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SILVERMAN and Hamilton Square Condominium Association present
Edward Fausty | A Fragile Utopia: The Days of 111 First Street

Hamilton Square
232 Pavonia Avenue, Jersey City, NJ 07302
201.434.1000

Opening Reception: Wednesday, January 7, 2015, 6—8 pm. 

Exhibition on view in the lobby January 5, 2015 to April 30, 2015.

Dog Sleeping, Lowenstein/Malak Studio, 2005, digital pigment photograph, 17"x17" on 21"x21" Arches Cover paper

Dog Sleeping, Lowenstein/Malak Studio, 2005, digital pigment photograph, 17″x17″ on 21″x21″ Arches Cover paper

“What has always touched me in music and art and life is loss or its possibility/inevitability.”
–Ed Fausty

SILVERMAN AND HAMILTON SQUARE CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION present “Edward Fausty: A Fragile Utopia: The Days of 111 First Street,” curated by Brendan Carroll. This exhibition presents more than 20 large-scale photographs of a former tobacco warehouse that once housed a vibrant artist community in downtown Jersey City.

Photographer Edward Fausty lived and worked in 111 First Street, a five-story red brick warehouse building that was home to more than 150 artists and small businesses. The former cigarette factory sprawled over 328,000 square feet and occupied an entire city block near the waterfront. For 15 years, the building not only provided a refuge for artists, but it also, arguably, functioned as the city’s cultural epicenter. In 2005, New Gold Equities, led by Lloyd Goldman, evicted the artists, and in 2007 it demolished the building to develop the site for residential use. As of now, ground has yet to be broken on the site.

Between 2001 and 2005, Fausty photographed the building, its immediate environs, and the makeshift studios where the artist lived and worked. He photographed 111 First Street with the nuance of a poet and the precision of a surgeon, creating an encyclopedic visual catalog of the site while subtly addressing issues of gentrification, class, urban redevelopment, and displacement of the creative community.

The sensations of loss and dread that Fausty conjures by capturing once-vibrant objects alongside signs of decay are real and concrete. An overhead lamp in the shape of an elephant’s head illuminates a vacant hallway. A series of lithographs hang like laundry on a line in a cramped studio. A dog sleeps on a blue pillow, a few bones by its side. A toilet and a riser await the demolition crew in a vacant room. The ghosts of 111 First Street are felt everywhere.

The atmospheric quality of light, the carefully balanced compositions, and the overall tenor of the subjects depicted suggest the paintings of Johannes Vermeer. The silence is palpable. In other ways, the series is a kind of meditation on death or dying, as it documents the systematic dismantling of this building and the dispersal of its inhabitants. There is a near tangible tension in the series between “aesthetic beauty” and “ruin.” Devoid of people and suffused with premonitory gloom, the photographs have an emotional gravitas.

These photographs are an irreplaceable record of an artist community that sought refuge in a once derelict warehouse district in Jersey City.

Fausty used a Bronica Medium Format SLR Camera. According to Fausty, he estimates that he shot anywhere from 800 to 1,000 negatives. From this group, he selected roughly 50 prints that would comprise the series. The images are generated from high resolution digital scans and printed with archival quality inks onto Arches rag paper. Some prints are 22 inches and some are 36 inches square on 42 x 48 inch paper.

“This is a collection of my favorite images,” says Fausty. “It is not edited tightly in the way a book might be.” By necessity, the selection of work is dictated by the exhibition venue. That said, the series is usually presented in a loose chronological order. In Fausty’s words: “Pre- and post-apocalypse.”

Edward Fausty’s work is included in many national collections, including Montclair Art Museum, The United States Library of Congress, Yale University, and Goldman Sachs, to name a few. The Henry Street Settlement, Louis K. Meisel Gallery, Hunterdon Art Museum, Hoboken Historical Museum have organized solo exhibitions of his work. His photographs have been included in numerous group exhibitions. He has exhibited his work nationally and internationally, including group exhibitions with Brooklyn Museum of Art, Dallas Museum of Art, and The U.S. Library of Congress.

The New York Times, Artforum Magazine, Village Voice, and The Star Ledger have reviewed his work, to name a few. Fausty has been the recipient of numerous awards, including Princeton University Atelier Program, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Survey Grant, and Creative Artists Program Services (CAPS) grant, among others. He received his M.F.A. in photography from Yale School of Art in 1986. He received his B.F.A. from Cooper Union School of Art in 1979. He lives and works in New Jersey.

The exhibition will be on view at Hamilton Square Condominium Association through April 30, 2015. For further information, please visit us at SILVERMAN or call number (201) 435-8000.

“Edward Fausty: A Fragile Utopia: The Days of 111 First Street” is the twenty-third exhibition that Brendan Carroll will organize for SILVERMAN. For additional information on the artist, go here: edwardfausty.com.

SILVERMAN has presented the works of Ali Harrington, Sara Wolfe, Anne Percoco, Shauna Finn, Melanie Vote, Paul Lempa, Fanny Allié, Michael Meadors, John A. Patterson, Charlotte Becket, Roger Sayre, Karina Aguilera Skvirsky, Tom McGlynn, Margaret Murphy, Valeri Larko, Tenesh Webber, Glenn Garver, Jennifer Krause Chapeau, Michelle Doll, Tim Heins, Megan Maloy, Laurie Riccadonna, Thomas John Carlson, Tim Daly, Ann Flaherty, Scott Taylor, Jason Seder, Sara Wolfe, Beth Gilfilen, Andrzej Lech, Hiroshi Kumagai, Victoria Calabro, Asha Ganpat, Darren Jones, Ryan Roa,Laura Napier, Risa Puno, Nyugen E. Smith, Amanda Thackray, and Kai Vierstra.

Transportation Directions from Lower Manhattan to Hamilton Square Condominiums

Transportation Directions from Lower Manhattan to Hamilton Square Condominiums

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Keliy Anderson-Staley | Photo by Andrej Tur

“Every portrait tells a story and that story usually involves some kind of lie.”
Debra Brehmer, Portrait Society gallery director

Artist Keliy Anderson-Staley is a photographer in the guise of a 19th-century itinerant pauper. Like the photographic brethren before her, she travels from city to city, setting up makeshift photography studios, to produce tintype portraits of men, women, and children. After seven years, she has created a massive archive of faces—stoic, impassive, wild-eyed. Recently, she has begun to pair her portraits alongside found letters, textiles, and family heirlooms to create comprehensive installations called Imagined Family Heirlooms: An Archive of Inherited Fictions.

Anderson-Staley is planning to have several full-wall installations in galleries this year. In order to realize her vision, she needs to increase the scope and size of her tintype archive—and this is where you can step in. The chemistry needed to produce tintypes is expensive. Anderson-Staley is asking the KickStarter community to donate money to help fund her project. In return, benefactors will receive special gifts from the artist. She is already scheduled to be in Syracuse; Philadelphia; New York; and Portland, Maine. I recently caught up with Anderson-Staley to discuss her current project, tintype photography, and the thin line between truth and fiction in portraiture.

Anderson-Staley, Victoria, Wet plate collodion tintype, 5x7 inches, 2010

Tell us about your new project Imagined Family Heirlooms: An Archive of Inherited Fictions. What is it, and why is it important to you?

“Imagined Family Heirlooms” combines tintype portraits I make with found antique photographs and cloth. I also frame and install photograms of antique lace that I make as cyanotype and van dyke brown prints. The goal with these installations is to challenge the line between originals and replicas, real history and fiction, actual family heirlooms and fictional ones. Photography, I think has lead us to falsely believe the images we see of ourselves and others are the truth, and I hope with this project to point out that even the most central aspects of who we think we are—our family and personal identities—insofar as they are shaped by photographs, are sometimes no realer than fiction.

Questions about identity and representation and their relationship to photography are really important to me and have shaped a lot of my work. I am obsessed with the human face, and obsessed with finding the best way to capture it. For that reason, I think I will always be making portraits.

Anderson-Staley, Imagined Family Heirlooms, installation shot, dimensions variable, 2011

How has questions about identity and representation and their relationship to photography shaped a lot of my work?

I’ve been interested in how place and family can impact identities since I first starting making images. This was a key theme of my “Off the Grid” project about families—like my own when growing up—that lived without modern amenities in rural Maine. I think a lot about the way that portraits exist within a history of photography; the representational technology of the day impacts how we see ourselves in much deeper ways than I think we realize.

This photo process especially raises questions about photographic representation. So much of what we know about the life of earlier generations is determined by how they were represented. For example, we think of people in the 19th century as stern and stoic, but this was much more a reflection of the long exposure times that prevented smiling than of their personalities. As a photographer, it is always difficult to be true to your subject while still recognizing that photography is still a representational form that automatically puts a portrait into the context of a history of images.

How is this project different than your previous projects?

The primary connection of this project to my earlier work is the process. I have been making tintypes for seven years, and my main focus has been portraiture. This newer work is a little more conceptual, though, in that it is about the history of photography and the role that images play in identity-formation. Beautiful, powerful portraits are still central to the project, but when combined with the other works in different media and when framed and included in installations, they become part of a greater whole that calls into question their status as tellers of the truth.

Dearest Bob, found letter in found frame, 9x12”, 1942/2011

What is the goal of the project?

The goal is to continue to create content for my installations and to continue to find venues to display it. Every installation has been different, and they are always most effective when a space let’s me play with and arrange the parts right there in the gallery. To continue making images, though, and to afford the frames and other antiques I am collecting, I will need to find new sources of funding.

You say every installation is different. How so? Do you find previous installations informing the one’s you happen to be working on now?

When installing these images, I often discover new juxtapositions and combinations (these can be based on aesthetic connections, or interesting echoes of appearance or a suggestive pairing of individuals). These tend to change when I am in a new space and have added new pieces. I like to have as many pieces to play with as possible, and what is available ends up determining how it is hung. As “family arrangements” they change and grow, individuals enter and leave the group, and even after the works are hung, I am thinking about other ways they could be arranged. I don’t see this as a project that is ever stopped or static.

Anderson-Staley, Untitled, found antique tintype in found frame, 3x4”, 2011

You have chosen to utilize Kickstarter to fund this project. Your financial objective is to raise at least $5,800. First, why do you need $5,800? Second, what made you choose this new online media platform to raise the money?

To be honest, the amount I asked for is really the least amount I need to continue working on this project. Everything I use has become quite expensive, especially silver nitrate, the key ingredient of my tintypes.  It has doubled in cost this past year, rising with the commodities markets. So all the money I receive will go into making new work. I know some people who have been successful using Kickstarter, and I thought I would give it a try.

The economy is in the dumps. Unemployment is high. Why should people donate their hard-earned money to support your project?  Will backers receive any rewards from you for their monetary contributions?

Kickstarter is designed, I think, to make sure the money you receive is not charity, but instead is given in return for real goods and services. In return for contributions, I am mailing out mini-installation packets that are drawn from my heirloom collections. Even at the lower pledge amounts, backers can expect to have some original artwork. I love sending mail art and packages, so this is really the ideal way for me to return the favor of a contribution. Even in a down economy creative people are still working, and there are still people supporting the arts. In some ways, Kickstarter is actually an inexpensive way for supporters of the arts to purchase original works of art.

Every Kickstarter project must be fully funded before its time expires or no money changes hands. How do you feel about this all-or-nothing approach to funding your project?

I think it works best this way for everyone involved. There is a sense that once a project reaches its funding goal it has been validated by the broader community. This puts more pressure on the project creator (and the backers) to make sure the goal is reached—which of course works to Kickstarter’s advantage as well (as they take a cut). It also means that when you design a project you have to very carefully set your goal. If it’s too high, you may not reach your goal. If it’s too low, the project may not be discovered. I have noticed that technology and film projects can raise quite a bit more money than photo projects. I’m not sure if this is an indication of the kinds of people who are looking to support projects or of the way these various mediums are valued. I’ve also noticed that a lot of projects generate serious buzz just before they end. Oddly, I think if projects weren’t required to reach their goals, they would get there less frequently. That having been said, the all-or-nothing approach can generate quite a bit anxiety.

Anderson-Staley, Untitled, cyanotype photogram of found lace, 22x18”, 2010

You have also received support from New York Foundation for the Arts, Puffin Foundation, and Light Work, to support your current project. How is online crowd funding different than traditional models? Do you prefer one to the other? Why or why not?

They are both very different models for supporting artists. When you apply for funding from an institution, you have to carefully craft your proposal to their needs and it has to be extremely professional. The money from those organizations comes with a lot of prestige and can do a lot to advance your career. When putting together a Kickstarter proposal, I think you need to aim for broader appeal. In addition to attracting potential strangers looking for new projects, you are also appealing to your friends, family, acquaintances and casual supporters, so you need to keep in mind different audiences. A platform like Kickstarter makes it easier to ask your immediate circle for money by giving the request credibility and a clearly defined project with goals. Family might not normally give money to your projects, but when it is institutionally-sanctioned and has a tangible product, it actually goes a long way toward justifying your work and career. The hope with crowd-funding, though, is that your project will go viral and that strangers will find it compelling enough to contribute (and consequently to own a part of it).

I was impressed by your Kickstarter proposal, especially the video that you created to supplement the project description. Can you talk about what went into the pitch? (From conception to development to execution. How did you make the video pitch? I love the soundtrack by the way. Great choice of songs.)

I knew before I even began the video that the Kinks song was perfect, and as I was finalizing the video, I was searching for some mellow but exciting instrumental blues, because I felt it fit the tone of the project best. I have never made a video, so the medium was really foreign to me, and I found it really difficult. For large parts of it, I found that a slide show with the “Ken Burns” effect did the trick. I had some old footage of me working which I incorporated into the video. The hardest part was syncing up the voice-over and finding the right tone and pace for delivery. In the end, it took about a week to get it together, and actually delayed the launch of my project.

Anderson-Staley, Imagined Family Heirlooms, installation shot, dimensions variable, 2011

Lets talk about your work. You use wooden view cameras and original nineteenth century brass lenses with large apertures. What can you achieve by utilizing this antiquated technology that you cannot achieve using digital technology?

I shoot with my lenses wide open (collodion has the equivalent of a -30 ISO, so it is very slow), but this really shortens my depth of field.  I can focus on just one plane in the face—usually just the eyes. The exposures are long, lasting 10 or so seconds, so I capture a full moment of thought. My portraits, I think, often seem to have more life in them because of this.

There are so many technical variables in the process, and there can be flaws and defects that enter the image at every stage of the process, and in many ways this makes it a perfect vehicle for portraits—it is truer to the reality of human imperfection.

I do work on images in Photoshop, adjusting contrast and even sometimes cleaning them up for publication, but you could never replicate the look of this process exactly in Photoshop. A tintype plate records the actual light that struck the individual. It is as much a mirror as an image, and it has a presence as an object, something that can’t be said of a digital file.

Anderson-Staley, Carey, Wet plate collodion tintype, 5x7”, 2010

You create evocative portraits — frontal views, mostly centered in the frame, posed against a minimal background — that offer few clues about the sitter’s identity or the time and place the picture was taken. The images reminded me of the tintypes taken of men, women, and children, in the mid-nineteenth century. Does that association resonate with you?

Because I am working in a nineteenth-century process, I am very conscious of the historical dimension of this project. Tintypes were a common way to have a portrait made, but they were also employed for ethnographic studies, some of them quite dehumanizing. In many ways the modern idea of race grew up alongside science and photography in the 19th century. I very deliberately try not to draw attention to differences like race, because I want to challenge photography’s role in defining difference. At the same time, I want every person I photograph to stand out very sharply as an individual, to be defined as much as possible by the expression on their face.

As soon as I saw your portraits, I could hear the sitters whisper: “Who am I? Where am I going? What will become of me?” Is there a particular response you’re hoping to provoke in the viewer? Or is it about something else?

I think the best portraits in history fully capture the person as they are in that moment, and because of that, you can’t help but think of them as having a past and a future. They are just an image, but the real life of the person is somehow there in the eyes.

Anderson-Staley, Yves, Wet plate collodion tintype, 4x5, 2009

Photography long ago usurped painting as the central medium utilized in portraiture. It opened the door for the masses, inviting the average citizen to serve as the primary subject of portraiture. Your tintype series, which utilizes long exposures, employs strategies used in painting as well as photography. How much of the series is indebted to photography, and how much of the series is indebted to painting or performance art?

Tintype photography was the first photographic process that allowed middle class people to have portraits of themselves which is why so many of us can find them in our own family collections. Painted portraits had been reserved for aristocrats and rich merchants, but now anyone could have images of themselves and loved ones. But early photography was a lot more like painting, or really, a lot more like science, with a lot of tinkering going on with materials and chemical formulas. I love this aspect of the process, and the fact, that like so many art forms and crafts with long histories it has to be passed down. I worked with a mentor, and now I teach workshops. In terms of performance, producing the image is a bit of a show, with me moving the big camera, and then the big dramatic reveal of the image as it turns from a negative to a positive.

Anderson-Staley, Altan, wet plate collodion tintype in found frame, 11x14”, 2009/2011

When you find a subject, what are your first steps? Do you stand behind or next to the camera during the length of the exposure? Do you leave the sitter to his or her own thoughts? Do you talk to them? What sort of interaction do you have?

The interaction with my models is really important to me. I love to talk with them while working, to explain the process, and even to bring them into the darkroom to watch their image change from a negative to a positive. The camera is huge, so I need to move around it, pulling the slide at the back and walking to the front to remove the lens cap to make the exposure, and the sitter has to remain still for a good 10 seconds or more. I don’t let anyone talk to them during the exposure, and they sometimes struggle to stay still. Setting up the shot, though, takes a long time, and this is a great opportunity to get to know someone. I find when they are more relaxed, and even if I get to know a little bit more about them, the portrait ends up being stronger, and hopefully ends up being a truer likeness.

Does your relationship with your subject, and how he or she accepts the idea of your project, influence the resulting work?

I think because the process is so novel for most of my sitters, they are always really excited to be a part of it and to observe me in action. It’s strange, but in an era when we each have more pictures of ourselves than ever—on Facebook and memory cards, etc.—people are still always amazed to see themselves in a tintype, as if they are seeing their portrait for the first time—a little bit perhaps like it was in the 19th century.

Anderson-Staley, Wet plate collodion tintype, 2011

The novelist Don DeLillo addresses the role of portraiture in his book Mao II. In Mao II, Brita, a NYC photojournalist, is commissioned to photograph Bill Gray, a reclusive author. During the photo session, Bill shares his thoughts about portraiture: He [Bill Gray] said, “Something about the occasion makes me think I’m at my own wake. Sitting for a picture is morbid business. A portrait doesn’t begin to mean anything until the subject is dead. This is the whole point. We’re doing this to create a kind of sentimental past for people in decades to come. It’s their past, their history we’re inventing here. And it’s not how I look now that matters. It’s how I’ll look in twenty-five years as clothing and faces change, as photographs change. The deeper I pass into death, the more powerful my picture becomes.” Do you think there is a morbid quality or sentimental objective to your own portraits?

That is a fantastic quote. I also often think a lot about what Roland Barthes had to say about portraits and death in Camera Lucida.

I collect a lot of antique tintypes at junk stores, and I am always amazed that these photographs have been given away. Although photos preserve our image forever after we are gone, this doesn’t mean our memory lives on. If someone’s portrait has been thrown out, does that mean they are no longer a part of their own family’s story? Unless someone keeps that portrait and can give it a story and fit it into a genealogy, it doesn’t necessarily have a meaning except as a likeness of someone who must have lived once. In other words, without a story, a portrait is just the face of a stranger.

My project, though, plays with the sentimental role of portraits. Who we are in photographs, as DeLillo says, depends on how we will be seen, but how we see ourselves depends on how we look at old photographs—of our parents, grandparents, etc. Nostalgia is a key part of my installations, but because they are fictional family portraits, the nostalgia is always half-ironic.

Any last words?

I took a chance with the KickStarter thing, and I am optimistic it will get funded. At the very least, though, I am excited that I have been able to get this project out to a whole new audience. I am traveling a lot this summer and will be showing this project widely in the upcoming year. With the new support of my Kickstarter backers, I should be able to make a lot of new work.

Noelle Theard | Photo by Christina Fallara

A group of artists and educators organized a series of photography workshops for children and adults a few months ago in the Caribbean. The workshops were set up in tent villages for displaced persons in earthquake-devastated Haiti. NJCU is showcasing 14 of the photographs produced in the workshop in the exhibition “FOTOKONBIT: Haiti Through Haitian Eyes.”

The public will be able to purchase images of different sizes. The proceeds from print sales will benefit FotoKonbit, the workshop participants, and two Haitian grassroots organizations: ORE and PRODEV. I recently caught up with Noelle Theard, one of the curators of the exhibition, to discuss the project, and the role that photography and arts education can play in empowering a community.

Brendan Carroll: Hi Noelle. Tell us about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?

Noelle Theard: I’m one of three founding members of FotoKonbit, along with Marie Arago and Tatiana Mora Liautaud. I am a Miami-based freelance photographer, educator, and artist. I teach two courses as an adjunct professor in the African and African Diaspora Studies program at Florida International University, and I also teach photography to youth at Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

BC: What is FotoKonbit, and why is it important?

NT: FotoKonbit is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and photography initiative that partners with grassroots organizations to facilitate photography workshops with communities and create a portrait of Haiti and its diaspora through the eyes of Haitian people.

Inspired by the Creole word “konbit” which can be defined as the coming together of similar talents in an effort towards a common goal, we use our skills as photographers, educators, and artists to make a positive difference the best way we know how- through photography.

By partnering with established Haitian organizations, FotoKonbit is uniquely positioned to inspire hope through creative expression and provide Haitians with the opportunity to document their reality and share it with the largest possible audience.

"Market" | Photo courtesy of FotoKonbit

BC: How were the workshops organized, and who participated?

NT: FotoKonbit workshops take place over a period of five days. We work with film cameras first, return to Miami for processing, and take the images back to the groups we work with.

When we return, we bring digital cameras for the group members to start FotoKonbit photo clubs, where they have equipment to check out for purely artistic or commercial shoots.

For the first round in May 2010, our first group was comprised of 15 adults and in the schools we worked with 30 children. We start with the basics: what is photography, how do we use the cameras? Then we move to more conceptual questions like: what is important about your community, what are your personal interests, and finally, what do you want the world to see about Haiti?

BC: What type of cameras did you provide?

NT: We used ‘Holga’ cameras. Originally created as the “people’s camera” in 1980s China to bring photography to the masses, they are inexpensive and have a wonderfully artsy aesthetic. They use medium format film, and the images created are square.

"Tent City'' -- Photo courtesy of FotoKonbit

BC: The workshops were organized in Camp Perrin and Port-au-Prince. Why did you choose these locations?

NT: We partner with Haitian grassroots organizations whose work truly inspires us.

In Camp Perrin we had the great privilege to work with an organization called ORE that focuses on sustainable development and agriculture. ORE and its director, Mousson Pierre, are highly respected in the community, and have made incredible efforts to aid the displaced people from the earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince.

Several of our adult participants were among these displaced people, and have been working to forge their lives in this small southern town. The quality of life in Camp Perrin is wonderful – fresh water, a strong agricultural tradition, and a close-knit community. Still, there is very little work, which makes it hard to resist the lure back to the destroyed capital.

In Port-au-Prince, we worked in the Peguyville neighborhood with PRODEV who is providing education to more than twenty-five tent cities across the city. They have recently opened a permanent school called “Novelle Ecole Zoranj” where FotoKonbit will be regularly teaching a photography curriculum.

The children were wonderful, excited about photographing, since most had never used a camera before. They took to it immediately, walking around the neighborhood and making photographs of the things that were important to them.

"Waterfall" | Courtesy of FotoKonbit

BC: I recently oversaw a series of community-based art-making workshops for children and adults in Harlem. The children jumped in headfirst. The adults were wary-and the adolescents were much more so. How did the participants respond to the project, and what type of reactions did they have after they saw their photographs in print?

NT: The adults were much more serious in their approach – this was a serious endeavor that required intention and concentration, and the results were really stunning. For the most part, each frame was carefully composed and thought out. The kids were much more carefree, shooting a roll of film in just a few minutes! All the photographers were of course thrilled to see their work.

BC: Did you show examples of other photographers for the participants to model their pictures on? For example, Expanding the Walls, a program organized by the Studio Museum of Harlem, use the photographer James Van Der Zee as a study model to help guide novice photographs.

NT: To inspire the students we showed work from previous workshops that I have done with grassroots organizations in Miami in a project called the Galeria del Barrio. In the curriculum we are building, we will incorporate great photographers like the ones you mentioned.

"Family'' -- Photo courtesy of FotoKonbit

BC: Some people do not like to have their picture taken. How did the communities of Camp Perrin and Port-au-Prince respond to the photographers?

NT: People responded well, especially because in most cases, they knew the person behind the camera. Sometimes the photographers were denied by people who did not want to be photographed, but overall, people were very open. We talked about strategies for making portraits, and told them what we have learned as photographers ourselves: never take it personally when someone says no.

BC: The photographs produced in the workshops will be on view in the exhibition “FOTOKONBIT: Haiti Through Haitian Eyes” in the Harold B. Lemmerman Gallery at NJCU. How did the exhibition come about?

NT: Deborah Jack is a great photographer and professor at NJCU, and we know each other through Rosie Gordon Wallace, who is the director of the Diaspora Vibe Gallery here in Miami. She put me in touch with Midori Yoshimoto, who has done an amazing job of organizing the exhibition.

BC: Will any of the children and adults from the workshops make it over to the exhibition?

NT: The photographers will see the images in our Haiti exhibition in March, but won’t be able to travel to this exhibition in the U.S. We will document the opening with photos and video and send it to them.

"Dog'' -- Photo courtesy of FotoKonbit

BC: I visited the project’s Web site. The photographs taken in Camp Perrin and Port-au-Prince cover a range of subject matter, and convey a warmth and gentleness rarely associated with Haiti. I love the image of the dog in repose on a backyard patio. This picture is quiet, warm and unsuspecting, and reveals a sense of whimsy and mischief. What’s your favorite photograph in the series, and why? What does it reveal about Haiti, and the person who took the photograph?

NT: My favorite photograph is the market, because it looks like a Haitian painting! I also love the photograph of the man fishing in the lake, holding a bright yellow bucket, and looking right into the camera. The setting is so beautiful, and the image so subtle. The photographer, Smith Neuvieme, is a wonderfully perceptive, thoughtful, and endearing person. When we asked him to tell us about this picture, he said he wanted to show how different people work, what people do to get by. Smith is one of the people displaced by the earthquake from Port-au-Prince and is adjusting to life in Camp Perrin.

"Girl With Shower Cap'' -- Photo courtesy of FotoKonbit

BC: My other favorite photograph is the portrait of the young girl standing in a lot in front of a cinderblock wall covered in graffiti. She is about eight or nine. There is a slight bounce in her pose-one leg is in front of the other. A satchel is draped across her shoulder, and she is holding the straps in both hands-maybe she is on her way to school. Her outfit is smart: gingham shirt, skirt, white socks, and red show cap. This girl has sass, and she has both feet on the ground. I detect a small grin on her face. Does she know the photographer? Is it someone in her family?

NT: What a great reading of that photograph! Yes, she knows the photographer, it is one of her young classmates at the school in the Peguyville neighborhood.

BC: As I began to write this Q+A, I did an image search of Haiti in Google. The results were dominated by images of devastation. The audience can expect to see a radical different Haiti in the exhibition. What types of photographs did you choose, and why?

NT: We chose photographs that spoke to what life is like in Haiti, especially the day-to-day. Many of the Haitians in diaspora that have seen the photos have said that the images make them nostalgic for home. Other people who are less familiar with Haiti have been surprised by the abundance of food at the market, or the enormous waterfalls and lush vegetation. The images challenge negative representations of Haiti by simply portraying reality – that’s a pretty powerful thing!

BC: What I know of Haiti is limited to popular media. Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas, and has recently suffered innumerable tragedies-including a Cholera outbreak, a 7.0 earthquake, and several tropical storms. Despite these severe realities, the participants produced a series of photographs of extreme softness, poise, and beauty. As I sat writing I realized that this is one the first times I have encountered Haiti from the point of view of a Haitian. Can you speak about the importance of giving Haitians a stage to share their experience, strength, and hope?

NT: Rather than being represented by outsiders, FotoKonbit participants are using cameras to imagine the new Haiti by representing themselves, their lives, their interests, and values. Not surprisingly, the result is radically different from the stereotypical images we see of Haiti as portrayed by the media. Here, in these FotoKonbit images, we see community, family, life and all its joys and difficulties, but above all, we see dignity.

"Boys'' -- Photo courtesy of FotoKonbit


BC: Have you kept in touch with any of the participants in the workshops? And do you know what they are up to now?

NT: We have kept in touch with all of the participants. The adults in Camp Perrin have decided to start a FotoKonbit photo studio, and the students are now out of the tents and in a permanent school called Ecole Zoranj.

Original post may be found here.

If you go

WHAT: FOTOKONBIT: Haiti Through Haitian Eyes
WHEN: Through Dec. 14
WHERE: The Harold B. Lemmerman Gallery, NJCU, 2039 Kennedy Blvd. Hepburn Hall, room 323
DETAILS: Curated by Noelle Theard, Marie Arago, and Tatiana Mora-Liautaud

Related topics: haiti, jersey-city

Roger Sayre | Courtesy of David Jolkovski/The Jersey Journal

I first came across Roger Sayre’s work — a series of black and white portraits — in the Brunswick Windows. The pictures were simultaneously crystalline and out-of-focus. I could neither pinpoint the sitters’ identity nor the location. These pictures could have been taken in the present or they could have been taken 150 years ago; they could have been taken in the remote jungles of Cambodia or in a studio in Jersey City. In many ways, they reminded me of the prison portraits taken by the Khmer Rouge in the late 70s.

Roger Sayre is a professor of photography at Pace University. His elaborate art process usually involves some sort of chance and utilizes various materials such as photos, shadows, dog biscuits and cassette tapes. Sayre, as artist and curator, is the recipient of numerous grants. His work has been exhibited internationally. He lives and works in Jersey City.

Roger, I’m intrigued with the way you juggle your professional life. You are an artist, curator, and professor. Plus, you are a husband and father. How do you organize your life to handle all of this plus make art?

Having a teaching job helps, as it gives me more time than if I had a 9-5, and it takes the pressure off of having to make art that people will buy. Actually, I like to think I am good at all of them at once, but in reality, when I focus on one, the others suffer. My goal is to just spread that suffering around so thinly that no one notices. Much.

Roger Sayre, Sitting series, giant pinhole camera

What type of art do you make? What do you do, and why is it important?

Geez, you really want me to answer that? I guess most of my art is conceptually based. I like to use Bruce Nauman as a model. I get an idea and then do what I need to do to see it actualized. Often photography is involved, but not always. It’s important because I spent my valuable time and resources making it. We all have limited amounts of those, so I guess importance can be measured by one’s focus.

Roger Sayre, Sitting series, giant pinhole camera

You tend to use non-traditional mediums and methods in your art. For instance, you have used paper airplanes, industrial plastic pails, and a pinhole camera. You have also used your own body–you grew a long beard, auctioned it on eBay, and sold it for $129. What’s this about? How do you choose your materials, and why?

I used to think that I had to stick with one STYLE, to make art that was recognized as mine, but that wasn’t that interesting to me. I get bored with repetition. I need to keep moving ahead. I have to force myself to finish things because once I get about 4/5ths of the way done with something and I see that it will be successful, I have no interest in seeing it through, I feel that my mission is accomplished. I am on to the next thing. The hardest part is that last fifth.

Tell me about your curatorial project, the Brunswick Windows. What is it?

I’ve been doing the Brunswick Window for 8 years or so now. Over 100 shows. Basically, my studio is in what was once the florist shop for the funeral home next door. I boxed off the window to give myself some privacy (and to allow me to control lighting) and made the window into a showcase for emerging artists most of whom have been local. A few years ago I approached the Texaco station across the street (Village Service Center) and got permission to use their wall space directly across the street from the Brunswick Window (158 Brunswick between 4th and 5th) for larger outdoor pieces. It has been great. Anyone interested in showing there can contact me through brunswickwindow@rogersayre.com.

Roger Sayer, Sitting series, giant pinhole camera

What have been the benefits of organizing Brunswick Windows?

It puts me in touch with artists that I have never met before. It distracts me from doing my own work. OK, that last one isn’t a benefit, but procrastinators embrace distractions. I don’t get much feedback on it although I know a lot of people see it. Every once in a while someone contacts me and says “thank you”.

Roger, as an artist and curator, you’re similar to baseball player and manager Joe Torre. You have been on both sides of the fence. Which side do you prefer, and why?

They are both good, but very very different. I guess I like making more than curating. You get more credit for success.

Roger Sayre, Sitting series, giant pinhole camera

What has been the biggest highlight of your career as an artist? What has been your biggest disappointment?

When I did my online performance piece “eBay/art beard.” Smethport Specialties, the makers of the Wooly Willy toy that was the inspiration for the piece, had a blurb about me on their website. That was satisfying. My biggest disappointment is that I think they took it down.

What three pieces of advice would you give to an artist just starting out their career?

Don’t think, just make. As you make your thoughts will come. If your studio is big enough, get a ping-pong table. I wish mine were. Marry rich.

How long have you lived in Jersey City, and what is it like to be an artist here? Has living in Jersey City influenced your decisions inside and outside the studio?

I’ve been in Jersey City 10 years. There used to be more of a gang in my immediate area and we would hang out a couple times a week, talk art, drink beer etc. I miss that.

At 7.3, Ohio has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the nation. Which actress is responsible for this economic woe–Doris Day, Dorothy Dandridge or Lillian Gish–and why?

Did someone tell you I was from Ohio?

You ride a bicycle, as do many artists, cyclists, and puppets. Who do you identify with more, Nicole Kidman (Judy) in BMX Bandits, Kermit the Frog (himself) in the Muppet Movie or Lance Armstrong, and why?

Well, if we are going to start the Muppet comparisons, I feel that I should say that my colleagues, when assigning a Muppet character to each of the faculty members at Pace, named me Super Grover. I guess it makes sense; Super Grover and I have a lot in common.

Like SG, I am often wrong and rely on others to solve the dilemma at hand while I think that I saved the day. In addition, I often injure myself and have attempted to rescue someone in trouble by saying “wubba wubba.”

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Andrew Blaize Bovasso, self-portrait.

Andrew Blaize Bovasso, native son of Jersey City, is making a name
for himself in the art and publishing world. His primary medium is photography. His subjects include Jersey City, Ground Zero, and 9/11.

NEW Magazine selected his work for the cover of its current issue.

Currently, he has photographs on view in the group exhibition Psychopomp at Curious Matter. He also has a series triptychs on view in the lobby of Hamilton Square.

I recently caught up with Andrew as he prepares to release his first book of photographs, “Conversations with Dan McNulty in Jersey City,” at Hamilton Square on Thursday, Nov. 18.

Andrew, tell us a little bit about yourself, who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Andrew Blaize Bovasso. The middle name is real. It was passed down to me after my grandfather, Blaize Bovasso. I was born in Christ Hospital and have lived in Greenville, Jersey City, all my life. I had originally aspired to be a photographer following my father Anthony’s unexpected death in 2002. I wanted to find a way to fuse my inner emotions of loss with the world as it stood before me, in this “post 9/11” world. After attending Hudson Catholic High School, I was accepted to and enrolled in the BFA program at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD where I majored in photography.

Conversations with Dan McNulty

Tell us about Conversations With Dan McNulty in Jersey City. Who was Dan McNulty, what is the project, and why is it important?

Conversations With Dan McNulty in Jersey City was a culmination of sorts. For completion in MICA’s B.F.A. photo program, one must complete a thesis body of work (a personal project that the student formulates him or herself.) Up until this point in my career I had been creating work that examined death, bereavement, and loss. The critical reception between works was widely similar-the work may have consistently been too personal. For my thesis, I wanted to make sure the experience of death and loss was still clearly visible (and universal) without having to educate an audience with my personal back-story. I also knew I wanted to make a body of work about Jersey City before I left college.

When did you first become familiar with the photographs of Dan McNulty, and what did you find appealing about his work, and why?

I always knew of Dan McNulty’s work. As a child, I loved to go to the book store in the Newport Mall and look at his photographs in the books about Jersey City that were published by Arcadia publishing as a part of the Images of America series. I used to try and use the images to pinpoint places that I knew to exist at the time-and the past seemed so much more magical. Curiously when I was deciding what to do for my thesis project, the Dan McNulty Collection resurfaced in my bathroom reading pile. (A friend had given the book to my mother earlier that month.)

As I flipped through the pages, I remembered looking at these images as a child. The number of places I knew to exist as a child grew much larger as an adult, now with a more full understanding of the city. Some pieces of the puzzle were still missing – and I wanted to know much more. I had found my thesis project.

Janet Leigh / Anne Heche

In 1998, director Gus Van Sant did a shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s groundbreaking movie Psycho. Van Sant caught a lot of flack from the critics and fans, and the receipts from the box office were dismal. Dan McNulty is not a household name. He worked in his family’s funeral home. He was an amateur photographer. What inspired you to recreate the photographs of Dan McNulty? Why did you invest your time, money, and resources in Dan McNulty and not with some well-known photographer such as Gary Winograd, Helen Levitt, James Van Der Zee?

Initially, as both a child and as an adult, the intriguing part about McNulty’s images was that they depict a very honest Jersey City. I had not known, and still do not know many-or any-other photographers to have exclusively worked with Jersey City as their subject matter. I always think of the work by photographer Robert Frank shot in Hoboken and become extremely jealous. Dan McNulty is certainly not a household name. My reason for examining McNulty’s photographs lies much more in the fact that there is a pure and vernacular truth to his works, and also that he concentrated on architectural elements-which are the recognizable staples of our city.

All of the recent flow about Dan McNulty has happened this year. I’ve been with the project since the winter of 2008, and in 2009 I published the first version of the book. McNulty’s granddaughter Lauren found my book online and we are now in close contact. I met local photographer Leon Yost through the project who had also just printed a book containing McNulty’s images. This year the author of my main sourcebook from the project, Kenneth French, nominated Dan McNulty for inclusion in the Circle of Honor in Journal Square, and it was dedicated on September 11, 2010. Everything that seems to happen around Dan McNulty is extremely serendipitous.

Dan McNulty shot pictures of Jersey City from the ’40s to the ’60s. What were the similarities and differences in Jersey City then and now? Have your perceptions of Jersey City changed as a result of this project? If so, how and in what way?

Well the 40’s were just different times; the people were different, architecture was different. Around the time he started photographing Jersey City, the city was going through some major redevelopments. Things were being torn down and replaced by more economically sound structures, usually bearing less architectural integrity. I believe in current day, more than any period in history, Jersey City is undergoing the same kind of redevelopment-particularly and shamelessly centering within the Downtown section.

Through the project I’ve learned that Jersey City develops itself based on functionality and a tight economic budget. Redevelopment is favored over historic preservation, and urban aesthetics almost never mattered.

I love Jersey City-love what it was, and could be. But right now, my feelings are love/hate. Since the production of the project I’ve been interested in exposing these images to the public to ensure their knowledge of importance of historic preservation for the good of the city and its social communities.

Conversations with Dan McNulty

Dan McNulty died in 1976. Describe the process of reshooting his photographs. How were you able to trace his steps? Did McNulty leave behind notes or a diary to guide you along on the process?

The only thing I had to guide me was the book that had resurfaced. It had over 100 original McNulty images pertaining to all sections of the greater Jersey City. The title of my project, “Conversations With Dan McNulty in Jersey City,” refers to the action of re-shooting his images. I came up with the title of the series almost instantaneously after the first set of locations I shot. I really did feel as if I was talking to him-or him to me. I used his image to identify and locate the site, and I would use my camera’s viewfinder to zero in on what he had seen. Consequently, I was honing in on the same cement that supported his feet over 50 years ago. That action was the “conversation”, and I often refer to the images in my series as the transcription of what we “spoke” about. In my book, I say “the only way to have a conversation with Dan McNulty in Jersey City is to go out with your camera and have one yourself.”

What did Dan McNulty’s photographs reveal about the character of Jersey City, and what did they reveal about him?

Dan McNulty was a man who was doing what he wanted to do. His sons say he was “very matter of fact about (photography).” He could have worked in his family-run funeral home, which I am told he did help with, but that was not exactly of his interest. A man who is well acquainted with death often seeks comfort in photography. Photography has an everlasting presence, a crossover from the transient nature of impermanence. To create these kinds of documents is to alleviate one’s issues with death. I can not exactly speak for McNulty on that, but I can surely speak for myself, as well as many other photographers.

Conversations with Dan McNulty

What did it feel like to walk around Jersey City in a dead man’s shoes?

It felt no different than how I feel in my own shoes! I know my mortality well. Long after this project was finished I still experience Jersey City as a continuum-both how it was and how it remains. When I walk down Newark Avenue past the parking lot next to Palace Drugs, I know I am actually standing under the marquee of the Palace Theater. I don’t care very much to note that it’s invisible. I always joke and say that I have better relationships with the dead than I do with the living.

You recently graduated from art school. I loved art school. I got to see nude women on a daily basis and draw them. I went to museums and galleries, read tons of books, and had a studio, a library, and critiques at my disposal. And then I graduated. I worked a nickel-and-dime job, drank at the corner bar, and watched TV. This has not been your experience. You have already participated in at least four shows, published a book, and work full-time in a prestigious gallery in Chelsea. What steps have you taken to avoid the pitfalls of graduation-self-pity, immobilization, writer’s block, and financial destitution? What motivates you to continue working, and how do you maintained your focus? What advice would you give to recent graduates?

At MICA, we drew naked men and women of all shapes and sizes, sometimes while they ran around bouncing all around the room and we’d have to draw their movement. Real artists don’t give up hope, ever. A good way to figure out if you are an artist is to think about how your life would be different without your art. If the difference is completely unpredictable and incomprehensible, you are a real artist. Going to art school doesn’t birth this. I learned that very quickly at MICA. Though they taught us a ton of technical advancement, the instructional focus from our professors came much more from the cognitive development and constructive criticism of our pre-existing artistic ventures, and they never told us what to do. The ones that didn’t get it would just drop out.

When I graduated, I knew that whatever I wanted to create, it had to be smart, not just aesthetically pleasing. I also knew that my “career” and my “job” served two very different purposes. I believe I am a successful artist because I have accepted that the bulk of my money would not come directly through art profits. Many young artists are discouraged by lack of sales. If you aren’t Ryan McGinley, you aren’t going to sell. My main goal is to exhibit work. Once you alleviate that burden of art sales, you can make work that really speaks to your heart. I often make work that is not sellable-like video and installation sculpture. If I were worried about selling it, I would have never created it.

If you can’t get the jobs you need to maintain an “art career”, just be creative in whatever you can do. I worked, and still work occasionally at Patti Paige Baked Ideas in SoHo. I was responsible for a good amount of her inventory of 2 by 2 inch gingerbread houses, among many other creative baked cookie inventions.

I also spend very little money creating new work. If I am making a black and white series, I print in the darkroom in my basement. If I am doing color, I print at the International Center of Photography in Manhattan. I was a teacher’s assistant over the summer at a community development center they run in the Bronx. Each hour I worked there I received one hour of darkroom time – I have about 90 hours racked up. It’s all about finding the best resources and knowing what you need to do to be happy with yourself and your work. (All of the opportunities, including my current employment and several fine art exhibition opportunities were found at NYFA.org)

My job at the gallery covers the cost of living as a fine artist/photographer, and the work isn’t too far off of what I constantly should be thinking about and doing anyway. I chose to intern at many galleries and organizations in Manhattan because it was the closest art community at my disposal. Looking for jobs in photography was brutal and impossible, but freelance jobs were vast. I did shoot freelance for many events, but that is not the kind of photography I cared about. In the end, my gallery put me on as their photographer/designer and I am doing the kind of work that will satisfy me outside of my fine art-not to mention work that will monetarily make my personal fine art possible. I only got the position because I was extremely persistent about it.

Andrew Blaize Bovasso

Andrew Blaize Bovasso

Let’s focus on Jersey City. In Conveyer, the designer Josef Reyes notes: “A life is a narrative and a place is a meeting point of several narratives. Consider a place to be not so much a physical environment but a crossing point of disparate stories.” What are a few of the buried stories of Jersey City, and what do they reveal about the character of our city?

Your question is beautiful but in order to answer truthfully I would have to hear what the City would say to the same question. If the City was less interested in the physical environment and more interested in the crossing point of disparate stories, it would not center it’s development solely within the Downtown section-a section of Jersey City that’s prized solely upon its physical proximity to lower Manhattan and its grand views of it. Jersey City will always shamelessly live in the shadows of New York City, and the fact that our City has given in to this by overdeveloping the Downtown section merely due to its proximity to NYC appears blatant and absolutely disgusts me. Greenville, anyone?-Nope! Too far away.

What is your favorite place to eat? Who has the best jukebox, and where can you find a decent cup of coffee?

I really love Taqueria, Boulevard Drinks (and The Brownstone Diner, but the Broadway Diner (in Bayonne) has the all-time best of the best French onion soup (I usually order a entree too and forget how big the French onion soup actually is). I don’t know nothing ’bout no jukeboxes. And I substitute coffee with diet soda and I know its unhealthy and don’t care at all.

It’s time for the City Smackdown. Baltimore inspired David Simon’s television show The Wire. Jersey City inspired the Jim Jarmusch movie Ghostdog, and the original score by RZA. Which city-Baltimore or Jersey City-inspires better art, and why?

That’s easy! Baltimore. The city screams art. It’s very colorful and you can still carry a decent conversation with any stranger down there despite B-more being even more dangerous than any place in Jersey. I don’t know that the question should be what “inspires” art better or what city makes art more possible. Inspiration comes from the inspired wherever they may be. In Baltimore, there are many more programs for art, more high schools and colleges dedicated solely to fine art advancement, and more galleries and organizations that are nationally recognized. Jersey City on the other hand has no nationally recognized organizations within the arts. I am not saying that artists cannot thrive here-most of the art traffic comes from neighboring cities like Newark and NYC. Aside from the annual JC Studio Tour or Pro-Arts, the only redeeming qualities about the arts in Jersey City are its no-snob approach, and its talented artists and up-and-coming artist run organizations that constantly struggle to function within an artist community that has remained neglected and undefined by the City. As I said previously about the city: I love what it was, and I love what it can be.

One a side note: a portion of Ghostdog was filmed on Neptune Avenue across the street from my Grandparents house. I met Forest Whittaker as they were giving away left over tubs of ice cream away to the locals. He signed my notebook “Do good in school-Forest.”

Neptune Avenue / Old Bergen Road, Jersey City, NJ

What is up next for you?

First and foremost, mark your calendars for my official opening of the “Conversations series at the Hamilton Square,” Lobby (232 Pavonia Avenue) on Nov. 18 from 6 to 8 p.m. Both hard cover and paperback versions of my book will be on display for the first time, as well as the large-scale framed triptychs. The site hosted my portion of the studio tour and was generous enough to offer a reception on that date. Expect to see at least three other different photo series of mine there.

For a closer look at my new series, please visit bovasso.blogspot.com and search “Tik-Tok of Oz.”

Anybody with inquiries on work or commissions please contact me directly at bovasso.photo@gmail.com.

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