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Interview: Michelle Dunn Marsh and Sylvia Plachy

Michelle Dunn Marsh, the founder of Minor Matters, the Seattle-based photography book publisher, has championed many photographers over the years, curating, editing, and shepherding their work into exceptional photobooks and exhibitions. Now, Dunn Marsh (who was the subject of a profile in photograph’s May/June 2018 issue) is publishing her own book through Minor Matters: Seeing Being Seen: A Personal History of Photography, which can be pre-ordered here. The book is a memoir of sorts, in which photographs that she lives with (by Will Wilson – who made the book’s cover image – Endia Beal, Stephen Shore, Paul Strand, Carrie Mae Weems, Eugene Richards, Mary Ellen Mark, Sylvia Plachy, and others) anchor and illuminate key moments in her life. I spoke with Dunn Marsh and photographer Sylvia…

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March – April 2020 Interview

Maske, an exhibition on view at Florida’s Boca Raton Museum of Art before it closed temporarily because of the coronavirus, showcases the unique place that Phyllis Galembo has established for herself in contemporary photography. For more than four decades, she has been traveling primarily throughout Africa and the Americas to catalogue the costumes of ritual performance and celebration. A visual ethnographer with an aesthetic approach, Galembo has compiled an increasingly important cultural archive, as her most recent book, Mexico Masks Rituals (Radius/DAP), makes abundantly clear. As societies change and practices disappear or are transformed, her portraits not only retain the details of cultural production, they also serve as a continuing celebration of creativity and a reminder of the value of human diversity. Lyle Rexer: I…

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January – February 2020 Interview

The history of photography in the United States needs a new map. Instead of New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, this one would include such places as Rochester, NY; Champaign-Urbana, IL;  Gainesville, FL; and Penland, NC.  This alternative itinerary has defined the career of Bea Nettles, whose traveling retrospective, Harvest of Memory, is on view at the George Eastman Museum (January 30-June 14, 2020) and subsequently at the Krannert Art Museum in Champaign, IL (August 27-November 28, 2020). That career has itself defined a series of challenges to conventional photography, including everything from stitched works and Tarot-card sets to gum-bichromate printing and cyanotype. Nettles’s groundbreaking self-published manual Breaking the Rules: A Photomedia Cookbook (1992) went through three editions and was as important for photographers seeking…

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November – December 2019 Interview

Shahidul Alam is more than a photographer. Founder of the Drik Picture Library and the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, both in his native Bangladesh, Alam is an outspoken activist for human rights. This has brought him the undesirable attention of the Bangladesh government, and in 2018 he was detained and expected that he might become one of the country’s “disappeared.” Local and international outcry helped spur his release, and now a comprehensive survey of his photographic work, Shahidul Alam: Truth to Power, is on view at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York through May 4, 2020.  Lyle Rexer: I am interested in origin stories. Your beginning in photography didn’t come at age five with a box camera from Auntie Em. Shahidul Alam: No,…

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September – October 2019 Interview

Adi Nes is not in a hurry. The Israeli artist, who creates referentially dense photographic tableaus, proceeds carefully. His last major series, The Village, appeared in 2012. A selection of his works from three different series will be on view with the opening of the new Fotografiska New York this winter. The Stockholm-based institution offers a new model for exhibitions – part photography gallery, part cultural-event venue, part restaurant, with an interest in a range of contemporary photographic practices. Until the next appearance of new work, we will have to be content with this mini-retrospective. Lyle Rexer: I can’t help mentioning the remarks I read recently by Israel’s minister of education, about his support for conversion therapy for gay people. It’s astounding. Adi Nes: He’s…

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July – August 2019 Interview

Diane Arbus famously remarked that making a photograph of someone was the right kind of attention to pay them – at the very least it was a gesture of recognition. Since she began making pictures seriously in 1991, Liz Johnson Artur, who lives in London but was born in Bulgaria of Russian and Ghanaian parentage, has been paying the right kind of attention to people and moments in her life, making sure they do not slip into oblivion. Focused largely on people of the African diaspora, a selection from her growing archive, as well as two videos, are on view at the Brooklyn Museum through August 18 in an exhibition titled Dusha, the Russian word for soul. Lyle Rexer: Down the corridor from your exhibition in…

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May – June 2019 Interview

This is an Erwin Olaf year, with retrospective exhibitions at museums in Den Haag, his native Amsterdam, and Shanghai; a new monograph covering his career (Erwin Olaf: I Am (Aperture), with Olaf’s commentary on his photographs); and an exhibition in New York at the Edwynn Houk Gallery through June 1. All these events offer ample opportunity to look beyond the surface of his stylish tableaux to consider the deeper currents of isolation, self-scrutiny, and existential longing they explore. Lyle Rexer: I want to start right off the bat with a central problem – or let’s call it a conundrum – of photography today, and that is the portrait. Of course, we’re taking millions of pictures of ourselves and others, but on the artistic side, what is…

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March – April 2019 Interview

How does a country or a community discover itself, except through its artists, those peculiar people who are somehow able to enter the minds and hearts of others and provide indubitable testimony to their reality. Alec Soth has displayed a quality of sympathy through his photographs for more than two decades. His recent intuitions, at once modest and profound, are on view in a new book published by Mack, I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating, and in several exhibitions: at Weinstein Hammons Gallery, Minneapolis (March 15-May 4), Sean Kelly Gallery, New York (March 21-April 29), and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco (March 23-May 11). Soth has also curated an exhibition, A Room for Solace: An Exhibition of Domestic Interiors, for the AIPAD Photography Show,…

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January – February 2019 Interview

Martha Rosler is a provocative artist for politicized times. Her early video Semiotics of the Kitchen, 1975, has long established itself as a key feminist work, and her series of photo montages against the Vietnam War, made from 1967 to 1972, definitively updated a political genre. Her work since then, in many mediums, has been equally committed to political awareness. Martha Rosler: Irrespective, at the Jewish Museum through March 3, is the first survey of her work in almost 20 years. Lyle Rexer: I am especially interested in the role of photographs in your collages, especially your well-known series House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home, 1967-72. Martha Rosler: Those works may be well known now, but I kept them out of any art-world context back…

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