other artists in the past. Tony also said that the intent here was to help me grow as an artist, not become an “artsy” photographer. I admit to never thinking about the distinction before, and that considering the differences between the two will open up new worlds to me.

- Recommended Artists

- Photographers:
- Roni Horn
- Berndt and Hilla Becher
- Thomas Ruff
- Rineke Dijkstra
- Elliot Erwitt
- Joel Sternfeld
- Frank Gohlke
- Steven Shore
- Robert Adams
- William Eggleston
- Josef Koudelka
- Allen Sekula
- Jane Bown
- Mark Riboud
- Eli Reed
- Danny Lyon
- Taryn Simon
- Marilyn Minter
- Andrea Modica

- Other artists
- Caspar David Friedrich
- Joseph Kosuth
- Jeff Koons
- Caravaggio
- Georges deLaTour

- Recommended Reading
- On Photography, Susan Sontag
- Basic Critical Theory for Photographers, Ashley la Grange
- The Nature of Photographs, Stephen Shore
- Available Light, Dave Hickey
- The Photograph as Contemporary Art, Charlotte Cotton
- The Ongoing Moment, Geoff Dyer

In summary, my residency can be expressed in four goals I now have.
1- If I do what I’ve always done, I’ll get what I’ve always gotten.
2- To do a series of photographs dealing with a common subject and tell a story in which my voice is heard.
3- A commitment to myself to move from being merely adequate to testing the limits of my vision.
4- To shed the familiar and walk a path I know but see it in a different way.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Thankful I am ( as Yoda would say) for the colleagues I have in Group 1. I thank all of you for the instantaneous but deep and thoughtful comments on both the blog and photo gallery. Just when I'm completely questioning what I'm doing, why I'm doing it and how I'm doing it your comments and insights make me realize how valuable this experience is. I'm honored to be a part of this collective effort.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


So finally I'm publishing this blog. Not sure if it was inertia or a lack of progress, but the dam finally burst.
I have found an incredible mentor to work with, Michael Hintlian. What I wanted was a really good documentary photographer and that's the least of what I have. Michael is a quiet man who i passionate about photography and a photographer's role in making the picture.
I'm lucky to work with someone like him. My first impression on the phone was he was a "leave your ego at the door" kind of person - after yesterday's face-to-face, my impression was validated.
One of my missions this term is to learn to slow down ; shedding the shoot fast its deadline time mentality that drove me for all my years in photojournalism won't be easy, but I've gotten access to a medium format digital camera to use - after spending the entire day today trying to figure out how to make it work ( no user manuel could be found), I finally have it up and running. Slow is the keyword with this piece of equipment, I'll have more time to smell the roses than I know what to do with.
First paper is almost done, and for now so am I - its time to hit the publish button.