The Strange Surrealist Magic of Dora Maar | History


Few artists boast a style and subject matter so singular that three separate specialists would use the same word to describe them: “strange.” Yet that’s exactly what happened when Smithsonian magazine asked a trio of scholars about Dora Maar, a 20th-century French photographer and painter whose oeuvre in many ways defies explanation. Almost all of her artworks capture a certain uncanniness in their surroundings, bringing to light the strange in the mundane.

Dora Maar, Père Ubu, 1936

© 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

One of Maar’s most famous works—the 1936 photograph Père Ubu—is a perfect example of this phenomenon. It’s the kind of art that requires repeat viewings, all of which yield something new. There’s something inscrutable about the subject’s scaly body, its one slightly open eye, its barely outstretched claws and its ear flaps clouded by shadows. The viewer is left to question whether the figure is alien or something found in nature; they want to know more, but at the same time, they’re slightly disgusted, says Andrea Nelson, an associate curator at the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, D.C. Donors gifted a print of the Surrealist image to the museum in 2021.

“It’s compelling but repellent at the same time,” Nelson says. “You don’t quite know what it is, and you’re trying to figure it out. It’s surprising, it’s mysterious, it’s completely bizarre and it’s grotesque. It still maintains that power.”


The same could be said of Maar herself. Born Henrietta Théodora Markovitch in Paris in 1907, the artist split her childhood between Argentina and France. From a young age, she was determined to be an artist, studying everything from decorative arts to painting to photography and attending prominent Paris schools like the Académie Julian and the École Technique de Photographie et de Cinématographie (Technical School for Photography and Cinematography). At one point, Maar even trained with French Cubist painter André Lhote.

As her abilities grew, Maar began a career as a commercial photographer and later a painter, winning renown in her own right. Today, however, most mentions of the artist reference her mainly in relation to her most famous lover: Pablo Picasso, who featured her in the 1937 portrait series Weeping Woman. Her “career and accomplishments were overshadowed during her lifetime by the details of her affair” with Picasso, notes Encyclopedia Britannica.

Weeping Woman portrait of Maar by Pablo Picasso, on view at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, in 2006

Photo by William West / AFP via Getty Images

Maar’s own work was both influenced by and had a real influence on Surrealism, a cultural movement that rejected rationalism in favor of art and literature informed by dreams and the unconscious mind. In fact, Père Ubu is “one of the most iconic artworks of the movement,” Nelson says. But it doesn’t really resemble prominent Surrealist works, nor does it look like Maar’s other art. The artist’s photographs tend to be either beautiful in an almost supernatural way or heartbreakingly realistic, capturing the realities of poverty. As the Morgan Library and Museum points out, Père Ubu stands out from the rest of Maar’s work precisely because of its “repellent qualities.”

Even when the portrait was displayed at the “London International Surrealist Exhibition” in 1936, it stood out from the stylized world of Maar’s fellow Surrealists.

Ubu … would have acted as a small, sharp puncture in the exhibition’s exuberant display of the Surrealist imaginary, asserting its connection with the world beyond the gallery,” writes photographic historian Ian Walker in the catalog for a 2019 Maar retrospective co-organized by Paris’ Centre Pompidou, London’s Tate Modern and Los Angeles’ J. Paul Getty Museum. “For these images were based in the documentary nature of photography while also exploiting the medium’s Surrealist potential.”

Selection of photographs by Dora Maar

Courtesy of Artcurial

What adds meaning to the snapshot is its title, which references Alfred Jarry’s 1896 Absurdist play, Ubu Roi. The drama’s main character, Père Ubu, is a greedy figure who does whatever it takes—including killing members of the Polish royal family—to achieve his goals. But Maar’s Père Ubu is hard to reconcile with that description. Is this an innocent creature or one primed to commit harm? With a “sagging belly and bulbous nose” that mirror the distasteful appearance of the play’s title character, the portrait conveys the “vulgarity and slothfulness” of its namesake, according to Walker.

Jarry’s creation is “savage and malicious, truly threatening as well as ridiculous,” the historian adds. “Maar’s Ubu lacks that overt savagery, but in its place is an ominous stillness, as we are pitilessly observed by the creature’s black, depthless eye, like that of a shark or reptile, while its claws … might also be about to metamorphose into Ubu’s sinister ‘nearole-incisors.’”

The photograph raises a more pressing surface-level question, too: What exactly does it depict? The subject is hypothesized to be an armadillo fetus, but definitive proof is hard to come by, as Maar would never confirm its identity.

Interestingly, the catalog for a Paris Surrealist exhibition where the image was displayed classifies it as an “interpreted found object.”

“It is evidently the thing that is depicted in the photograph that is the [‘object’]: a neutral term that serves to disguise whatever was its original nature,” Walker writes. “It is also significant that it is described not simply as ‘found’ but also ‘interpreted’—an acknowledgment perhaps that Maar’s photograph not only documents the thing but also re-presents and transforms it.”

Installation view of “Dora Maar” at Tate Modern, 2019, featuring Père Ubu at left

Tate Modern / Andrew Dunkley

Emma Lewis, a former assistant curator at Tate Modern, offers a more concrete answer, citing a visitor to the major Maar retrospective, which she co-curated. The individual was so interested in the photo that they asked a senior veterinarian from the London Zoo about the creature. The vet identified the subject as an infant or fetal armadillo based on its claws and underdeveloped osteoderms, or bony deposits. Exactly where the artist would have encountered this animal is unknown.


From Ubu’s otherworldly likeness to 29 rue d’Astorg, in which a glamorously dressed, nearly headless figure sits in a cavernous room, to a snapshot of a model with a cutout star covering her head, Maar’s art evokes a sense of uneasiness, strangeness even, amid beauty.

Yet the word “strange” carries a certain connotation that doesn’t fully reflect the scope of Maar’s work. Rather than being whimsical or fanciful, the artist’s photographs are tinged with darkness, Lewis says, a Gothic quality often characterized by stylistic experimentation.

“She contributed to making the everyday strange,” the curator adds.

Dora Maar, Mendiant London, 1934

Courtesy of Artcurial

Dora Maar, Couple sur la fontaine de Trafalgar Square, London, 1934

Courtesy of Artcurial

Maar’s commercial work helped her craft this unusual style. In 1931, she opened a photography studio with set designer Pierre Kéfer, working on commission for fashion houses like Chanel and designers such as Elsa Schiaparelli and Jeanne Lanvin. She often employed a collage technique, overlaying images “from her own work, including both street and landscape photography,” instead of using newspapers or magazines, per Tate Modern.

“These commissions had good budgets a lot of the time. They had good circulation, and they reached interesting audiences,” Lewis says. “Every image that we see by Maar is either about her pushing what she can do with staging, light and composition or her taking the components of the image and cutting and pasting and reworking that within her studio.”

A key example of Maar’s collage technique is a 1935 photo titled The Years Lie in Wait for You. In it, a woman clasps the bottom half of her face with her manicured hands, which are visible but almost hidden behind a superimposed image of a spiderweb. Thought to be a face cream advertisement, the work was never published, notes Lewis in Photography, A Feminist History: Gender Rights and Gender Roles on Both Sides of the Camera.

Installation view of “Dora Maar” at Tate Modern, 2019, featuring The Years Lie in Wait for You (1935)

Tate Modern / Andrew Dunkley

Maar enjoyed great commercial success with her studio, adding an experimental lens to many of her commissions. She could, “at roughly the same time, produce high-end fashion photographs, artful advertising pictures, flattering studio portraits, figure studies, soft-core pornography, … gritty street scenes, documentary shots, politically inflected images, rigorous formal compositions, and the complex, disturbing, and beautifully crafted Surrealist photomontages that are her most memorable creations,” wrote art critic Richard Kalina for Art in America in 2020.

Though the vision of independent womanhood conveyed by 1920s and ’30s advertisements was “largely an alluring commercial fiction … Maar and her friends actually lived such lives,” Kalina added. “And they put their exceptional autonomy to use” by documenting social inequality and advocating for political reform. Maar was a left-wing political activist involved with revolutionary groups, and her politics were “inextricable from her work as an artist,” Lewis says.


Today, Maar’s work is often referenced only or primarily in connection with Picasso, whom she met in the mid-1930s, when she was in her late 20s and the famed Cubist painter was in his mid-50s.

“So often the first sentence you read about [muses] is that they were the muse of Pablo Picasso” or a similarly prominent man, says Nelson. “But in the case of Dora Maar, she was a really successful and interesting photographer for years and years before she … even met Pablo Picasso.”

Installation view of “Dora Maar” at Tate Modern, 2019, featuring some of the artist’s collage works

Tate Modern / Andrew Dunkley

Aside from her collage work, Maar was known for using the camera to document reality and capture street life. Through her style and gaze, she was able to transform what she saw into something altogether different.

Many of Maar’s snapshots have never or rarely been seen by the public. The 2019 retrospective, which featured more than 200 works by the artist, highlighted some of these little-known photographs. And earlier this year, Paris auction house Artcurial placed roughly 750 photographs from Maar’s estate, the majority of which had previously been unpublished, up for sale.

Spanning the late 1920s to the end of the 1940s, the images included uncharacteristically informal photos of Picasso, a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of his 1937 painting Guernica and self-portraits of Maar, as well as vignettes from major European cities, like a bookseller in Paris, a series of blind musicians in Barcelona and beggars in London.

Dora Maar, Guernica en cours de réalisation dans l’atelier de la rue des Grands Augustins, Paris, mai-juin 1937

Courtesy of Artcurial

“We have essentially retained from [Maar] to this day the strangeness of some of her compositions or collages, which bring their own score to the Surrealist movement,” says Bruno Jaubert, director of Artcurial’s Impressionist and Modern Art Department. “But it is also, to another extent, her way of capturing reality that goes beyond Surrealist aesthetics.”

While Maar’s work did not experience a major stylistic shift in the collection’s roughly 30-year span, Jaubert says her eye became more trained and refined.

“[The cache] shows a maturity in the look that immediately reveals a scene, a presence without seeking decorative effect,” he notes.


Throughout her life, Maar found herself caught between painting and photography, never able to choose just one. For years, particularly during her relationship with Picasso, she focused on painting, in love with the art form she had first taken up as a teenager. It was only toward the end of her life that she inhabited fully once more the world of photography.

“We don’t know that she ever stopped photographing, per se, but certainly in her later years, she returned to darkroom experimentation,” Lewis says. Maar died in 1997 at age 89.

Dora Maar, Las Ramblas Barcelona, circa 1933

Courtesy of Artcurial

Dora Maar, La Sagrada Familia Barcelone, circa 1933

Courtesy of Artcurial

The artist’s shift from painting to photography and back again wasn’t unusual for the time. As Nelson argued in the 2021 NGA exhibition “The New Woman Behind the Camera,” photography became a way for women to make money and express themselves creatively during the 20th century. Many followed a path like Maar’s, studying art in a traditional setting before pursuing photography in the 1920s and ’30s, as the medium was growing and changing.

For Maar, photography was a way to carve her own path in a business sense. She certainly wasn’t alone in that.

“For some women, photography was a very viable career where you could actually see yourself making your own money, earning your own income and becoming independent,” Nelson says.

When Nelson curated the NGA exhibition, she knew she wanted to include Père Ubu. Yet she had a difficult time determining where to place the photograph. It was such a strong composition, so different from the other pieces in the exhibition’s “Avant-Garde Experiments” room, that it didn’t quite work next to anything else.

Eventually, Nelson came up with a compromise: putting the photograph next to the room’s wall text. There, it wouldn’t overshadow other works but rather help start a conversation. It could only exist as Maar likely intended it to—on its own.

Installation view of “Dora Maar” at Tate Modern, 2019

Tate Modern / Andrew Dunkley

Travel trend: Why Astro Tourism is growing among domestic travellers in India? | Travel


Travel enthusiasts, who crave a holistic astronomy experience to give voice to their curiosity about the vast skies beyond our stratosphere, can gain an integrated astronomy experience through Astro Tourism, a trend that has seen an increasing number of travellers who are keen to get to experience activities such as stargazing, sun observations, stargazing parties with friends, experiential science activities and much more. The spike in Astro Tourism could be a result of the post pandemic world where many people are looking for less crowded and nature driven experiences or the offer of a sense of discovery as when you look up at the sky, you may see a big white moon or two bright stars that never twinkle but when you look at them through the telescope, the moon suddenly has massive features (craters, flat grey surfaces, highlands, etc.) of varied colours and the two bright stars are no longer stars – one is Jupiter, a big disc with a giant red dot on it (which in itself is a storm three times the size of the Earth) and the other is Saturn, with many rings around it.



You literally cannot believe your eyes and you realise that the universe is so much more complex than what you see, with so much left to discover hence, a number of resorts and hotel chains are now offering stargazing as one of the activities for their guests to treat them to a flashback to their childhood. For a large number of people, the last time they looked at the skies and enjoyed the stars was when they were kids and ever since they turned into adults, they moved to a city and neither got the opportunity nor the time to experience the cosmos but looking up at the skies lets them relive their childhood.

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Paul Savio, CEO and Co-Founder of Starscapes, revealed that Astro Tourism is seeing a spurt for three reasons:



(1) With higher disposable incomes and a more liberal view of living a wholesome life, people are on the lookout for new and exciting experiences that are beyond the usual offerings available. Anything new piques a huge interest, and today people are more willing to try them out than before.

(2) Millennials have, due to access to the internet in their formative years, a much more global exposure to life and career than previous generations. As parents, this demographic is open to encouraging their kids to look at radical career options, and therefore get exposed to such experiences that could kindle an interest in the kids becoming astrophysicists, aerospace engineers or even astronauts.

(3) Space is in the news, with NASA going back to the moon (Artemis), India sending humans to space (Gaganyaan) and space tourism kicking off with private enterprise (SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin). So it is currently top of mind.



He shared, “Lots of people, especially in metros, are beginning to step out to nearby dark sky locations to get a glimpse of the starry sky. Apart from the usual suspects (Ladakh, Spiti, Kodaikanal, Kutch, Coorg, Jaisalmer, etc.), myriad sites exist within 2 hours of all metros which can give a great dark sky experience. However, daytime astronomy as a concept is slowly picking up too.”

According to Neeraj Ladia, CEO of Space Arcade, there is a lot of interest in Astro tourism all over India. He said, “One major reason is social media. More and more people are showing people where they can travel. Places which were accessible for very few people earlier, like mountaineering and trekking, are now common among people. There are videos, reels on social media accounts where there is a lot of conversation around offbeat activities such as astro tourism. People have become more aware of these kinds of things. Astro tourism has gained more popularity post lockdown mainly because people want to be closer to nature and want to do something new and offbeat. Similarly, like wildlife photography/nature photography, people are developing an interest in astro photography too.”



Talking about some of the common activities under astro tourism, Paul Savio highlighted stargazing, sun observation, astrophotography (where you learn how to photograph the night sky and even deep sky objects using different cameras and mounts), astro tours (trips to dark sky locations for an enhanced night sky experience), workshops and activities to understand different phenomena associated with astrophysics and space exploration.

For a person who has never experienced astro tourism, Neeraj Ladia suggested stargazing as one of the most exciting activities to do. Secondly, he recommended, “If it is a starry clear night, guided telescope view of planets and deep sky objects along with an astrophotography session can be quite exciting. With astro tourism, people have an opportunity to see and learn the names of the stars and constellations. They can also go much deeper into understanding these concepts.”



Paul Savio concluded, “Astro Tourism is the sunrise segment of the experiential tourism industry. Massive interest is being shown by luxury resorts across India to incorporate astro-experiences in the bouquet of offerings for their guests. Today, the customer base is overwhelmingly of people who are looking for a new experience and not necessarily an astronomy experience. We expect this to flip in the next 3 years – people will travel with an intent to have an astronomy experience. This will be driven by the springing up of dark sky parks (the astronomy equivalent of national parks) and other dark sky places equipped to service this interest.”

A Hillsboro woman waited until she was 60 to learn photography – now she’s capturing life in a small town 


The world comes into focus when Maryann Cheung looks through her viewfinder.

The Hillsborough photographer sees elements of small-town charm in her work, material she might not have noticed without a tightly framed slice of life to emphasize subtle, simple scenes.

“If you look at her photos, you can tell she has an incredible talent to bring out the best in what we have here,” said Laurie Jutzi of Hillsborough. “It’s a real gift, and for a struggling town template decaying like others all over New England, her work has been an inspiration for those to see what they really have here and are so lucky to be near.”

Jutzi nominated Cheung for the Monitor’s Hometown Hero series. She described a local woman who had photography in the back of her mind for years, yet only immersed herself in the art two years ago. At age 60.

Circumstances dictated that it was time for Cheung to pursue something that she knew she’d love. Covid had hit, and Cheung’s husband contracted the illness and spent five weeks in the hospital, near other patients who later died.

“When something like that happens, you know life is short,” Cheung said. “I thought that sounded like the right time to do it.”

Cheung remains in the midst of an awakening, a two-year process thus far that’s given her a keener appreciation, a reminder to stop and smell the flowers.

“For years, I tried (photography) at a younger age, but I was a working mother,” Cheung said. “Recently this served as a wake-up call. I was so happy and grateful for my husband’s return home from the hospital, but if you remember, those were dark times. I had to do something, and one thing I wanted to do was photography.”

Her late father had given her a Minolta, her husband a tripod. That was many years ago.

“My father gave me a great one and it sat on my shelf for 30 years,” Cheung said. “And now I use it and now I am a photographer. I wish dad had seen that.”

He would have seen scenes that elicited warmth through simplicity. The little girl with a determined look pulling a rope attached to a goat at this year’s hometown parade.

The darkened silhouette of a squirrel eating a nut while crouched on a tree branch. The water skiers helping the town to celebrate its 250th birthday.

On her website, Cheung explains that “I photograph where I live, capturing and sharing the beauty of the landscape and those that live here.”

Cheung, in fact, has become part of this intriguing landscape herself.

“When I am pulled over and I’m shooting, they beep their horns and wave to me and give me tips and they message me about themselves,” Cheung said.

Her photographs of the town’s 250th tribute this summer are included in the 88-page souvenir program book. In fact, her photos are everywhere in town, and she never charges a dime for the use of any of them.

Her work will be displayed at the Hillsborough Historical Society, depicting various stages of the pandemic.

“She shares her images on Facebook and has a huge following,” Jutzi wrote in her nominating email to the Monitor. “She reminds everyone of what a wonderful place we live in and the simple pleasures of daily life in a smallish NH town.”

Once, shortly after moving from Keene to Hillsborough in 1992, Cheung and her husband opened a Chinese restaurant in town and owned it for 20 years. They sold it seven years ago.

“The restaurant was very successful,” Cheung said. “When we opened it, it was the recession, and people were still waiting outside the door. But it was time to move on to other things. Enough was enough. It was lots of work and we felt we had nothing else to bring it.”

Cheung is a caregiver for a family member. That’s a job. Photography is something else entirely. She submits her photos to the town’s Facebook postings and her work is featured in her own personal journal.

She continues to learn about the aesthetic beauty that her town offers, saying, “I take photos of downtown at night. I got home that first time and (the photos were) not great, but they looked so different than what I had actually seen.

She continued: “We walk around and take things for granted, especially at night. You don’t notice anything, and then you see that our little park looks so very nice.”



Photography in Lehman’s Terms: Don’t stop life to photograph it this holiday season | Lifestyles


’Tis the season ye merry photographers. No idea what the statistics are, but I have a pretty good idea there is no time like the holidays for shooting tons of pictures. Back in the day, I’d wager more rolls of film were used between now and New Years than during the whole rest of the year.

Certainly no different in this day of cellphones and gigabytes.

But not around my house. I’ve become a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to shooting Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities. Rebelliousness is not usually part of my nature, but come the holidays, with the expectation being that Greg’s a photographer, I don’t snap a lot of shots. Does the cobbler make shoes on Christmas Eve?

I’m not saying I’m proud of it, but the fact is, the holidays are one time when I enjoy myself more without a camera around my neck or my phone in camera mode. This is crazy, because what better time to document the joy and love of family and friends than when they’re gathered for the holidays?

So, don’t do as I do, do as I recommend.

CANDID, NOT POSEDIn all honesty how many shots fill your photo albums of people smiling at the camera, posing with a just-opened present or with a carving knife poised over the ham? Most of them? Too many photographers think a photograph is something you stop real life for.

Here’s the main idea to keep in mind for this holiday season: Get most of your photos of people doing what they are doing. Shoot pictures when grandma is opening the Christmas present or reacting to it. Get that shot of dad and the big bird while he’s carving it or the activity in the kitchen during the cooking.

Even when it comes to the most delightful of us — the children — we tend to stop them from their normal activity to get a picture. Let them play! Years of professional photography has taught me that kids can ignore a camera like no one else. They notice it, but VERY quickly forget about it. That’s when your best shots happen.

So, don’t stop life to photograph it.

IF POSED, MAKE IT FUN

Now there’s posed and then there’s boring, stiff, stare-at-the-camera POSED.

During the holidays most of us are around people we know pretty well. Use your knowledge of them to pose them meaningfully. If Uncle Frank is bored to tears with family gatherings, say “C’mon, Frank! Show us how you’re really feeling.” If your mom is protective of her kitchen while cooking, maybe you can coax her into a pose by the kitchen door, arms crossed and chef’s knife in hand. It’s posed, but has some playfulness to it and says something.

Pose fun, if that makes any sense.

TAKE IN THE ENVIRONMENT

Generally, people don’t get nearly close enough to their subjects in photography — a topic of many columns. But during the holidays be sure to step back and take in the environment. Allow a sense of place to come through.

This sense of place can be literal, such as in what house is the event happening. I look through old family pictures and there are so many where I have no idea where they were taken. A wall is a wall is a wall. Step back and take in more of the room on a few or even a couple shots of the exterior.

Sense of place can also be more symbolic or atmospheric. This can involve including the decorations and the food in your photographs. Keep an eye out for making these things the actual subject of pictures. If the lights on the house are Griswold-esque, it might be worth a shot.

TIME, PLACE AND NAMES!

Don’t make the mistake of thinking your memory will always be so fresh. File your images with the date.

I am currently digitizing nearly 100 years of Lehman family film. It’s frustrating to look at photos and try to figure out when and where they were taken by how old they look. Or the model of car in the background. Or the style of clothes, the hair and the furniture. Save them in a dated folder!

Also, I have whole albums of wonderful black and whites from generations gone by and very little idea of who, what, where and when. Take a little time and attach some names, even if it’s in a notebook that you can photograph and include with the pics.

Shoot, have fun and preserve memories. It is a photograph’s greatest gift!

The 10 best compact cameras, according to National Geographic


The OM System (aka Olympus cameras) just released the flagship OM-1 camera, a major upgrade from the beloved Olympus E-M1 series.   

The OM-1 has a similar layout to the E-M1 series but it packs a super fast stacked sensor for high-speed stills shooting at up to 10 FPS mechanical and a blazing 120 FPS electronic. An updated sensor brings better low light performance and subject detection autofocus algorithms that can detect cars, planes, animals, and humans.  

This model also has hand-held high-res shooting (you can take 50 MP images out of a burst of 16 frames) and the Live-ND filter, which simulates a neutral-density filter. In addition, computational photography for handheld shooting emulates some tripod-based long exposure shooting (for example, a blurred waterfall). The pro line lenses have a high-quality build, integrated lens hoods, smooth zoom and focus rings, and round bokeh visualization (background blur). 

The OM-1’s lens options make it ideal for birders and wildlife watchers. The new 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25x IS PRO gives you a lightweight 300-800mm range and an integrated teleconverter up to 1000mm handheld. Tom tested this lens/camera combo and had a blast photographing birds in his neighbourhood without his arms getting too tired. For more: OM Systems  

Tip: The best lenses include the Olympus 12-100mm F/4 IS PRO (24-200mm), 12-24mm f/2.8 II PRO (24-80mm f/2.8 equivalent), 40-150mm F/2.8 PRO (80-300mm pro zoom), 7-14mm PRO (wide-angle zoom), 300mm F/4 IS PRO (600mm F4 equivalent), 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25x IS PRO (300-800mm f/4.5).

Fujifilm X-S10  

THE GREAT OUTDOORS: Incoming geese inspire a photo challenge | Lifestyles


It is no secret that I’m addicted to nature photography, which I practice on an almost daily basis regardless of weather conditions. In fact bad conditions sometime produce some neat images. I love “shooting” sunrises; they usually are the thing that gets me going in the morning. With sunrises, or sunsets, the secret to getting good ones is to be out there before they occur. Sometimes the best sky color is before the sun rises or after it sets, and you need to be in a good position before that happens. After sunrise, I head to a likely wildlife scene.

Lately I have been sitting along the Feeder Road off Route 77 near a marsh where geese and ducks come to rest in the morning. No hunting is allowed on this marsh, so many of the waterfowl naturally pick it for a safe haven. This was my favorite spot last week as I aimed to get good flight shots of geese coming in. Lighting and wind need to be from the right angle, and the birds are fast, so you have to be on the ball. It is very satisfying to catch that goose image, tack sharp, as he cups and drops into the marsh.

I used to do a lot of waterfowl hunting and the incoming geese always seemed to be the most exciting to watch. That’s still true today as I hunt them with my camera. Their distance calling tunes me in to their arrival and even when they are about to take off. I take way too many pictures of them in flight, but that’s necessary to catch the birds’ most flattering positions, which involves how the light is hitting them, their wing positions and their angle to the camera.

One shot I’m always trying to capture is their flying upside-down (yes, you read that right!). Sometimes when a flock is coming in to land they come in from a high altitude and are in a hurry to get to their chosen landing spot. To do this they “slip” sideways as they drop from the sky, and even flip over on their backs, which cuts wind resistance and helps them drop more quickly. Now, this maneuver takes only a split second, and they do it individually, not as a group. Thus it can be very difficult to catch this move. The best way is to just click away as you see birds in the flock doing this and hope you catch one upside-down.

When the birds are ready to leave the marsh, their body positioning and type of call usually prompt me to get ready. I try to catch them both flying and running on the water as they get airborne. Again, it is a matter of taking a lot of shots to catch it just right.

A lot of other things went on as I waited for various groups of geese to arrive. One morning a pair of trumpeter swans flew over me from a side that I don’t eyeball that much, and by the time I saw them I could only get angling-away images, not very flattering to the swans. A few mornings later, now peeking at the southeast side of my position more often, I caught the pair coming towards me. Getting ready, I kept focusing on them as they approached, and hit the “trigger” a number of times as they passed low and right in front of me. Each time I did, the thought “got it” clicked in my mind, and the end result was about six great, tack-sharp, well-exposed and flattering shots. As they continued on their way I took a deep breath — I often hold my breath as I shoot, probably a habit from my long range woodchuck hunting days that gave me a more accurate shot. A quick review of the shots proved I hit the nail right on the head, and my day was made even if the geese and ducks didn’t cooperate.

Other creatures often show themselves while I’m waiting out a particular set up like this. A mink will scramble in front of me, never giving a good shot because it is so quick in its sudden appearance and disappearance. Then there’s the great blue heron that has not flown south yet, offering some close “fishing” poses to me. Although not as plentiful as the incoming geese in this marsh, some mallards, pintails, teal and an occasional wood duck come in, elevating the excitement for me.

When the geese do start arriving there seems to be numerous groups coming in, one after another, which keeps me on the ball and breathless as I concentrate on various groups, trying to pick ones with good background, or doing quick maneuvers and coming in at the right angles.

Nature’s creatures are not the only things that keep me entertained while I’m in this area. The seasonal road is traveled by both vehicles and hikers looking to see nature or photograph it, and sometimes it’s pretty funny watching the wildlife outmaneuver these people. I can often predict what’s going to happen. Someone stops quickly and jumps out of their vehicle, camera in hand for a picture, only to find the creature has disappeared. Or, they walk or drive by never seeing the wildlife right off the road, because they don’t know how to look for it.

Nature photography can be addictive but that is OK because it makes you more appreciative of what’s out there.

I have a list of folks to whom I send my nature images. If you’re interested in seeing what I see, send me your email address and a request and I’ll add you to the list.

Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at 585-798-4022 or woodduck2020@yahoo.com.

Noémie Goudal’s Photo and Video Collages Trick the Eye. But They’re All About Revealing, Not Concealing, Her Process


The French artist Noémie Goudal is an illusionist. But unlike a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, Goudal provides the viewer with enough clues to understand her creative process. Her photographs and videos of palm trees and burning vegetation derive from the creation of printed décor, like stage sets, which clearly differentiates her art from the work of a documentary photographer. 

Several images on the stand of Galerie Les Filles du Calvaire at Paris Photo in the Grand Palais Éphémère this past weekend, conveyed Goudal’s preoccupations with nature and her working method. 

For Mountain III (2021), Goudal erected jagged pieces of cardboard in front of a partially snow-capped landscape. In order not to deceive the viewer about her intervention, she left the edges of the cardboard visible in the ensuing work.

For Phoenix V (2021), she sliced her own photographs of a palm tree into vertical and horizontal strips, which she installed in the same landscape in order to make another picture. The overlapping layers of strips conjure a deconstructed image. Black spaces in between the branches and the artificial light illuminating some of the leaves denote how the original conditions were nocturnal. Meanwhile, the visibility of the clips and cables communicates the work’s artifice.

Noémie Goudal, Mountain III (2021). Courtesy Galerie Les Filles du Calvaire.

 

“What I try to instill in the image is all the artisanal side, so you can find the gesture of fabricating the image within the image itself,” Goudal told Artnet News. “For me, it’s very important to involve the viewer so that they can live a bit of the [image-making] experience.”

To capture the palm trees, Goudal and her team of assistants drove to southern Spain, taking along equipment like cameras, computers, a printer and lighting. “We made a kind of deconstruction of the landscape and the result of this performance is represented in the photos,” she said.

Born in Paris, Goudal, 38, studied graphic design at Central Saint Martins in London before attaining a MA in Photography from the Royal College of Art. “There’s better and more varied teaching in England; the schools have a good reputation and the students are very free,” Goudal said about her decision to study abroad. 

From the beginning of her practice, Goudal has been interested in the hovering interface between fictional images and reality. To make her early works, she would install a photograph of a landscape somewhere very different—such as capturing a print of a misty, tropical road inside a dusty barn. 

In the last few years, Goudal’s work has become increasingly ambitious in scale and media. She has had exhibitions at the Photographer’s Gallery in London, the Finnish Museum of Photography, and Foam Photography Museum in Amsterdam, among other venues. Notably, her works have entered the collections of the Centre Pompidou, the CNAP – France’s visual arts collection, and Germany’s Fotomuseum Winterthur.

Noémie Goudal, Phoenix V (2021). Courtesy Galerie Les Filles Filles du Calvaire.

As part of this summer’s Rencontres d’Arles photography festival in the south of France, Goudal had an exhibition, “Phoenix,” in a deconsecrated gothic church called Église des Trinitaires. On view in the chapel’s nave were two captivating videos evincing her fascination with representation, installation, and performance. 

Inhale Exhale (2021) opens with a verdant, tropical landscape, like a postcard cliché. But the palm trees are soon revealed to be printed on placards, which begin to emerge and move, eventually collapsing in the rain. Then an identically constructed jungle appears, only to meet the same drowned fate. The piece was filmed in the wood of Vincennes, near Paris, wherein the décor was placed. 

The second video, Below the Deep South, (2021), is more terrifying, showing lush vegetation being set ablaze. The edges of the sheets of images lick with flames, burn and vanish. Then another, and yet another, layer of images catches fire in a perpetual cycle of repetition and destruction. Eventually, the ravaging flames stop flickering and embers amass on the floor of an industrial site. This ‘making of’ ending indicates that this is where the sheets of images were installed. Clarity is given to the mastered fakery, the poetic illusion is rendered comprehensible.

One immediately wonders if the dystopian vision is a reflection on the fires in the Amazon rainforest during Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency of Brazil. But Goudal replied that this was not the starting point. Rather, it was researching deep time and paleoclimatology, the study of the climate history of the earth and how a better understanding of the earth’s climate in the past relates to its present and future climate. 

Noémie Goudal. Film still from Below the Deep South (2021). Courtesy of Les Filles du Calvaire gallery and the artist.

“What interests me through these videos is trying to see the metamorphoses of the earth in a much broader sense than during man’s era, and looking at the destruction of fire but also at how it is a very important force of energy,” Goudal said. “When we speak to paleoclimatologists, we realize to what extent the earth was subjected to metamorphoses, like blasts and volcanoes, which allowed man to exist, and it’s this balance that we’re trying to save now.”

It is this transversal quality of Goudal’s practice—working across techniques and media, and exploring the earth’s different geological epochs—that makes it distinguishing, according to Stéphane Magnan, co-founder of Galeries Les Filles du Calvaire. The gallery sells her photographs, in an edition of five, priced between  €18,500 and €28,000 ($18,330-$27,740), depending on the format. Videos, also in an edition of five, are priced at €20,000 ($19,810).

“This artist proposes a very subtle work that destabilizes the viewer by deconstructing the landscape,” Magnan said. “This very particular, offbeat vision triggers fundamental issues about the earth’s transformation and proposes an aesthetic recomposition of our world.”

The theme of destruction is treated slightly differently in the black-and-white video, Untitled (Study on Matters and Fire), 2022. Commissioned for the group exhibition, “L’horizon des événements,” at Château d’Oiron in western France this summer, it shows a bleak, actual wasteland located beyond the periphery of Paris. 

One quickly perceives that the austere image is a composition of different elements, centered by a large circle whose edges become aflame. As the billowing, blackened paper tumbles, the fire devours the landscape. Through a system of photographic anamorphosis, the destruction gives way to the real, unravaged landscape behind.

Noémie Goudal, Untitled (Study on Matters and Fire) (2022). Exhibition view Château d’Oiron. Photo: Anna Sansom.

 

“The contract with Jean-Luc Meslet, director of the Château d’Oiron, was to produce works in situ, in or near the château, and we looked with Noémie for a forest that could be filmed in May but this turned out to be impossible so we couldn’t respect this contractual clause,” the exhibition’s curator Patrice Joly explained. “I find this new film even more powerful – it totally finds its place in the château’s grandiose setting, the sound fills the large room under the eaves […] and makes us feel the power and magnetism of fire – it’s a magnificent piece.”

Goudal, who cites Christopher Williams, Wolfgang Tillmans, Andreas Gursky and Zoe Leonard as references, has also ventured into interdisciplinary projects. At the Festival d’Avignon, south of France, this summer, she collaborated with stage director Maëlle Poésy on a performance piece, Anima. Next to a landscape-metamorphosis video, a dancer performed on a metallic, gridded structure of the same dimensions as the video screen. 

Goudal has also made a foray into sculpture. At her exhibition, “Post Atlantica,” at Edel Assanti in London earlier this year, several spherical, kinetic sculptures were on display alongside photographs and videos. 

Indeed, Goudal aspires for her conceptual work to defy classification and be appreciated beyond the confines of photography. “It’s still complicated to show photographic work in a contemporary art context,” Goudal lamented. “As there are fairs dedicated to photography, a gallery will think of showing their trending photographer at Paris Photo rather than at Paris+ [par Art Basel]. I understand but it’s just classifying [artists who work with photography] even more. I suffer a lot from this.”

Besides, Goudal is hardly a photographer in the traditional sense. “Photographers who make documentary and more classical work don’t see mine as classical photography,” Goudal added. 

Certainly, what drives Goudal is developing a multifarious practice, rich in intellectual exploration. “It’s very natural for me to use all these different media,” she said. “What interests me is studying the image from lots of different viewpoints and, above all, the experience of creating the image.”

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East Texas sports photographer looks back on 50-year career


HOLLY LAKE RANCH, Texas (KLTV) – An East Texas man remembers his time over a 50 year career as a photoghrapher, taking some of the most iconic images in sports.

Retired and living in Holly Lake Ranch now, 82-year-old Gary Edwards is not a household name. But, it’s a sure bet that sometime in your life you’ve seen one of his iconic sports pictures.

He worked for United Press International for decades, taking photographs of sports and politics, and his images have graced the covers of numerous newspapers and magazines such as LIFE and Sports Illustrated.

He’s covered 14 super bowls, 8 Masters golf tournaments and countless other events from baseball to the Olympics, with many of his photos held as a standard of excellence in photography.

It was a bizarre picture from a 1955 college football game between Princeton and Cornell that Edwards said propelled him to a career.

Nebraska native makes a career out of big wave photography | National News


Omaha doesn’t give photographer Isaiah “Frosty” Niemann access to the oceans where he captures dramatic images of huge waves and the surfers who ride them. So when he’s here, he takes wedding photos or family portraits.

But when clients hire him to photograph and film them surfing on big waves, he travels to popular surfing sites around the world.







Niemann was stationed in California and Hawaii during his time in the Marines.




Niemann, 27, was born in Seward and grew up in South Carolina — away from the coast.

“I didn’t really grow up in the ocean environment,” he said.

Photography came first.

Niemann bought a digital camera at a Best Buy to document his time in the Marines.

Then came surfing. He was stationed at Camp Pendleton in California for five years.

“The thing that got me with surfing is the peacefulness of being disconnected from society,” he said. “When you’re out surfing, you’re by yourself. It’s all about you and the ocean. You’re not competing with anything else. You’re just enjoying the ride.”







Ian Walsh surfs at the Pipeline on the north shore of Oahu. 




In his free time, Niemann started working as an intern at a surf shop, learning how to make boards.

His hobbies crossed paths when a friend asked Niemann to take photos of him surfing.

It snowballed from there, with more friends asking for photo shoots. It morphed into a side business.

He was later stationed in Hawaii. By then, he was an avid surfer, going out almost daily. He bought waterproof housings for his camera and took it out swimming to take photos on the water.

In many places, Niemann had to swim to take photos because watercraft aren’t allowed. When he can use watercraft, he goes with a Jet Ski.







A rainbow over a wave at Banzai Pipeline in Oahu, Hawaii. Niemann combined his passion for photography with his love of surfing.




Niemann got serious about big surf photography about a year ago in Hawaii after he started swimming a stretch of coast known for big waves called the Pipeline on the north shore of Oahu.

On a whim, he decided to visit a big wave surf break known as Jaws off Maui’s north shore. It’s known for producing some of the biggest waves in the world.

Big wave surfing is done on waves that range from 20 to 80 feet high. Typical surfing is done on waves that range between 2 and 6 feet, Niemann said.

“It’s kind of like grabbing an electric fence,” he said. “You’re holding on for dear life, but trying to enjoy the excitement of it.”

Niemann surfs big waves, too. Because it can be dangerous, he has undergone lifeguard training and big wave rescue certification.







Omaha photographer Isaiah “Frosty” Niemann, an avid surfer, also has caught more than his share of waves with a camera. This photo shows Paige Alms off Maui’s north shore. In January, he’s heading to Ireland to film a surfer from the United Kingdom.




Being on the water is a major adrenaline rush, he said.

“You get to see the power of the ocean firsthand and see that you’re just a small piece. It can be very dangerous and beautiful at the same time,” Niemann said.

Niemann traveled back to Omaha from Hawaii with his then-fiancée, Dana, for their spring wedding. He ended his military service earlier this year, and the couple moved back to Omaha, where Dana’s family lives.

Frosty Photo has become Niemann’s full-time job. Dana Niemann works for the business, too, taking care of all of the logistics and travel arrangements.







Isaiah Niemann photographed a barrel wave at Pyramid Rock in Hawaii. Niemann, who lives in Omaha, photographs big wave surfing.




The “Frosty” moniker is a childhood nickname. As a kid, he would stockpile Wendy’s Frosty coupon books so he could eat as many of the frozen treats for free as he could.

In January, he’s heading to Ireland for three months to film a 12-part series for a surfer from the United Kingdom.

“I would say the best thing about photography is being able to share my experiences and these magical moments with the ocean with other people,” Niemann said.



Frederick photographer Brodie Ledford featured in national competition | Arts & entertainment


Brodie Ledford says it was a Christmas gift he’d bought for his wife that led to his career in photography.

The 41-year-old Frederick native always loved video cameras and taking photos, but it wasn’t until he purchased a camera for his wife, Dara, a fine arts major in college with a focus on photography, that he became enamored with the art form.

For their Christmas together after she graduated college, Ledford “went out and bought her a brand new DSLR [digital] camera,” he said.

“The funny thing is, the second she opened it, I started playing with it,” he said during a phone interview. “And that camera then became mine. The rest, as they say, is history. That was nearly 17 years ago.”

Today, Ledford owns Brodie Ledford Studios in Frederick and was recently featured in a photography competition called Creator Series. Ledford was one of 10 photographers selected to be part of the 11-episode series, available to stream online.

In each episode, the photographers were challenged in various aspects of photography, from lighting to composition to posing — and they were given only 10 minutes to get the shot.

The web series, which can be viewed on YouTube, was judged by Canon Explorers of Light photographers: Sal Cincotta, an award-winning wedding and portrait photographer; Laretta Houston, who is known for shooting the Tyra Banks Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition; and Vanessa Joy, a renowned wedding photographer. The series was based in St. Louis, where Cincotta, the show’s producer and host, owns his studio.

Ledford entered the contest after seeing a promo for Creator Series at ShutterFest, a large photography conference. He admits he had reservations about entering a competition that would be broadcast worldwide. He considers himself a private person. But he decided to apply anyway.

After applying, Ledford was then interviewed. His portfolio and online presence also were reviewed before he got to the next round. Then he had a submit a 90-second video that explained “why us.” But after sending in the video, several weeks went by, and Ledford assumed he hadn’t been chosen.

“Then when I finally had lost all hope, I got an email saying ‘congratulations, you’re in,’” he recalled. “I was completely shocked, and I was excited and terrified all at the same time.”

He spent July shooting the series in St. Louis. It premiered online in August.

His biggest adjustment was learning how to use the Canon gear that was required for the series because, of course, it was sponsored by Canon.

Cincotta was each photographer’s assistant throughout the series.

“It’s a little bit intimidating because he’s absolutely fantastic,” Ledford said. “He’s one of those guys who expects the best because he is there as the best, and he’s known to be amazing.”

The photographers being allowed only 10 minutes to shoot their assignments for the day made it all the more challenging. Normally, setting up a studio shot can take up to an hour, Ledford said. “We basically had 10 minutes to pick the gear we wanted, set the shot up, talk to the model about what we were looking for, coach the model and then shoot it.”

Then, the photographers were asked to immediately hand over their memory cards.

It wasn’t until every photographer finished their shoot that the contestants could see the photos they’d shot and work on them further. They got 30 minutes to select and edit the images. But, Ledford said, realistically, by the time he would select his images, he would only have 15 minutes, on average, to edit.

“The images that were created are mind-blowing to me — that it was done in such a short period of time,” Ledford said. “That’s where the challenge was.”

The cards were given to the judges who then selected the best and the worst. Every week someone was sent home.

“My favorite competition was probably the reflections competition,” where a model was reflected in a mirror or window, for example, he said. “Because it was something that was outside of what I would normally do.”

The entire competition, he said, was challenging because it forced the photographers to try a type of photography they normally don’t do every day.

He said the series really showed that there’s more to photography than people realize.

“I think the biggest thing that is difficult for photographers is that people think that the cameras have a magic button because they don’t see the behind-the-scenes stuff,” he said. “People don’t see the editing process. They don’t see all the lighting. They don’t understand setting [the camera] on manual mode, not on auto mode.”

Ledford credits his wife for getting him into photography as a profession, and he dabbled in it while he held a full-time job as a store manager for Best Buy.

“My wife would take my photos, and she would make photo books for me and just keep, you know, pushing me and say, ‘Hey, look, it’s great stuff,’” he said.

He and his wife, who is also a photographer, cofounded Brodie Ledford Studios, and when someone asked if he did weddings, it became his first professional gig. After a while, his wife again encouraged him to take the leap full-time into his new passion.

“I walked away from that life, and I was able to do what I want to do now,” he said. “And it’s unbelievable.”

Ledford’s business is considered a luxury, service-based company, where he focuses on client relationships.

“There are a lot of people out there that take pictures, and there’s a huge difference between a picture taker and a professional photographer,” he said. “I really pride myself on the fact that we focus on the experience for the client, and our clients truly do become like friends and family.”