Category Archives: Film

Karen Liao: A Fresh Perspective on Photography

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Photo: Karen Liao

Photography and Text by Karen Liao, Copyright 2018

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Book Review

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Susan Sontag: On Photography

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A Fresh Perspective on Photography

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Susan Sontag’s On Photography is a highly complex, brilliant look at the development, meaning, and impact of photography on the world. The book is split into six chapters discussing various aspects of photography, and I wanted to tease out my thought processes and lessons learned regarding the relationship between morals, photography, and its effects. As someone who is currently approaching photography with a more documentarian mindset, I was shocked, but understanding of what Sontag brings to the surface about this type of photography.

Sontag starts out by describing photography as not only a “defense against anxiety”, but also “a tool of power”. However, what I’ve learned is that this tool of power does not work by purely illustrating; there are many more layers to its working. Sontag argues that photographs never purely reflect reality. Photographs will always be an interpretation of the world, because photographers impose standards on subjects of their photos. In addition, Sontag states that surrealism is pervasive and actually “the heart of photograph” because photography creates a different, designed reality that can be more dramatic than reality. She uses the examples of photographers such as Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and Ben Shahn being members of the Farm Security Administration photographic project in the late 1930s, and how they would take many pictures of the impoverished, but choose certain pictures that would support their own perspectives of what these subjects’ narratives should be.

In addition, we shouldn’t say that seeing a photograph will help us to understand the world more—we are simply accepting the image of whatever the camera records and having this picture fill a blank in our perception of the past and present. What’s created for us is an “exotic reality” that ranges from the bourgeois life to the poor. Photography, operating with its surrealistic core, can only collect information and bring an illusion of understanding. The camera simply makes the audience “a tourist in other people’s reality”. This ties in with the concept that Sontag brings up in later chapters about how the tendency to focus on aesthetics in photography, even in mediums that are supposed to convey distress, can neutralize the effect of the photo. She makes the harsh statement that as much as these photos create sympathy, they also “miniaturize experience, transform history into spectacle”.

All this criticism of the morals behind photography has made an impact on my thoughts as a photographer. My previous work in the class has focused on telling stories or bringing to light the issues that vulnerable populations deal with (mental health, chronic illness). For example, my chosen picture is a photograph of a dear, personal patient of mine in the hospital. As providers in healthcare, we are constantly reminded of our responsibility to be patient advocates, and I believed that this picture was powerful in the way that it photographed a real patient struggling with chronic illnesses. I wanted others to see her perspective and reality—to fight for people like her. However, Sontag’s passages have led me to understand that there are factors such as my interpretation and aestheticism, as well as the limited extent of photography to bring understanding, that inhibit me from spreading my complete message to my intended audience. Photos do not bring reality or full understanding. It was a bit disappointing at first, but I understand and agree with Sontag’s analyses. However, in the end, I have decided that it is still better to “fill that mental picture” with the “exotic reality” from photographs such as these than to never at all have exposed my audience to the pictures. There’s a risk-benefit evaluation in presenting these photos, but I believe that as long as I acknowledge the limitations of photography, the outcome of spreading this interpreted reality to others will still be better than nothing.

Finally, I wanted to end on a more positive perspective on photography. Sontag describes how the possession of a camera can evoke a feeling similar to lust. The possibilities of photography are infinite, and photographers are stuck in a cycle where the camera is both “the antidote and the disease”. Access to photography has given us awareness of the transience of everything, as well as the ability to capture all the fleeting moments. I don’t know how large of a part photography will play in my life as I advance in my career, but tasting the antidote has started the cycle for me.

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About The Author: Karen Liao is a Junior enrolled in the School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2019. To access additional articles by Karen Liao, click here:http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/karen-liao-homage-textures/

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Documentary, History, Photography, Popular Culture, Science, Student Life, UPenn, Women

Jesse Halpern: The Bridge Between Beauty and Truth

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Trash Can

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Photography and Text by Jesse Halpern, Copyright 2018

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Book Review

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Susan Sontag: On Photography

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The Bridge Between Beauty and Truth

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My senior focus in my high school painting class was on objects that are under appreciated, things that we use daily that we do not really notice until we notice that they are not there. An outlet, or a trash can. I wanted to make these objects seem special though painting I could more easily doctor and manipulate the object to beautify. I could edit reality with painting to achieve what I wanted, something I did not think I could do with photography.

I took a gap year after high school. I went to Europe  on an art history trip with an Iphone. I had always been a luddite, never really liked technology or phones in highschool, but I wanted to document my trip, as Susan Sontag might suggest I did to prove that it happened, to have the visual evidence. Looking back through on my art history trip, the first shots were of details of places we went, untraditional angels. They were subpar photos with a few nice shots. It was entertaining so I kept taking pictures.

At Monet’s Gardens in Giverny, I Photographed a green trash can, something forgotten in the gardens. The interest in the overlooked was still with me from high school. The photos of the trash can were not interesting before editing. If I didn’t care about the subject matter I might not have even tried to edit it, but everything came together with editing when I used the noir filter and made a few minor adjustments with editing tools I didn’t fully understand yet. This moment brought about a realization that I could photography as another medium to glorify the underappreciated objects in our everyday life. It was a new medium to continue my senior thesis. I don’t think I had ever really taken a photo that I was proud of before this trash can. This was really the start of my surveying reality with a photographic eye. This is when I truly discovered the joys of photography. Phone in hand, I was on the hunt to find compositional elements that I associated with good pictures. Much like the photographer described as the surrealist in Susan Sontag’s On Photography, I now wanted to collect the world.

What compelled me the most reading Sontag  was the vastly different approaches photographers took I capturing people. Diane Arbus has a very frank manner showing the “ugly” or “deformed” but expressing in their character that they don’t see themselves. Sanders in Germany documenting people in different social classes as they are, unjudging. Walker Evans subway series, with a concealed camera and unaware viewers. Lersky’s everyday faces in 1931 finds beauty in faces of laborers. Such profoundly different truths all captured in people. Photography as described by Sontang bridges beauty and truth telling, and all these works are indicative of that. Each series showed me something about people, and each was beautiful.

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About The Author: Jesse Halpern is a Sophomore enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2019. To access additional articles by Jesse Halpern, click here:http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/jesse-halpern-porches-philadelphia/

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, History, Photography, Popular Culture, Science, Student Life, UPenn, UPenn Photography

Exhibition Announcement: Hamburg, Germany

Objects of Art: Dressed/Undressed. From the book of Tableaux Vivants.

Objects of Art: Dressed/Undressed. From the book of Tableaux Vivants.

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Tableaux Vivants by Tony Ward, Copyright 2017.

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To see additional Tableaux Vivants by Tony Ward that will be on exhibit at Fikki Beach in Hamburg on December 16, 2017, click herehttp://tonyward.com/early-work/tableaux-vivants-1993-2000/

 

Also posted in Advertising, Announcements, Art, Blog, Current Events, Environment, Erotica, Fashion, Glamour, Models, News, Nudes, Photography, Popular Culture, Women

December 2017: Old School Shirt Makers New York

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Kevin Stewart: Old School Shirt Makers New York

Kevin Stewart: Old School Shirt Makers New York

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Lab Session: Text by Kevin Stewart, Copyright 2017

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Sharing your life’s work, your passion, your craft with students opens you up to examining your body of work like a vaulted time capsule newly unearthed. On Tuesday, November 14, 2017 I spoke to a Fashion Photography class at UPenn. The teacher, Tony Ward my friend and colleague, invited me. How could I say no? Our few hours together were broken into three segments; Lecture, Q&A, Student assignment. 

I presented a slice of my work in publishing, explaining a Fashion Directors role and responsibilities to achieve a final photo worthy for public viewing. I emphasized the importance of the photographer selection and ultimately the relationship between the Fashion Director + Photographer and achieving a successful outcome. The students were attentive and interested in the process. Questions proved to me that they saw their role in the craft as needing to be continually open to exploring ideas, techniques and collaboration. 

Then came the fun part for me, hopefully for the students as well, getting to work. I styled the models in my most recent addition to the Old School Shirt Makers New York collection, Roger Charles bow ties and knitwear + fiber art by K. The students were divided into groups, assignments in hand, cameras ready; they went off to make magic happen through the lens. I witnessed several of the students applying what they had been taught. I saw artistic adventure, working with the models, the space, the lighting and using their talents to capture THE shot. Some students were quiet and serious, some were very methodical and a handful were playful and relaxed. There is no right or wrong way, it’s about finding your way. 

My capsule reveals the journey I took and how I did what I did, my way. The students I had the pleasure to speak with and collaborate with have a lifetime to fill up their capsule. I hope their journey leads them to a place where they can reflect back and say, this is who I am and I created this. 

Thank you Tony, my friend, for another experience added to the journey. 

Kevin Stewart 

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CREDITS

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CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS

Noa Baker

Xiaonan Chen

Michael Heath

Joy Lewis

Alexis Masino

Jessica Moh

Linda Ruan

Amber Shi

Sharon Song

Jingyi Sun

Ria Vaidya

Noel Zheng

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MODELS: MAIN LINE MODELS & TALENT

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Sony Giusti

Sybil Geddes

Christine Sampson

Jenna Smith

JL Henken

Nick Nocella

Denah

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MAKEUP: AYSHA SILAGY

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ASSISTANT TO PHOTGRAPHER’S: ANTHONY COLAGRECO

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To access additional articles about Kevin Stewart, click herehttp://tonywardstudio.com/blog/art-day-theme-circus-painting-seurat-music-kevin-stewart/

 

 

 

Also posted in Advertising, Announcements, Art, Blog, Covers, Current Events, Documentary, Fashion, Glamour, Men, Models, Photography, Popular Culture, Student Life, UPenn, UPenn Photography, Women

Studio News: Recent Vintage Print Sale

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Dinner For Two, Philadelphia 1995

 

Photography and Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2017.

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STUDIO NEWS: RECENT VINTAGE PRINT SALE

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This 11 x 14 inch vintage photograph entitled, “Dinner For Two, Philadelphia 1995  is from the book of Tableaux Vivants, published by Editions Stemmle, Zurich, 2002.  The archival print was recently sold to a private collector in Philadelphia for $2500.00.  It was the only print of its kind in inventory and from a  very rare limited edition of prints. The picture is part of a series of Tableaux Vivants I produced between the years 1993 to 2000. This particular photo was staged at the Striped Bass in Philadelphia,  once declared by Esquire Magazine as the number one restaurant in the United States for dining at the time.  Owners, Joe Wolf and Neil Stein commissioned me to make the photograph for an ad that would later run in Philadelphia magazine to promote the famous restaurants “midnight breakfast”.

 To see more pictures from this series, click herehttp://tonyward.com/early-work/tableaux-vivants-1993-2000/

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For Vintage Print Sales: Email Tony@TonyWard.com

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