Friday, January 31, 2014

Photographer Series #2: danielshotkatemoss

Dearest iskm blog readers,

The second installment of the photographer series is here! Daniel Afzal, accomplished wet plate photographer has submitted! Don't know Daniel's work, what wet plate photography is or just want to see into the soul of another artist by looking at their interpretation of the theme? Read on!!!

Born in Paris soon thereafter moved to Iran and then, in 1977, to Virginia a few miles outside of Washington DC, Daniel started photographing when he was young and later took classes in art history with influential curator Jane Livingston, where he learnt the history of photography.
"At that point I finally understood why I wanted to take photographs. I learned of the emotions that a photographer goes through in order to understand his/her subject. I studied photographs by Avedon, Klein, Penn, Weegee, Clark, Stieglitz… There were poems that left me with images long after the book was put down. I wanted to also create images that are witness to our world."
Stacey 2012, Daniel Afzal
Daniel uses a wet plate collodian process. As someone who has never photographed this way, I asked him to give us a lesson:
DA: The process was invented by Frederic Scott Archer in the early 1850s and it was used during the Civil War.  Most people have heard of, and seen, tintypes - a cheap and popular wet plate collodion on a black piece of metal, tin or iron from that era. I photograph ambrotypes which are similar in that they are a one of a kind image, but produced on clear glass. Ambrotypes require the photographer to mix an emulsion (collodion), sensitizer (silver nitrate) and developing/fixing (cyanide) chemicals. The process is called wet plate because the whole thing is done while the collodion is still wet on the glass. Because of the wet process, photographers have to travel with their darkrooms as all plates are prepared, coated and processed on site. Think of it this way, I make my own film on glass.

iskm: How does this technique affect your approach to a subject?
DA: Ambrotypes are a time consuming process that has unfastened my views of photographing. It has allowed me to slow down and consume my subject with emotion ... It is a method that is both beautiful and expressive.

iskm: Does it get frustrating to work this way, particularly as now we can take 1,000 photos a minute if we wish or is it simply a pure meditative practice?
DA: It is slow, it requires prep time in advance, patience and most of all appreciation and respect for the process and the subject. The simple task of setting up allows me to slow down and take in my surroundings. For me, this is the meditative part of the process.
It does get tedious at times, but I spend that time to think about the shot and the subject.  

iskm: How do you feel your approach to photography affected your submission to ishotkatemoss?
DA: This was a great process of thoughts. I took my time thinking about the subject as I would have if I were setting up my gear. I went slowly and many ideas were revised. I spent time looking for images as well as talking about the topic. Nothing was rushed.

So, enough of a slow roll. Let's introduce everyone to your submission:
Nick Knight's 2008 photograph of Kate for Vogue
iskm: How/why did you select the source image that you did?
DA: Simply put, it was beautiful, expressive and drew me in. Absolutely a beautiful image.

iskm: What did you to your chosen Kate Moss image and why?
DA: The image was a magazine cover and is perfect for a square format. It is a very warm toned image causing deep contrast (the yellow tones would make her skin very dark). I converted the digital image to B&W in Photoshop before printing and photographing it. This allowed the subtle skin tones to translate well to collodion.

iskm: Why is the image reversed from the original? 
DA: The plate is reversed because the image is upside down and backwards in all view cameras.  I coat the back of the image with black paint which makes (the thin negative) plate appear like a positive.  When viewing the plate you are looking at the emulsion side which is backwards from the original.

iskm: How big is the actual plate?
DA: The plate is 4x4 inches.  Small compared to my usual 11x11 plates. 

iskm: Has your perception of kate moss herself influenced the photo?
Daniel's camera and the 4x4 iskm plate
DA: This was actually part of my process of defining the project. A lot of folks look at the industry as something that, unfortunately, defines an unrealistic sense of self. But, if you were to go past the surface you would see the beauty which is not just an attractive woman or a great photograph. It is about sensuality and the concept of self, being Kate. I thought about this a great deal and quickly came to the conclusion that I don’t know her and have no right to judge on a preconceived idea that is driven by our culture. So I looked more deeply and saw strength and confidence.

iskm: By using an old photographic technique the images look antique. Is Kate a beauty that you feel is timeless? Are you making any specific commentary as to her? Fashion? Advertising? Photography? Art?
DA:  I don’t use the collodion process as a technique to make things look old. I use it because it is part of my search and growth as a photographer. This project's process definitely allowed me to get one step closer to who I am and how I perceive Kate and the industry. The world of fashion will always produce images that are timeless. To that I have to add that I have always viewed the fashion industry as a great way to tell a story with one image. A way to send the imagination into a story book.  In a way, the collodion process has done that for this image.

iskm: Which photographer/s would you most want to most see involved in ishotkatemoss?
DA: Avedon of course, but sadly that is not a possibility.

iskm: Thanks so much Daniel. Your work and your submission is incredible.
DA: This was a fun process as it taught me how to look at the subject at hand in a new and different way.

More of Daniel Afzal's work can be seen at:

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Appropriation and/or Doctorin' the Moss

I was going to write about appropriation in art but instead I stole the following text from some on-line "newspapers":

Playboy magazine are suing Harper’s Bazaar for allegedly using photographs of Kate Moss dressed as a ‘bunny girl’ without permission.
In the court documents, issued by Playboy Enterprises International to the fashion magazine’s publishing house Hearst, it is claimed that the editors at Harper’s Bazaar not only posted a photograph of Moss dressed in its trademark Playboy bunny ears and leotard online without consent, but the publication also linked to a feature published on a separate website with nine copyrighted nude images of the star embedded within it. People who clicked on the link to see the rest of the “decidedly not safe for work images” were then led to a website called “,” which read, “Save yourself a fiver. Here’s Kate Moss’ NSFW spread from Playboy.” 

Harper's owner “Hearst's link to the website page cannot be justified by any suggestion that Hearst was reporting the news of Ms. Moss's appearance in the 60th Anniversary Issue,” the suit says. While Playboy “welcomed the media's reporting and discussion of its images,” Hearst “well exceeded the bounds of mere news reporting” in a flagrant bid “to attract and drive Internet visitor traffic,” the suit says. Both links are now gone, but Playboy is still fuming about the purloined pix. It wants $150,000 for each “infringed work.”
The 18-page series was shot by acclaimed fashion photographers Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott. Editorial director Jimmy Jellinek said of the anniversary issue “Having Kate Moss, a global icon and the most important supermodel of the past 25 years, appear on our cover makes this issue the perfect way to launch Playboy's next 60 years.” Editor-in-chief Hugh Hefner added: “From its beginning, Playboy has stood for freedom of speech, freedom of choice and freedom of the press. I am so proud to celebrate this anniversary as the magazine continues its mission to promote these core values many decades later.”
Representatives at Harper’s Bazaar are yet to issue a statement with regards to the suit.

So ... 60 years of Playboy, starting with Marilyn - the most famous bunny of them all - which led me on a visual ride past (amongst others) Andy, Banksy, Bowie, the Queen and finally the Postal Service, Jimmy and the KLF:
Got me thinking ... freedom of speech and really ...

... what is appropriate?

Appropriated ...

How do you see the world? 
I see us addicted and appropriated
Be ready to ride the big dipper of the mixed metaphor. Be ready to dip your hands in the lucky bag of life, gather the storm clouds of fantasy and anoint your own genius. Observe. Slow down. Shoot. Submit!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

"Why artists just don't get Kate Moss"

Last week was Kate's 40th b'day. So many things I wanted to react to dear reader, but instead, I wanted to share this piece by Jonathan Jones on the Guardian's Art blog (including the cropped crotchless pictures and associated titles):
Lucian Freud's painting of Kate Moss
Full exposure … Lucian Freud's portrait of Kate Moss
"She's been depicted in plastic by Allen Jones, tattooed by Lucian Freud and snapped by the world's greatest photographers. But as Moss turns 40, she's a beauty still waiting for her Picasso.
Kate Moss creates a timeless bubble around herself where feminism never happened. In this archaic realm, women are bodies and men are eyes. This has proved a lot of fun for male artists, who can make the kind of art about Moss that in any other context would be dismissed as 1960s-style misogyny.
Plastic fantastic … Kate Moss by Allen Jones

If you think I am exaggerating, consider how she has revived the career of Allen Jones. In the 1960s, Jones made fetishistic pop art that fantasised freely about sex. His sculptures even turned women into piece of furniture. One of these works in the Tate was attacked in what is thought to have been a feminist protest.

 But Allen Jones is hot again – thanks to Kate Moss. In a sale at Christies that celebrated her as a "muse", his images, including a Goldfinger-like photographic work and a plastic model, were the most publicised and high-selling works (at £32,500 and £133,875, respectively).
Bendy … Quinn's 18-carat gold Siren Sculpture of Moss    

A beauty that can redeem Jones is not to be sniffed at. And, of course, Moss has also "inspired" Gary Hume to portray her with an empty silver face, Marc Quinn to depict her doing yoga, looking like some mythological goddess, and Lucien Freud to paint her as a reclining nude when she was pregnant.
  Yet I don't buy into the idea that Moss is a great "muse", a word I don't understand or like. "Muse" is a stale Victorian concept that sentimentalises the messy realities of desire and art.

There's another problem: Moss doesn't live in a great age for beauty in art. I think she may know this. Her relationships with artists are actually quite tantalising. Jones, Quinn and a legion of fashion photographers have been allowed to capture her image, and yet an image is all they have taken away – you get sense that the real Kate Moss has eluded them. Their excitement is so obvious, so puppyish. The chance to put heterosexual excitement into contemporary art is so rare that they just shoot their aesthetic load with a splat.
Sir Peter Blake's painting
Peter Blake's print on canvas sold at Christie's in 2013 for £31,250
Moss apparently wanted something more, for she embarked on a potentially far more serious encounter with the one artist up to the job. Titian and Picasso were not around to paint her, but Lucian Freud was. Their relationship was intimate enough for him not only to paint her nude but also, as she has revealed, to tattoo her body. Using skills he learned in the merchant navy in the second world war, the great painter turned amateur tattoo artist gave her an image of two tiny birds on her lower back. That's what I call body art.

If Freud had met Moss 10 years earlier and portrayed her over and over again, if the intimacy that tattoo betokens became a complex passion between painter and model, then we could really say she inspired great art. As it is, Kate Moss is the muse who has never found the right artist. Where's a sexist voyeuristic genius when you need one?"

Um ... hello? Well, I wouldn't call myself sexist ... Observe, slow down, shoot and submit

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Photographer Series #1: matthushotkatemoss

Dear ishotkatemoss-ers,

I am very excited for 2014 as I have invited a number of photographers I greatly respect to submit their own interpretation of the project and I will be highlighting the work and interviewing them as part of a Photographer Series on this blog.

First up, a special treat: Matthu Placek is an incredible artist who comfortably sits in many artistic worlds, including as a portrait and fashion photographer, where his work has appeared in The New Yorker, Vogue, GQ, Elle and The New York Times amongst many publications. He is also a fim maker whose latest project 130919 • A Portrait of Marina Abramović was recently chosen to be part of the 2014 Short Film Program at the Sundance Film Festival.

Richard Philips & Coco Rocha
New York City 2008: Matthu Placek
In Matthu's own words:  
In short, I am an archivist. I'm most interested in creating images as place holders for my memories of events and people. The portraits I make of people are often conceived by personal relationships with the subject and a sensitivity to the architecture and objects which help to tell their story. 

Matthu moved to NYC from Ohio in 1997 to study photography. Since then, he has cultivated his interests in the performing and fine arts through collaborating with notable contemporary artists such as Marina Abramovic, Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Vanessa Beecroft, Richard Prince, Brice Marden, Cindy Sherman, James Ivory, and Yoko Ono. His individual and collaborative work has been exhibited in the US and abroad at MOMA, The Kitchen, Deitch Projects, Mary Boone Gallery, and Galleria Lia Rumma.

So, without further ado, I am pleased to unveal the first submission in the Photographer Series:
iskm: How do you feel your work and your approach to photography affected your submission?
MP: My aesthetic was certainly influenced by my architectural background in photography. I cannot avoid approaching a person as architecture in some ways. In this instance, seeing Kate Moss as a foundation and starting with symmetry is how I approach space and how I consider people in it. 

Chuck Close's Kate 2007
iskm: What did you do to your chosen Kate Moss image and why?
MP: One of the things I have always felt was so alluring about Kate Moss is the fact that she is so nearly symmetrical in a way. She has a structure to her face which allows her endless visual possibilities and representations. Of course, she is not in fact symmetrical however I thought it would make this point clear to duplicate her right side (her "good" side) and truly make her symmetrical. 

iskm: Why did you select the source image that you did?
MP: I chose Chuck Close's portrait as it is a straight forward foundation. Most importantly because it is un-retouched. I was able to duplicate the right side to make her face perfectly even and at the same time mirror what some would consider her "flaws" which I think is an important balance. 

iskm: Your contribution makes me think of the rorschach inkblot test ... what do you see in your image?
MP: A nice little bug. 

iskm: Which photographer would you most want to most see involved in ishotkatemoss?  
MP: Richard Prince - I realize he's not a photographer but he is the roots of this approach to imagery right?

iskm: Anything else you want to mention? 
MP: I think that covers everything. This was fun!

By chance, the image that Matthu chose was one of the pieces from the Gert Elfering Collection, the sale of which by Christie's London helped to inspire this project ... so it seems an appropriate choice to kick off the Photographer Series.

We here at iskm are truly honored to have Matthu's involvement. More of his work can be seen at:
His contribution, and that of many others, can be seen as part of the interactive project. 
Observe, slow down, shoot and submit.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Useful Stuff?

It was the end of 2013 and as I was walking throughout NY. Kate followed me.

Her playboy eyes, ears and tail seemed to be with me everywhere, so I ducked into The Strand to find some literary escape. Yet, there she was, staring at me from the covers and pages of fashion books. So I slowed down, observed, shot and submitted.
Was she stalking me, or I her?

It was the holidays and all of this kate-ness got me thinking (you know, time of reflection and all that) about an article I read a few months ago titled A Critic's Manifesto, that Daniel Mendehlson posted on The New Yorker blog. In it he stated: "The serious critic ultimately loves his subject more than he loves his reader".

Dear reader, please don't take this personally, but even though I do love you, it has dawned on me that it is not as much as the idea of kate - given the amount of time I am spending with, and on, her.

Kate is not my subject, so let's be clear ... she is the icon, the metaphor for everything that I find wrong. She is the idol, the drug, the image, the repetition, the look, the (so-called) perfection, the aspiration. She is the desire and she is nothing more than a passing fad that doesn't seem to pass.

Like a bad smell, the image lingers. And I am in love with the idea that it is ever present, that it is inescapable.
So, Happy New Year. Let's go shoot kate.