Wendy Sue Lamm’s photographs are striking by their ability to express the duality of both objective yet profound artistic statements simultaneously.

 

Her first book, From the Land of Miracles, published in Europe and North America, is a figurative and artistic reflection on the fragile balance of the daily lives of Israelis and Palestinians in peace and in war. Within days of its release American Photo Magazine and the Scandinavian Book Fair in Gothenburg, Sweden, selected From the Land of Miracles as one of the best books of the year.

 

Ms. Lamm’s photographs are exhibited in numerous museums and galleries worldwide, including Stockholm Stadsmuseet, Milan’s FORMA International Center of Photography, the Louvre in Paris, and Japan’s Asahi Museum; her work is published in international publications such as The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, Elle, Geo, Der Spiegel, Le Espresso, Republica, Figaro. Her portraiture is highly sought after by major artists in recording and entertainment.

 

After earning a BA in Humanities from the University of California at Berkeley, Ms. Lamm accepted photographic assignments for the next eight years that spanned America--from the border towns of El Paso, Texas & Juarez, Mexico, to metropolitan daily newspapers & magazines in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Subsequently, she was based in Jerusalem as a foreign correspondent for the French wire service Agence France-Presse, and then European photo agencies.

 

As a member of the Los Angeles Times team reporting on the 1994 earthquake in Northridge, CA her photos were part of the coverage that earned the Times a Pulitzer Prize.

 

From 1996 to 2005 she was based in Jerusalem, Paris and Stockholm. Acclaim for her work in those years includes World Press Photo Awards and the National Press Photographers Picture of the Year Awards.

 

She currently lives in her native Los Angeles.

 

 


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Clients include:

 

Sony A& M Records Octone Hermes Prada JAR CitiCorp Sprint Mikimoto Lufthansa New York Times Magazine Newsweek Elle Geo Der Spiegel   L’Espresso Los Angeles Times Magazine La Republica  Figaro Marie Claire Il Venerdi El Pais The Economist Jonathan Club

 



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Selected Awards:

 

Best Books of the Year, Scandinavian Book Fair, 2005

World Press Photo, 1998, 1999

Pictures of the Year (POY) 1999, 1998, 1992

Pulitzer Prize, 1994, As a member of the Los Angeles Times team reporting on the 1994 earthquake in Northridge, CA her photos were part of the coverage that earned the Times a Pulitzer Prize.

Pulitzer Prize Finalist 1992, As a member of the Oakland Tribune team reporting on the 1991 Oakland Hills Firestorm, her photos were part of the coverage that nominated the Tribune for a Pulitzer Prize.

 

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BOOKS

Monographs:

 

 

From the Land of Miracles, Wendy Sue Lamm; Contrasto 2005

Dalla Terra Dei Miracoli, Wendy Sue Lamm; Contrasto, Italy 2005

Fran Undrens Land, Wendy Sue Lamm; Journal, Sweden 2005

 

You can see Dalla Terra Dei Miracoli here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgVuf-WLKw8

 

To purchase books:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/8889032731/ref=dp_olp_collectible?ie=UTF8&condition=collectible

 

 

I Want To Take A Picture, Elia Baitel; Rawbooks, 2010

http://eliapictures.jimdo.com/

 

 

To see the book:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgVuf-WLKw8

 

 

 

 

 

Selected Collections:

Aesthetics, Tango, USA 2009

Drommen om verkligheten (A Dream of Reality), Marie Lundquist; Journal, Sweden 2007

It Won’t be Soon Before Long, Maroon 5, CD booklet; A&M Records, USA 2007

Aesthetics, 4 Stop Press, USA 2007

Eurogeneration, Contrasto, Italy 2004

Facing the World, Great Moments in Photojournalism, Agence France-Presse; France, USA, Abrams 2001

Photojournalism: The Professionals’ Approach, Kenneth Kobre; Focal Press, USA 2000

Inferno and Paradiso, Alfredo Jaar; BildMuseet, Riksutallningar and ACTAR, Sweden 1999

World Press Photo 1998; World Press Photo Foundation, Netherlands, 1999

World Press Photo 1997; World Press Photo Foundation, Netherlands, 1998

 

 

 

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Exhibits

Ruben-Frankel Gallery, Boston University
Ruben-Frankel Gallery, Boston University

 

Selected solo exhibits:

2012

Dalla Terra Dei Miracoli, Bulgari, 201 N. Rodeo Drive,  Beverly Hills, California, USA

Thursday May 24- Thursday June 21.


2009   

From the Land of Miracles, The Perfect Exposure Gallery, Los Angeles, California, USA


2008
   

From the Land of Miracles, Rubin-Frankel Gallery, Boston University, Boston,     Massachusets, USA

Israel at Sixty, Dortort Center, UCLA, Los Angeles, California, USA


2007   

Maroon 5 – It Won’t be Soon Before Long, Virtual exhibit www.maroon5.com

2006    

Dalla Terra Dei Miracoli, Dedica Festival, Pordenone, Italy

2005   

Dalla Terra Dei Miracoli, FORMA, International Center for Photography, Milan, Italy

Selected group exhibits:

 

2014

PHOTO LA, Los Angeles, California, USA

The Perfect Exposure

 

2013-2014

Una Passione Fotografica

FORMA, International Center for Photography, Milan, Italy

http://www.formafoto.it/2013/11/una-passione-fotografica-dal-18-ottobre-al-12-gennaio-2014/

Opere di : Richard Avedon, Piergiorgio Branzi, Gianni Berengo Gardin, Robert Capa, Stefano Cerio, Lorenzo Cicconi Massi, Elliott Erwitt, Maurizio Galimberti, Mario Giacomelli, Mimmo Jodice, William Klein, Wendy Sue Lamm, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Saul Leiter, LIFE, Martial, Nino Migliori, Erwin Olaf, Martin Parr, Marco Pesaresi, PREMIO F, Martin Schoeller, Massimo Siragusa, Phil Stern, Paolo Ventura, Albert Watson, WOMEN CHANGING INDIA, Andrew Zuckerman.

 

2010 

DRAWING THE LINE

Beverly Arts Center 2407 W. 111th Street, Chicago, IL 60655

 

A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop a-lop-bam-boo
Six Decades of Rock ’n’ Roll
Amerika Haus,

Karolinen Platz 3, München, Germany


2009    

Like Water on Rock, Platt/Borstein Galleries, Los Angeles, California,
        The Finegood Art Gallery, West Hills, California,
        Gotthelf Art Gallery, La Jolla, California, USA
Aesthetics, The Perfect Exposure Gallery, Los Angeles, California, USA

2007    

Aesthetics, The Perfect Exposure Gallery, Los Angeles, California, USA

2005    

Best Books of the Year, Scandinavian Book Fair, Gothenborg, Sweden
Eurogeneration, Museo di Roma, Rome, Italy

Arles Photography festival, Les Recontres d'Arles, France


2004   

Eurogeneration, Palazzo Reale, Milan, Italy

Eurogeneration,Visa Pour L'image, Perpignan, France

Granser (Boundaries), Riksutstallningar, Stockholm Stadsmuseet, Stockholm, Sweden

2002    

Le Photojournalism, cur: De Maigret, Hotel DeVille de Paris16, Paris, France
Holy Land, 6th Encuentro internacional de Fotoperiodismo , Ciudad de Gijon, Spain

Nativite Dans les rues de Barr, Strasbourg, France

2001
   

Inferno and Paradiso,cur: Alfredo Jaar, Riksutstallningar
Bild Museet, Umea Sweden
South Africa National Gallery, South Africa
Maison de la culture Frontenac Montreal, Canada

2000    

A Century of Love and War, Asahi Museum, Asahi Japan

1999
   

World Press Photo exhibited in more than 40 countries, incl:
World Trade Center Twin Towers Bridge, NY, USA
Louvre, Paris; France
European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium
Dom Cultural Center, Moscow, Russia
National Museum, Nairobi, Kenya
Taiwan Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
Royal Festival Halll, London, UK
National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, India
Customs House, Sydney, Austrailia
Castle of Good Hope Gallery, Capetown, South Africa
Franz Mayer Museum, Mexico City, Mexico
Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland

Le Oeil, le Mois de la Photo, Montreal, Canada

1998   

World Press Photo, exhibited in more than 40 countries incl:
Museum for World Peace, Kyoto, Japan
Cairo Opera House, Cairo, Egypt
Museum of Human Sciences, Harare, Zimbabwe
Palais Palffy, Vienna, Austria
Museo De La Nacion, Lima Peru
Obala Art Centar, Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Kasteev State Art Museum, Almaty, Kazakhstan

 

Una passione fotografica – dal 18 ottobre al 12 gennaio 2014

Una passione fotografica
immagini da 8 anni di mostre

Fare una mostra è cercare amici e alleati per la battaglia.
Edouard Manet, 1867
Giovedì 17 ottobre alle 18.30 inaugura, presso Fondazione Forma per la Fotografia, la mostra Una passione fotografica. Immagini da 8 anni di mostre.

Il pioniere è stato Hippolyte Bayard che a Parigi, nell’estate del 1839, prima ancora che la fotografia avesse la sua investitura ufficiale, pensò di sistemare le sue migliori immagini in una sala pubblica: era nata la prima mostra fotografica. Ed era nata con un’intenzione chiara ed esplicita: mostrare, indicare, convincere. Del resto, si organizzano mostre per affermare, sensibilizzare, imporre un’idea, proporre uno stile, voltar pagina. Insomma, come diceva Manet, per partire in battaglia.

Senza voler fare paragoni troppo impegnativi, anche la Fondazione Forma per la Fotografia, nella sede di piazza Tito Lucrezio Caro a Milano, ha presentato dal 2005 un programma fitto e ininterrotto di mostre fotografiche. Grandi autori, giovani promesse, retrospettive celebri e percorsi a volte azzardati: tutto per mostrare la forza e la potenzialità della fotografia, per indicare le sue strade e i suoi diversi stili e per convincere di quanto la fotografia sia un linguaggio della contemporaneità. Della nostra vita e del nostro futuro.

Una passione fotografica vuole ripercorrere proprio questi anni e questo impegno per e nella città di Milano. Attraverso alcune delle opere esposte nel tempo, accompagnate dai volumi, gli inviti e la memorabilia che ogni allestimento porta con sé, si ricostruisce il senso di una presenza e il valore di un lavoro – nutrito, appunto, da vera passione fotografica.

Opere di : Richard Avedon, Piergiorgio Branzi, Gianni Berengo Gardin, Robert Capa, Stefano Cerio, Lorenzo Cicconi Massi, Elliott Erwitt, Maurizio Galimberti, Mario Giacomelli, Mimmo Jodice, William Klein, Wendy Sue Lamm, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Saul Leiter, LIFE, Martial, Nino Migliori, Erwin Olaf, Martin Parr, Marco Pesaresi, PREMIO F, Martin Schoeller, Massimo Siragusa, Phil Stern, Paolo Ventura, Albert Watson, WOMEN CHANGING INDIA, Andrew Zuckerman.

Fare una mostra è cercare amici e alleati per la battaglia, ha scritto Edouard Manet nel 1867. E in effetti, si organizzano mostre per convincere, per sensibilizzare, per imporre un’idea, proporre uno stile, per voltar pagina. Insomma, e come diceva Manet, per partire in battaglia. Anche la fotografia non sfugge a questa regola. Anzi, sembra forse che l’aforisma di Manet sia stato composto proprio pensando alla fotografia – e chissà se poi in fondo non sia stato veramente così.

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SELECTED REVIEWS AND ARTICLES 

Gioia, Italy | Christiane Amanpour, Wendy Sue Lamm
Gioia, Italy | Christiane Amanpour, Wendy Sue Lamm
AL QUDS |           Wendy Sue Lamm photographing Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheik Yassin in his Gaza home
AL QUDS | Wendy Sue Lamm photographing Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheik Yassin in his Gaza home

Excerpts from reviews 

From The Land of Miracles (English)
Fran Undrens Land (Swedish)
Dalla Terra Dei Miracoli (Italian)

THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: In essence, this book documents the impact of the peace process on daily life in Israel and the Palestinian territories. But Lamm’s scope is much larger. Her complex compositions and use of color make this less a documentary project than a personal journey.”
                                                                  -David Schonaur, AMERICAN PHOTO

“Nominated for BEST PHOTO BOOK, 2005 Scandinavian Book Fair, Gothenberg, Sweden.”
                                       - (SFF) SWEDISH PHOTOGRAPHER’S ASSOCIATION


“It is hard not to see these truly intense images as a powerful metaphor for the negative forces that tenaciously block the road to peace – a peace that would be a great sign not only for the Middle East, but also for the whole world.”
Giancarlo Pauletto, Curator, Museum of Modern Art, Pordenone, Italy

“Wendy Sue Lamm’s art persuades you to ask yourself what or who comes along after those pictures … she has managed to capture reality in a constantly unreal situation … clearly a sign of a very alert subconscious.” Andrea Jacchia, Il Diario, Italy

“Normally it is like this: either the photographs show the dramatic story; the recorded event. Or else, the photographs are the personal feelings retold. Content or form - Wendy Sue Lamm’s pictures are both.”
-    - Johan Ehrenberg, ETC (Sweden)

“Israel, and more specifically, Jerusalem, may be among the more photographed locales these days, but you've never seen photographs like these. Wendy Lamm manages to illustrate truths about the situation on the ground here that are all too often impossible to articulate in another medium. She blends an artist's eye with crack photojournalist skills to come up with a compelling series of photographs that push the envelope of the genre.”
                - Julie Tilsner, Author, AMAZON.COM

“Color explodes from these imaginative and intelligent photographs. Usually I am skeptical towards this kind of spectacular color photography, but Wendy Sue Lamm does not fall into the trap of  ‘effect seeking’. [Of the before mentioned books] this is the one closest to my heart.”
-    Torkel Rasmusson, FOTOGRAFISK TIDSKRIFT
-    (Sweden)

“Life is threatened here [in her pictures], but pulsates stronger than ever. She does not explain, but stresses with her forceful presence the powers that are in movement. And that she even manages to look at this chaos with tongue -in–cheek is evident both in the pictures and through her introduction.”
-    Eva Dandanelle, TRELLEBORG’S  ALLEHANDA
-    (Sweden)

HAARETZ | Wendy Sue Lamm with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv
HAARETZ | Wendy Sue Lamm with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv



 


  
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www.dedicafestival.it/spip.php?article94 - 26k


From the land of miracles
Wendy Sue Lamm’s Time Incarnate

by Giancarlo Pauletto, Curator Museum of Modern Art, Pordenone, Italy
translated from the Italian

What we see on television and read in the papers, or what we find in books and magazine articles in our personal attempts to reach an understanding of the facts about the current situation in the Palestinian areas, all serves to show that the title of this exhibition of photographs by Wendy Sue Lamm is not only appropriate, but is a beautiful title as well.
From the Land of Miracles is an exhibition that provides a perfect complement to the presence of Amos Oz in Pordenone. The title is appropriate because Israel and the Palestinian areas are a land of miracles above all (and, we might say, obviously) in relation to the three great religions - Jewish, Christian, and Islamic -that consider this land sacred. All three are present in this exhibition, in images that show their social as well as ritual aspects.
But it is also a land of miracles because, in the midst of so much tension, violence, desperation and terror, life goes on. The daily routine somehow wins out, and beside soldiers outfitted for combat we see people going to the beach, swimming in the Dead Sea, or doing their shopping at the market, while children play, a gardener waters a lawn, Russian Orthodox pilgrims bathe in the River Jordan, and someone thinks of putting new plants in a new garden.
The key to the exhibition’s aesthetic is its directness, the use of close-ups, the emphasis on a present time that is immediately felt in the sharp perspectives, the figures, the colours of the images.
It did not necessarily have to be like this. There is much photographic coverage of the Middle East in which the key element is not daily life but the eternal religious character of this land, so significant for the history of so many people, expressed in visions of light and shadow that make it the suspended theatre of a divine epiphany. Wendy Sue Lamm’s vision, on the contrary, is characterised by a deep sense of things, bodies, faces - one could even say smells - and her lens does not so much frame the scene as enter into it, drawing us in as well and forcing us to participate.
Many examples can be given. At Hebron, on the West Bank, a rock-throwing Palestinian is killed by Israeli soldiers during a confrontation. The violence of this image is expressed in the bent-over position of the soldiers, with their weapons poised; in the gesture of the thrower, an instant before falling to the ground; in the desolate materialness of the rocks littering the pavement. There is here an evident will to bear witness to the event.
There is no shrinking from the immediacy of what is happening. Similarly, in the next, terrible image, from Jerusalem, we see a rescue squad rushing to carry away a victim of a suicide attack in a pedestrian zone in the centre of the city.
Here, too, the framing of the image emphasises the photographer’s intention to draw us immediately into the event. Rather than centring the image on the victim’s body, she causes our eye to examine the context, to notice the gaze of the onlookers, the almost estranged figure of the girl in black, the signs along the street where the attack took place.
An identical intention can be felt in the next photograph, which portrays a poster put up in memory of victims of terrorism in the central Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem. The eye moves down the image and comes to rest at the centre of the scene. The bent-over figures in the foreground serve to pull the viewer into the space depicted.
They are all like this, so it is evidently a question of choice, a conscious decision to reinforce this “being in the middle”, this “participation”, by highlighting the material quality of things and by using close-ups of details, hands, faces, signs: the red flesh of a freshly butchered sheep; a white dove for sale, situated in the centre of the photograph; brightly coloured tomatoes in the market; a hand touching the Wailing Wall; or a close-up of another hand covering the face of an arrested suspect. There are also scenes that are more formally composed, though never lacking in that sense of immediacy, such as the image of a teenage couple embracing during a holiday celebration, framed within gauzy veils of pink, almost like wedding decorations, or the baby Jesus statuettes on sale in a shop near the Church of the Nativity. There is the image of Tel Aviv youngsters, perfectly composed within the compact frame of the photograph, and two pictures taken in the ultra-orthodox quarter of Mea Shearim, where the dark colours of hats and clothing, and the light colours of the flyers thrown into the air or of the pavement below, make it inevitable to see this as photography based on composition.
So the exhibition’s title is appropriate.
But it is beautiful as well, because if a title is appropriate, if it defines precisely the nature of the theme - in this case the nature of Wendy Sue Lamm’s vision of the region- then it is also a beautiful title, one that could not be different, that we could not change. Just as we would never want to change the two images that respectively open and close the exhibition.
In the first of these, some children are bathing in the Mediterranean, in the Gaza Strip area. One of them is playing - or so it seems - with a plastic bottle that has two small fish inside. This is a surreal image, almost like a magic trick, and is a fitting introduction to the situations and “miracles” that we can see in this series of photographs that bear extraordinary witness to a historic tragedy, but also to an unstoppable will to live, to a land destined to be a testing ground for the sincerity of so many cultural and political positions. In the last photograph, a figure struggles its way through the mud on the banks of the Dead Sea. This figure necessarily attracts our attention because it is a human figure, but most of the photographic space is taken up by the dark, dense mud that seems eternally to imprison whatever falls into it.
It is hard not to see these truly intense images as a powerful metaphor for the negative forces that tenaciously block the road to peace - a peace that would be a great sign not only for the Middle East, but for the whole world.







On the web - other languages

ASSOCIAZIONE CULTURALE THESIS | Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 23 33170 Pordenone | TEL 0434 26236 | info@dedicafestival.it


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TRANSLATION FROM THE ITALIAN BY ANDREA JACCHIA, Il Diario. ACCOMPANYING THE EXHIBITION FROM THE LAND OF MIRACLES FOR THE FESTIVAL DEDICA, IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE WORKS OF AUTHOR AMOS OZ.

 

 

 

The Descendants

 

I once had a dream; we were living in London already. Suddenly a group of people burst through the door, saying we had to leave. Two thousand years earlier their ancestors used to live there. Hence, the house was theirs. I must admit that, in the light of the unspeakable horrors which we we have witnessed, there wasn’t or didn’t seem to be any alternative. And I’m glad for each on them that saved himself by going there

 

      Ernst H. Gombrich, Topics of Our Time

 

This set of photos by Wendy Sue Lamm suggests another, rather invisible, one: that of Wendy Sue Lamm actually snapping the pictures in Israel and the Palestinian areas. We could look at her work it this way: Wendy Sue Lamm experienced the longest and muddiest war of our times firsthand; then she went through the life of that conflict and the sinister movement of an enduring hate. The result took different forms: portraits, sketches, profiles or sudden all-embracing pictures, broad snapshots of the events, where anyone (Palestinians, Israelis, outside observers) can focus his/her attention or passions on the details that most strike him/her: think of Guernica, at how we linger on the detail of the lamp or of the Cubist bull’s head; or think of yourself in front of Paolo Uccello’s Battle of San Romano, losing yourself amidst the horses and lances. But all these pictures have something that’s absent from most of the numerous photos about the Israelis’ and Palestinians’ mirrored hate: Wendy Sue Lamm’s art persuades you to ask yourself what or who comes along after those pictures; what news item could be lurking round the corner from a battle, a funeral, a snapshot of market life, a gathering of kids on the beach. In other words: it’s not very common, when staring at a picture, to ask yourself what life that image’s characters might have. It could be easily said that Wendy’s more attracted to people than to a people; or that, unconsciously (as is often the case with artists), she has managed to capture a snapshot of reality in a constantly unreal situation.

This set of pictures is called From the Land of Miracles and Wendy Sue Lamm closes the volume with the following words: “You can’t stop love”. It’s a great appeal, but it seems to be directed more to our descendants than to us. As far as the miracles are concerned, the most immediate of these pictures seem to deal with a certain idea of time. The men and women of Wendy Sue Lamm’s sketches, portraits and profiles seem to speak above all their past and unfathomable future. Against all evidence (clashes, funerals, stone-throwing, weapons, death: normal but suspended lives), they don’t belong to the present, or at best they seem to view it through the lens of what’s already happened or of what might happen.

In short, the strength of Wendy Sue Lamm’s research and insight could be summed up in another apparently ironic title: “In Search of Wasted Time” (one that keeps being wasted every day). At this point we could ask ourselves how much these photos describe reality, or have the capacity of creating a whole new one, or even contain a number of possible codes and captions. Thus, while looking at them, imagine being immersed in the peace and tranquility of an art gallery or museum.

 

  • In a Jerusalem bar, described as being “in”, the reflection of an Israeli couple embracing bounces off a mirror: the tenderness and eroticism of the scene and the location’s mild bleakness are all infused with an encompassing sense of loneliness.
  • In Ramallah, in the West Bank, a Palestinian stone-thrower, hiding behind a wall with a swastika scrawled all over it, could easily be taken for a young orthodox Jew preparing to slip on the phylactery for the morning prayer.
  • A Benedictine monk standing under a grey sky, Jerusalem in the background: the city looks like a pulverized version of Florence.
  • The profiles and the dark hair of some orthodox Jews in the Mea Sharim neighborhood, photographed from above: since they’re self-secluded people, Wendy decided to keep at a respectful distance and maybe visualize their choice to be watched upon solely by God himself.
  • An abandoned tank conveys the idea of a physical and constant contact with war, appearing more like a permanent monument than a rusty war relic.
  • The anguish of a sheep, waiting for its turn in the ritual slaughter, recalls Umberto Saba’s renowned poem’s “goat with a Semite face”.

 

These are just a few examples; anyone’s free to choose his/her favorite pictures. But they more or less some up Wendy Sue Lamm’s favorite subjects: close-ups, profiles, body details, places often unidentifiable, advertising images. In the end, a collection of artfully chosen symbols, clearly a sign of a very alert subconscious.

Since all these pictures deal with two opposing factions, one should first look at them and they try to see them from both perspectives. The Palestinians could use for the Israelis a not-too-well-known expression used by art historian Ernst H. Gombrich to describe the Jewish minority in a non-Jewish world: “An ideological niche in relation to others.” On the other hand, the Israelis could define the Palestinians with something along these lines: “An absent people who made themselves increasingly present”.

In a way we could say that a third observer, the apparently external world, in this case Wendy Sue Lamm, took a picture of herself amidst them. Maybe the key to a different future for their descendants lies in this picture’s invisible caption.

 

Andrea Jacchia

 

 

 


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http://pov.imv.au.dk/Issue_12/section_3/artc3A.html

P:O.V. No.12 - Comparing American and European Practices in Other Media
European and American Press Photography

Søren Kolstrup

 

(...)

Geometry – Disorder
    To what extent does the photographer inscribe the elements (persons or objects) of the events photographed in a geometric shape, like the ones to be found in paintings before the collapse of central perspective?

    The American photographers of the WPP seem in many respects to follow Eugene Smith. Their photos are constructed according to a kind of geometric principle or visual pattern that assures the coherence of the photo. This organizing principle enables the creation of elements in the picture that can function as metonymies (see next section).

    American Press photography follows a path that was established long before Smith and the FSA by Goya in his Disastres dela Guerra, etchings showing the French soldiers' atrocities during Napoleon's occupation of Spain in the beginning of the 19th century. We see the same horrors as shown in press photos from the Balkan, the Caucasus or Afghanistan.

    Here are a few examples from the four collections of pictures.

    Wendy Sue Lamm's picture of the clash between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians took first prize in the category Spot News, singles, in 1998. The photo is divided by a pillar in the middle, both halves form a triangular shape. You see three Israeli soldiers forming a group that shows the phases of stopped movement: the one to the left is leaning forward, the one in the middle has stopped and the one to the right is leaning back. The left-to-right movement stressed by the direction of the Israeli guns is stopped not only by the soldier leaning back, but also by the beginning Palestinian attack, coming as a movement from the right. Both groups are inscribed in a triangular shape; both shapes express movement, but in different ways.

    The same year, Judah Passow got the second prize for People in the News, singles and stories (using almost the same theme as Sue Lamm), by showing the same tendency to concentrate a maximum of meaning into a simple geometric shape. Where Wendy Sue Lamm uses metonymy, however, Judah Passow drifts towards a metaphorical use of the photos.

    In 2001 the first prize in the category Sports, singles was won by two Americans, Bill Frakes and David Callow, who show Marion Jones winning the 100-meter sprint at the Sydney Olympics. It is the most extraordinary photo in the four years from 1998-2001. The illusion of movement, the coherence, and the speed of the group of pursuers, with the winner stopping her motion after the victory, exhibit every imaginable device that can be used by picture makers to create the illusion of movement.

    Let us take a look at European photographers. The Danes, who for the last four years have won many prizes, even first prizes, normally display little sense of geometric shape and coherence. Nor do they show the same sense of isotopy (redundancy from picture to picture) displayed in the stories of the Americans. The best examples of this coherence are the first and third prizes in the category of Spot News, Stories 2000.

    Only the Russians seem to be able to compete with the Americans in their sense of unity in each picture and in their sense of giving a specific tonality to the stories (visual isotopy) from picture to picture. The Russians (the winners!) use a restricted scale of colors: brown, gray, and olive. They use texture in a way that suggests that men (soldiers), tanks, and mud are identical (visual isotopy within the individual photo). Especially Kozyrev (first prize for General News, singles and third prize for General News, stories 2000) knows how to inscribe complex actions into simple geometric shapes.

    It may be concluded that photographers from the USA and Russia display an extraordinary sense of construction: geometric coherence and texture creating pictorial unity.

    Anecdotal sense or meaning produced by construction?
    The meaning of the pictures can be the result of the clash between elements on the picture plane, thus creating a general moral. However, the sense can also be the simple result of a specific story about a specific person whom we may know beforehand. This is anecdotal meaning. Once again, the first case is illustrated by the etchings of Goya. The second case can be illustrated by all the sentimental pictures of Princess Diana: magnificent examples of anecdotal stories, from which no general moral can ever be extracted. The clashes between elements can be illustrated by Wendy Sue Lamm’s winning picture, where an underlining geometric shape created a strong metonymy, and similarly by Kozyrev's pictures of frightened Russian soldiers. The press photo is totally dependent on the use of metonymy. Metonymies are realistic. Metaphors are normally linked to fiction, and thus they invite anecdotes and sentimentality. This is what one finds in media like women's magazines and television (soap-operas). My prejudices predicted that the sentimental, anecdotal human-interest story would also be important in American press photography. I still assume that such pictures would be found if one had access to the entire collection of USA photos in the WPP contest, but the jury found better photos in the American stock.

(...)

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Copyright © 2017 by Wendy Sue Lamm.  All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials on these pages are copyrighted.  No part of these pages, either text, video, or images may be used for any purpose other than personal use except by explicit authorization from Wendy Sue Lamm.  Any reproduction, modification, storage in a retrieval system or retransmission, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, or otherwise, for reasons other than personal use, is strictly prohibited without prior written permission.