Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Upcoming NY Exhibition

image copyright Gordon Stettinius

Passing this along. I am excited to be showing in New York next month though I am a little stymied by all that needs to be done between now and then... but it will be done.

Exhibition runs from January 20th - February 28th, 2010

Opening Reception will be Wednesday, January 20th
from 5:30 to 8:30pm

(from the RRG press release...)

The Robin Rice Gallery is pleased to present the exhibition of photography by Gordon Stettinius.

In his new body of work, Gordon Stettinius presents Notes From US Route 1. This collection of color and sepia toned images, lies somewhere between Robert Frank’s, The Americans and Alec Soth’s, Sleeping Along the Mississippi. Stettinius has given us a memorable and clear eyed meditation upon the American road trip and a particular moment in time, awash with motels, roadhouses, wanderers, and characters that would have to be included in any modern back road odyssey.

Stone Crab Traps, Florida, featured on the exhibition announcement, is indicative of the power of observation that Stettinius possesses for his surroundings. The simplicity of the composition is underwritten with an incredible amount of detail and a sensual presence and becomes an image that is understood immediately but then refuses to let go.

In another image taken at The State Fair in Virginia, Bottle Tree portrays a tree in the foreground adorned with wine and liquor bottles set against a red and white striped circus tent. His expert handling of color, line, and frame creates a statement piece that evokes thoughts of both the carnival and restless energy of its gin-soaked revelers.

David, Kingsville Maryland, shows a poetic yet un-glamorized view of a man dragging a larger than life wood cross with a backpack tied to it. Stettinius takes this subject and not only looks but also assimilates him to a modern semi-Christ. His images are more than an anthropological examination they’re an intimate experience between a photographer and his chosen subject.

Stettinius’ work reveals in real-time what Ronald Barthes called the reality effect in 19th century art, making the content chosen relatable to all viewers, even out of context. None of his visuals are arbitrary, nor are they staged. Stettinius takes all of his subjects and brings their intrinsic meaning to the forefront; he has a true understanding of and respect for the power of the visual, the power of suggestion.

Gordon Stettinius lives and works in Richmond, Virginia. His undergraduate degrees in Art & History are from the University of Virginia and he is currently taking a year off from teaching in the Art Department at Virginia Commonwealth University to start an independent publishing company focusing on fine art photography primarily. Gordon has exhibited his work nationally and internationally and is one of this years recipient of the Theresa Pollak Award for Excellence in the Arts. His work has been featured commercially on book jackets, CD covers, and national magazines as well as being represented in various public and private collections. This is his third solo show at the Robin Rice Gallery.

For more information or printable images please contact Robin Rice at (212) 366-6660 or email info@robinricegallery.com All the additional images of this new work can be found on our website at www.robinricegallery.com.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

U.S. Route 1 Project promo [1 of 6]

I have just put together a leave behind, a trifold promo card, for the U.S. Route 1 project. Essentially what I will be using in reviews and meetings and such trying to get the word out I guess you might say. Have been working on other cards also. More to come...

U.S. Route 1 Project promo [2 of 6]

This is one facet of a trifold card with normal boilerplate contact info and five images on it... I needed something more than a single image card because there are no images that stand in for such a varied collection of work...

Monday, November 16, 2009

U.S. Route 1

Stone Crab Traps, Florida
copyright Gordon Stettinius

This past summer I started a new project documenting U.S. Route 1 from Canada to Key West. Essentially, i drove the whole length of road... which runs some 2,300+ miles. The road hits a number of significant metro areas... starting in Richmond, Virginia of course; Baltimore; Philadelphia; Washington D.C.; New York City (through the Bronx), Boston; Miami; Jacksonville; New
Haven; and more. And so the road is part scenic and part sobering reality really and the idea of doing a photo survey seems to me a bit over-reaching. I feel as though I have gone to the ocean and having been impressed I irrationally decided to try to bring it back to the studio.

But... the die is cast as they say. Or the buns burned maybe. So, while I am not sure I am completely finished shooting the project and there are a few things that might still add complexion or color or integrity... I am definitely sitting on top of a mountain of interesting work which is in dire need of sober editing. The first opportunity to exhibit the work is coming up in January 2010 at Robin Rice Gallery, so I am definitely crackling along right now. And I will be showing the work also here in Richmond eventually at Page Bond Gallery though that hasn't been specifically scheduled as yet. And I hope to add additional galleries to the schedule as well and have, I am thinking, at least one other likely exhibition in the works.

I haven't decided how much of the work to put online just yet. For the moment, I am trying to figure out what a show might look like versus how a book might look. There is a lot of analog (film) work and there is a whole lot of digital work. So, the immediate learning curve for me is trying to determine how I want to output the digital work but those are coming along really well. So, more images and information to come as I catch up with the darkroom side of things...

And if you should have a pithy title for the project then let her rip. I am still not quite sure what I want to go with. Whether I want to go with something simple and explicit like "U.S. Route 1 Project" or something more poetic like "The Long and Crinkly Thread of Time and Transportation" or maybe something more cryptic like "Cobalt Wails of Ecstacy" or... Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Was able to visit with Gita last week...

Visit with Gita; part 1
Originally uploaded by eyecaramba

I was in New York for a few days last week and had the opportunity to visit with Gita Lenz and give to her a blurb book we produced of her work. I have been working with her images for a couple of years now and we have managed a fairly decent book dummy courtesy of Blurb, though the quality is not quite what I would have liked. Because the print quality of Gita's work is very, very good and the work has suffered a bit with our initial attempts at self producing the work, we are looking into a better published book and will start to get the word out about that very soon.

There are other videos over at Flickr:


Also there is more about this project over at gitalenz.blogspot.com

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Toy Cameras; A Personal History

Victor, circa 1990
copyright Gordon Stettinius

Prompted by a question found at Four Corners Dark, a blog by photographer Nic Nichols, essentially asking how it is a person might come to embrace the nature of toy camera photography.

So, here, I reminisce...

The year was 1990 and I was a mere pup, still wet behind the gear. Back then, I spent most of my days, skipping innocently around, making photos of cacti or stoner friends or reflected light and shadows that felt, to me, like poetry, which I would then accompany – of course! - with mindblowing poetry. Very questionable mindblowing poetry. These were my salad days… living in Tucson, a geographic misanthrope of a town in which I landed bright eyed and by accident. A town with a history of lawlessness, desperate characters, a place danced upon by shimmering visions riding upon throat clenching heat and dust and spelled by the fleeting relief of monsoons and mescal, a place of high desert and mountains and dealers and thieves and siestas and All Souls and cultural renegades… at the foot of the black hill, a dormant volcano… But the place was then, and remains, a very generous homeland to photographers. A beautiful place really. There has always been there a healthy subpopulation of imagemakers, and many institutions and galleries of the town still genuflect before the silver altar of fixed imagery.

My gear, then, in the year of my random relocation, consisted of a Nikon FM2 with a couple of lenses and an old Rolleiflex TLR I had bought the year before in San Francisco, from a time when I had been busy kicking the training wheels off my liberal ideology. I still have and use these cameras today but I was newly open to any kind of suggestions because I very much enjoyed mixed media work – painting, drawing, printmaking - and wasn’t really averse to new experiences. As Vonnegut said, “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” And road trips and photography were my church so to speak.

The actual moment of my discovering toy camera photography was a fairly prosaic one. I saw a hand written flyer, made a phone call, met a man on the north side of town who claimed to be holding and we made the exchange beneath a purple sky in a Circle K parking lot. It was a small cardboard package, plastic wrapped goods, smelling slightly of laudanum and black earth. Cost me ten dollars. A dime bag. And it was highly addictive. A Holga. I have probably purchased 200 or more of these since that first night, so many cameras I have used myself or have given out to students and friends… the first one is usually free just to give them a taste. But I know that a black passion will infect most of them… and that they in turn will spread the word about a good buzz… and I am twisted up inside with pleasure at the thought.

The Holga immediately required a great deal of attention. I found that I wanted to use it daily. I tried other cameras around this time as well. Somehow, something had been cut loose inside of me and if something like the Holga could be out there, then there might be other cameras, better cameras even, out there and waiting to be used, waiting to lend their own distorted ripple upon the waters of recorded imagery. I tried a few of the bakelite Brownies and they tasted pretty good and mushed up my reality for days at a time. A friend of mine was pushing homemade pinhole cameras pretty hard about then and this too had a nice drunken pictorial undertone… I was quick to try anything really. But the Holga was the first toy, cheap, easy camera that had any real sustained effect. I was loaned a Diana, soon after, by a friend and there was a camera that also had a kick, a soft and subtle claret note… this one, I knew, would be an interesting fix.

Finding a Diana of my own was going to be a trick though. They were not common, there was not yet an internet or ebay or any big box corporate markup refab retail store. I had to deal with another somewhat shady character to get my first one but Mr. Bubbles was good for several others after that. Bubbles ran an antique outfit on Congress called Used Cars. Mostly this guy would troll the southwest looking for neon signage to resell to the Japanese for extraordinary profit. But he was a photographer in his own right and tended to pick up all the photographic whatnot he encountered as he traveled around in his pickup plus trailer. One day, I was hanging out in the shop, surrounded by missile casings and bumper cars and gramophones and all manner of disheveled temporal castoffs talking up my ten dollar Holga while making a portrait of Victor, Bubbles’ real name, when he broke out with a box of recent acquisitions to see if I might have any interest. And there it was. A Diana. I had only just learned of the camera a few weeks earlier. Five dollars was all he asked for the first one and probably thought he was screwing me pretty. Once Victor realized I would buy any Diana or knock off he could find, he marked them up pretty quickly. But the damage was done and I had a small stable of about six or so Dianas, a couple of Holgas plus my old gear. I was using pretty much all the time by then.

Ironically, when I managed a trip back east to see my family later that year… I discovered in my parent’s upstairs closet… a minty Windsor clone. My parents were users! It was a pretty delicious moment for me. Grounding even, to realize that my own subversive tendencies came from somewhere else. I am free to blame my parents for fuck sakes! And that is pretty much the american dream I sometimes think. And so, that very Windsor became the lead camera for a while, at least until I melted it in a regrettable Volkswagen camper episode. And then others took its place.

And now, almost twenty years later, life goes on but I still thrill to see all these new converts to the old siren song and it warms my black plastic heart to see it. It is funny, really, that the experiments with other photo substances continue for me but the hook of the cheap stuff still appeals.


Gordon S.


Another friend of Nancy R.


Eye Caramba


Gringo Starr

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

101 Things To Do In 1001 Days

Take 2

copyright Gordon Stettinius, Terry Brown

Because I feel like I could use a little self-improvement. I have put togther a list of goals for the next 1001 days. Originally, this idea comes from triplux, who has started a movement of sorts, it would seem, as there are a lot of these lists out there.

For the record, this is my second attempt at making such a list. My first attempt was fairly successful in that I knocked off about half the list and managed a few things that I may not have without the ongoing reminder. And before you castigate me for my blatant pandering to my own self-interest, I would like you to take a long look in the mirror and then, give yourself a big hug because you are truly o.k.. I mean that.

Anyway, this is not simply a list. This is big picture stuff. This is man-making, life-fulfilling, by-the-balls-grabbing stuff. And I am commencing directly. Living at the behest of a pure and unadulterated mania.

Completion Date: October 4th, 2011

The Criteria: Tasks are ideally specific (i.e. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks should also be realistic and a bit off-task from the regular routine (i.e. represent some amount of work which must be done).

1. Write Something Meaningful (2/3)
~ 2. Go to a Drive In
~ 3. Each Room, Five things to Charity
4. Go to a Comedy Club (1/2)
5. Picnic Three Times (2/3)
6. Scuba Dive
7. Two Day Fast (1/3)
8. Get Myself Set Up to Weld
9. Get Rejected 24 times (11/24)
~ 10. Finish Book About Gita Lenz
~ 11. Exhibition for Gita Lenz
~ 12. Give Blood
13. Travel Somewhere by Train
14. Make Short Film
~ 15. Clean Garage
16. Get Photo Book Published
~ 17. Training for a Certain Dog (…and she knows she is. )
~ 18. Go to the theatre five times (5/5)
19. Visit Mexico City
20. Visit Spain
~ 21. Visit Boston
~ 22. Visit Fallingwater
23. Take Dance lessons
24. Paint a portrait
~ 25. Show Work in Three New Cities (3/3)
~ 26. Frame five Photos Collected from Other Photographers (8/5)
27. Frame a new drawing
~ 28. Buy Art (5/3)
29. Barter/Trade Artwork (3/5)
30. Submit Images to Blind Spot
31. Submit Images to Aperture
~ 32. Read five Books Recommended by five Friends
~ 33. Get a physical / G.I. exam or whatever you call it
34. New Volunteer Gig ( Habitat 4 Humanity or new / different )
~ 35. Go Snowboarding
36. Return to Bonnaroo
~ 37. Organize My Old Writings
38. Write / Record a song
39. Begin Family interviews
~ 40. Spend the day walking
41. Spend the day biking
42. Go to Southside Speedway
43. Attend services / visit a Mosque
~ 44. Support the Farmer’s Market
45. Make Homemade Beer / Wine
~ 46. Re-establish Garden
47. Public Karaoke
48. Run a half marathon (or better)
~ 49. Photograph/Interview a Psychic
50. Go Horseback Riding
~ 51. Go to a Vikings game
52. Burning Man
53. Spend Day with Dad
54. Spend Day with Mom
55. Spend day with Brother
56. Spend Day with Sister
~ 57. Get House Painted
58. Cook for Eight people (2/3)
59. Write a Children's Book
60. Collaborate with Another Artist (2/3)
~ 61. Go Ice Skating
62. Walker's Mix #7, #8, #9
63. Firefly
64. Paint or Buy Vintage or Vintage Style Backdrops (0/2)
65. Throw a Party (1/2)
66. Crash a Party (0/2)
~ 67. Get Together a Promotional Something (4/3)
68. Bake Yeasted Bread (0/3)
69. Go Camping (1/3)
70. Make Sushi
71. Don't Speak for an Entire Day
~ 72. Celebrate Solstice
73. Write Thank You Note to Former Teacher
~ 74. Locate an Old Friend (Actually, Real World) (3/3)
~ 75. Find / Use one of those Deodorant Stones
76. Hot Springs, Somewhere
77. Host a Mystery Dinner
~ 78. Take Yoga Classes
79. Make an Artist’s Book
~ 80. Go Naked
81. Sunday Roadtrip (14/25)
82. Get Photos to Someone Who Has Given up on Them (2/3)
83. Read Five Books I Already Own (3/5)
~ 84. Design / Produce a Small Run of T-shirts
85. Make Pesto (1/3)
86. Sky Dive
87. Take a Class in Ceramics
88. Curate a Toy Camera Show
89. Cirque du Soleil
~ 90. Finish Infinite Jest
~ 91. Find/Make a Quality Lamb or Bear Costume
~ 92. Get some Photo Swag Going (…via CafePress or similar. )
93. Swim in a Lake
94. Organize Family Photos
95. Earth Art or Plan for Empty Field
~ 96. Website Redesign
97. Massage / Accupuncture (2/5)
98. Go to Cuba
99. Go White Water Rafting
~ 100. Re-certify for CPR
101. Make Chile Relleno

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Where Trouble Melts Like Lemon Drops...

Earlier this past year, I did a podcast with the good folks over at Filmwasters.com. I have done a couple of these recorded sessions actually, but will gloss over my debut appearance, because in my ignominious first podcast, I drank a couple of tumblers of Bushmills during the ninety minute episode and by the end of the broadcast it was all I could do not to belt out sea shanties. Anyway, during the second podcast, I referenced something that I still think about a lot… Mary Ellen Mark’s work photographing various Senior Proms. I saw this work last summer at the LOOK Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, Virginia. There were a number of featured exhibitions in the festival and some great photography in various venues in town.

James Nachtwey’s exhibition was the most compelling to me as a human. Nachtwey is a photojournalist and war photographer and his website will do more to explain the power of his work than I can ever get across in a quickly crafted internet treatment… his work encompasses the larger issues facing this world: Afganistan, Kosovo, Aids, addiction, life in american prisons, Rwanda and that is all that I can remember off the top of my head of what was a essentially a survey of his work over the years. So, to spin this the right way, let me say that this work blew me away. Choked me up. The images are beautiful and saddening and frightening and worth checking out if you are somehow as yet unfamiliar with his work.

Joel Peter Witken’s exhibition at 2nd Street Gallery was also very compelling in its own right. I must say that I have seen better collections of his work but as a craftsman and as a conceptual artist, Witken is also an amazing personality. The work in here was significant in that there were some digital creations alongside his earlier style of in-camera compositions. Which is really neither here nor there w/r/t what I want to think out loud about, but I thought it interesting to see what Witken was doing with contemporary tools. And the inner cynical adolescent in me was pretty amused by his digital work.

But the work that was most affecting for me was a bit of a dark horse really. I have enjoyed many of Mary Ellen Mark's books and essays over the years. I have a great respect for her as a photographer. And like Nachtwey, she is a renowned photojournalist that has explored very challenging subjects and given us indelible images from all over the world. But what the Prom Portraits did for me was to renew some tired aspect of my own dedication to photography. Because these images came from such a ‘normal’ place… a high school dance… I could imagine myself or any number of my photographer friends being given a similar assignment to photograph. Namely, to make images at some random institutional function. And I can further imagine that prospect , at bottom dollar, would sound about as appealing as a mason jar full of monkey urine. I am not always so jaded but I find that I don’t always approach commercial work with the same enthusiasm as I do personal artwork. And that is my problem. And a problem that this show of prom images is actually helping me with.

The images were not incredibly innovative by most measures… very large prints, probably from 4x5 polaroid pos/neg film, very sharp, studio lighting, simple backdrop… BUT the kids are amazing. There is a modicum of editorial manipulation going on by the artist in that the kids seem a little more toward the margins of ‘average’, what with the gay couple, the mixed race couple, the physically mismatched couple, the dateless kids, etc. And there were other stereotypes that also played nicely, the good looking kids with questionable skin, the oddly fitting clothes like the kids have been stuffed into misshapen adult suits, the awkwardness of standing next to one’s date and forever being associated with that person even though you hardly know them, its all in there… nervousness, lust, tough shit brio, bored indulgence of a photographer that these kids must probably have assumed was a hack straight out ofWalmart. There is a lot going on in these photographs. And so, even though Mark’s photography feels a bit like a humble sequel to Richard Avedon’s In The American West, damn if I didn’t get all excited by the work. These photos make me actually excited to shoot the next boring ass event that comes my way... Can you say weddings! Or maybe bar mitzvahs or kids’ portraits or pet portraits or insurance claim documentation. It just doesn’t fucking matter! It is not what you shoot but how you shoot. It matters what you bring to any given subject. It matters who you are as a photographer. It matters where you are. And it matters that you pay attention. In the moment.

So, to Ms. Mark, thanks for that. I am somewhat renewed even just thinking about it.

A friend once gave me a whole CD of musical covers of Over the Rainbow. And that, too, was really sort of a lesson for me about interpretation. Originality is so often inside the voice and not so much in the concept. Freshness can be tone, color, inflection, cadence, tempo, attitude, character… Traditionals. Covers. There is, of course, no shortage of uninspired interpretations of old standards. If I never hear Mustang Sally played by a bar band ever again, it will be too soon. But with a little insight into how we approach our life and work, we might be able to avoid the tired and commonplace and embrace the crystalline brilliance of the close at hand.

Write what you know.
Photograph what you know.

There is saftey in numbers but it is hard to dance that way without looking like the cast from Thriller.

Charles Traub wrote in a series of maxims on photography:

"Do something new in an old way.
Do something old in a new way.
Do something new in a new way
Whatever works… works."

Just maybe.

A Soupçon of Winter Relief

What to write… Somali pirates, Gaza rockets, Israeli reprisals, new year’s resolutions, vanity projects, Bonesy the dog, magical powders, unfinished screenplays, upcoming shows, my life of soup… Soup! I have made the following recipe a couple of times in my efforts to knock back the winter months…

A soup recipe from my friend, Kirsten:

Autumn harvest stew

1 medium sized onion, chopped
about 4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 cups vegetable broth, plus water if too thick
one can diced stewed tomatoes
one butternut squash, peeled and cubed
about 3 cups shredded greens (I use combo of kale and chard, etc., etc.)
about 1/3 cup fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 pkgs baked savory tofu, cubed
about 2 TBSP maple syrup
salt and pepper

in large saucepan, heat olive oil and sauté onions and garlic until softened and fragrant. Add remaining ingredients except salt and pepper. Bring to a slow simmer, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until squash is cooked through and flavors blended, about 45 minutes to an hour. add salt and pepper.

Serve with unsweetened yogurt or sour cream on top; pine nuts or roasted pumpkin seeds; raisins or chopped dried apricots.