Wow, a blast from the past from my photographer friend Karel Cudlin. That’s me in booth 9. Karel and I had an exhibit together in Minsk on the afternoon of 9/11. At the opening the Czech cultural attaché was the first to tell me what was happening at home (some friends said they knew but didn’t want to ruin the opening so didn’t tell me). Later we went to a nearby restaurant TV to watch the towers fall, etc. It was hard to get English info, internet wasn’t great… Karel and I shared a flat, he would translate from German and Russian reports… this was later in the day at a call center, trying to reach home to check on family. I remember how kind and sympathetic Belarusians were about it.
Today I was giving my photo classes their new assignment, “Two-fer” - basically instead of looking for *a* subject, look for two subjects and try to create relationships, contrast, or juxtaposition between them. I pulled some of my own pictures to give them ideas, turns out I do the two-fer thing myself more than I realized. Some are more obvious than others, and we talked about playing with the two components either roughly in the same visual plane (side by side), or using them more as layers (front to back).
One (non-)example was a picture from my book The Waiting Room - Photographs from Belarus. I had gotten on a trolleybus in Minsk with a friend and quickly made this shot of a girl standing at the rear:
I felt at the time like I got the shot, and she didn’t seem to mind or maybe didn’t know I took it. But my inner photo nag wanted more, as it tends to. I remember how I thought - like I’m asking my students to think - ok, good, that’s one nice element, but how do I add another, relate her to something else, some kind of contrast… maybe to an older person on the bus for example. So I quickly moved back a bit, trying for that two-fer. Found the older guy like I wanted in the seats but, alas, my friend happened to be standing there in the middle (to my friend AK, it’s ok :))), you couldn’t have known!). It’s not a bad picture, but not the simple duality that I wanted.
The scene changed a moment later anyway. So the two-fer didn’t quite work out, but the first one made my book in the end.
I hope this is helpful to anyone looking for ways to mix up their compositions. One subject is ok, but think about going for two!
Nice review of The Waiting Room over on the phot(o)lia blog.
Belarus, a post-Soviet country “squeezed between Europe and Russia”. The most common association is probably Chernobyl and current political regime referred to as “the last dictatorship in Europe”. No surprise that those few photographers who get to that part of Europe focus on one of those issues. Bill Crandall did something very different. He came to Belarus to document everyday life and he spent one decade visiting the country: observing, learning, reflecting. [S]ome images are just surreal, others are very intimate, many are captivating but all of them create beautiful and intriguing narratives […].
My book The Waiting Room - Photographs from Belarus is now available in a first edition of 500. The introduction, in English and Russian, is by Belarusian author Victor Martinovich. The book is a ten-year body of work finally achieving final form.
Check here for more info about the book and to order. I can mail orders anywhere in the US or the world. There’s a downloadable e-book version as well, with either an English or Russian introduction. It should work well on pretty much any computer or device. The e-book is free for the month of January as a promotion.
If you’re in DC, I’ll be having a launch party soon, so stay tuned!
Whenever I travel I am so dependent on other people, without whom I couldn’t get anything done. Huge thanks to everyone who helped me so much over the years!
There was a panel of five jurors from the top tier of the DC photo world - a short selection from my Belarus series (including the above pic from Minsk in 2009) was chosen by Philip Brookman, chief curator at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Which is obviously exciting, though my one complaint was that each person submitting work only had eight minutes with their chosen curator, about enough time for how-you-doing and a quick slideshow before an official hoverer moved in to break things up. Brookman is certainly someone I would’ve liked to get into more of a conversation with.
But I nitpick. It’s great how FotoweekDC has become the year-round FotoDC, pulling together all kinds of cool events like this. Kudos to founder Theo Adamstein and crew, working hard to put the DC photo scene on the international map.
I’m excited that my Belarus multimedia piece (along with a short text I wrote) was just published on Transitions Online, a web magazine that covers political, social, cultural, and economic issues in the former communist countries of Europe and Central Asia.