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Sean Kernan’s The Secret Books

Sean Kernan makes insightful comments on twelve photographs.

“At this point I most respond to things that stir me to a kind of seeing that I didn’t think I could do. They make me want to try, even though I have no idea where or how to begin. This group contains work from major artists and workshop students, proving that anyone can break through.” – Sean Kernan

Anselm Keifer

Anselm Keifer. I love this artist’s work, and in particular his books, of which this is one. The distressing of the photographic image and its inclusion in a book makes me think it’s a history of the end of the world…that has been left out in the atomic rain.

Arno Minkinnen

Arno Minkinnen. Arno’s “subject” has been his body for so long that he has found the deepest caves of the mind. They are not only what he thinks but of what they make me think. In this case I see some Finnish shamanistic ritual that takes place at the threshold of life/death, with passage going either way.

Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus. This seems to sum up all the mystery of her seeing. The more you think and say about this image, the further afield you drift. Just look at it and shut up.

Duane Michals

Duane Michals. So often we look at a photograph. Here we start to read it and realize that we are being drawn in as a player, as a subject of the…picture. And so is anyone else who looks at it. Fantastic!

Irving Penn

Irving Penn. This photo knocked me out when I saw it. It is not documentary. Instead Penn has bridged the world of the highland Quechuan Indians of Peru and the formality of Brozino, the great Rennaisance portraitist.

Larry Clark

Larry Clark. Photographers love to visit other worlds (see Penn, above), but Larry lived in the drug world and he had a camera. Tough, tough pictures. To learn more, read Dennis Johnson’s book, Jesus’ Son.

MichelleElloway

Michelle Elloway. This picture started as a workshop assignment to photograph a place where something had happened. I said nothing about writing down what it was that had happened, but the photographer blew the class away by writing the results of the event, turning the whole thing into a chilling Shirley-Jackson moment. (If you don’t know Shirley Jackson, read The Lottery.

Ralph Gibson

Ralph Gibson. Ralph’s work is sui generis, very simple, graphic and pregnant. This photo isn’t really like that, thanks to that wavering curtain, I think.

Rebecca biddle Mossman

Rebecca Biddle Mossman. I love pictures that get beyond thinking. I am sure that the photographer just started off the situation, then saw something and pushed it, then just let it happen. (That’s my guess.) It’s the best way of working, and it leads to photos that you can’t believe you took.

Saul leiter 1

Saul Leiter. I’m giving him three, because he is new to me and because he has a freedom that I wish I had! The first is just saucy, impudent, sexy and innocent. I look at this woman and I just want to give her a shirt and take her out for coffee. She’s young in the picture, but I’d still love to meet her and say “So, tell me about your life.”
Or maybe not. Maybe it’s better to just suspend in the moment.

Saul Leiter 2

Saul Leiter. The second Leiter is just…ah…like watching a juggler make a perfect catch from completely off center.

Saul Leiter 3

Saul Leiter. The third Leiter brings together three entirely different kind of images and resolves them while somehow leaving them intact.

Learn more about Sean Kernan here.

View 12 Great Photographs By Sean Kernan here.

Read our Quick Q&A here.

Read our Conversation here.

View video by Sean Kernan here.

View more Photographers Celebrate Photography here.

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Alfred Stieglitz’ extended portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe is a penetratingly honest act of love.

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Christopher Burkett’s makes accurate representation an extension of his spirituality; he celebrates Creation by faithfully transcribing “The Book Of Nature”.

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Paul Caponigro’s “Galaxy Apple” reveals a macrocosm within a microcosm, demonstrating the power of metaphor; ordinary things are seen as extraordinary.

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Eliot Porter’s photography intuited more complex realtionships in nature before the field of chaos science was popularized.

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Pollution or blood? A tense mystery is created by Edward Burtyinsky’s beautiful images of distressed landscapes.

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Richard Misrach’s Desert Cantos examines a single subject (the American desert southwest) in many different ways over a long period of time, creating a dense web of interconnections.

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Adam Fuss’ photograms, as much about shadow as light, share a stance similar to many abstract painters who point to the object created more than what it refers, while at the same time highlighting the distortions that lenses can bring to representation. The questions his work raise are generative.

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Walter Chappelle’s Metaflora series creates images with plants, electricity, and photosensitive paper in complete darkness. What else can’t we see? What would we see if we could?

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Jerry Uelsmann bring’s images in the mind’s eye into sharp focus with the most directly representational medium.

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Robert and Shana Parke-Harrison’s post-apocalyptic poems perform acts of care for the natural world despite their odds of success.

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Courageous and honest or perverse and self-indulgent? The complex mix of beauty and taboo, infused with death and sexuality, and guilded with art historical references and fine craft is extremely provocative. It’s honest but is it Truthful? Is it wise?

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Andy Goldsworthy’s photographs are all most of us see of his ephemeral earth works often made in remote locations. So what’s the real art? The performance? The object created? The photographic record? The books that collects those records? All of it?

………………..

Photographers look at and understand photographs differently than the average viewer. Their years of unique personal experience with the medium is special. For me, their insights open new windows into the medium, the world, and myself. I hope they do the same for you.

In this series of posts, each photographer selects 12 if their favorite photographs and provides a short insight into why these images are so moving to them.

I’m kicking off a series of photographer’s celebrating photographs.

View more Photographers Celebrate Photography here.

Stay tuned for upcoming additions.

View 12 Great Photographs By John Paul Caponigro here.

Read more quotes by John Paul Caponigro here.

Read our Quick Q&A here.

Read our Conversation here.

View video by John Paul Caponigro here.


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