Monday, April 20, 2015


Thanks to everyone who submitted replies to Quiz #31 a few weeks ago. Sorting out the answers was more involved than I'd expected, because I received many varied responses, and some of the questions turned out to have multiple correct answers. Also, one of my reference sources (this book, which is good for many things but apparently not dates) led me to a few inaccuracies in the quiz. Sorry, my bad. Taking those factors into account, I was generally lenient in grading the answers, and gave respondents the benefit of the doubt where ambiguities were involved. 

The winner, with 43 out of 45 correct, is Alexandros Konstantinakis-Karmis of Greece. Alexandros is a quiz-answering machine, having also won the last two album cover quizzes on B. Congrats, Alexandros, and stand by to receive your lovely prize package. 

I appreciate all the responses. Hope it was fun. Below is the answer key with my intended answer first (followed by acceptable alternatives in parenthesis).

1. Tina Modotti, Lotte Jacobi
2. Minor White, Imogene Cunningham
3. Jamie Livingston (Boris Ignatovich, Chris Marker)
4. William Claxton (P.H. Emerson)
5. Fritz Henle (J.D. Aihumekeokhai Ojeikere)
6. Jeanloup Sieff (Peter Lindbergh, Tazio Secchiaroli, Charles Beijer, David Eustace, David Doubilet)
7. Pierre Boucher (Gilles Bensimon, Hal Gould, Don Ornitz)
8. Abbas Attar
9. Gyula Halasz
10. David Szymin
11.  Mike Meyer
12. Edward James Muggeridge
13. Yasuhiro Wakabayashi
14. Israelis Bidermanas
15. Keresz Andor
16.  Emmanuel Radnitzky
17. Gaspard-Felix Tournachon
18. Arthur Felig
19. Rober Capa and Alberto Korda
20. Nobuyoshi Araki and Tim Page
21. Alfred Steiglitz (Massimo Vitali
22. Graham Nash (Max Vadakul, Arnold Hardy)
23. Arnold Newman (Glen Friedman, Johan Persson)
24. William H. Jackson (Johan van der Keuken, Jack Cato, Max Dupain)
25. Alex Webb (Roger Mayne, Robert Vano, 
26. Clarence H. White (Scott Kelby, Bruce Hudson, Francis Browne, Bruce Conner, Robert Demachy)
27. Brassai
28. Daido Moriyama (Julius Schulman, Thomas Rusch)
29. Carleton Watkins  (Sam Haskins
30. Ihei Kimura (Tom Kelley)
31. Paul Strand
32. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy
33. Berenice Abbott
34. Ilse Bing
35. Weegee
36. Walker Evans
37. Philippe Halsman
38. Yousuf Karsh
39. David Seymour 
40. Werner Bischof
41. Eugene Smith
42. Helmut Newton
43. Ernst Hass
44. Tony-Ray Jones
45. Lars Turnbjork

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tax Season

I hadn't been to the Jordan Schnitzer Museum for a while so I stopped by yesterday to see what was new. I was surprised to see this photo prominently displayed near the entrance to the second floor galleries.

Phantom, 2013, Peter Lik

That's right. It was none other than Peter Lik's photograph Phantom, the very one which had sold for a record $6.5 million last fall and sent the fine art photo world into a tizzy. Despite the public outcry, his photo had made it into a museum after all.

I gotta admit the print looked pretty nice. It was fairly large, about 5 feet wide by 3 feet high, mounted regally behind glass in a gigantic black frame. The print was on metallic paper with bright spaceship tones, signed at the bottom Peter Lik 1/1.  Nearby was a label with a brief paragraph by Lik describing how he made the record-setting photo. One minute his Native American guide was flinging sacred dust into a light well, next thing he knew the Guinness Book was calling. Aw shucks, it was nothing. Just f/8 and be there. Plus a lot of Photoshop.

Phantom hung on the wall between two other Lik photos, neither of which I'd seen before. They were similarly printed and framed, and each one signed the same: Peter Lik 1/1. Reading the museum captions I realized they were Eternal Moods and Illusion, the two photos that had sold alongside Phantom to the same buyer (for $1.1 million and $2.4 million, respectively). I was looking at the record-busting trifecta. Ah, I thought, so that's what ten million bucks of pictures looks like. 

But what the heck were they doing in Eugene? 

Three Studies of Lucian Freud, 1969, Francis Bacon

Avoiding taxes, that's what. I'm no tax expert and this article explains the loophole better than I can. The upshot is that Oregon is one of a few states which can lower the tax burden due on recently purchased art. Display it in a public museum here for three months and the taxes are reduced. After that it's yours to do as you wish in your home state. For expensive art like Lik's, this can result in significant savings for collectors. The other states are New Hampshire, Alaska, Delaware, and Montana, none of which has a major art museum. So Oregon it is.

It's the same loophole that brought Francis Bacon's triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud to the Portland Art Museum after it sold for a record $142 million in 2013. The paintings were there for three months and attracted huge crowds. I drove up to Portland with my parents to see them. Special trip. Special bullet proof glass case. As for the art? I don't know. I guess they looked ok. Showed me what a hundred million bucks of pictures looks like.

The Bacon and Lik loans are just two examples. We see all sorts of stuff in Oregon that has no business being shown here. Bacon should've exhibited in New York or Paris, not Portland. Eugene gets its fair share too. In fact the JSMA has an entire wing devoted to tax-avoidance. Of course it's not called that. The official name is Masterworks On Loan, but it amounts to the same thing. Expensive art gets hauled here from around the world for three month tax sheltered stints. Masterworks On Loan is where the Peter Lik photos were hanging yesterday, alongside Albers, Lichtenstein, Richter, Frankenthaller, Modigliano, and whatever else sold at auction last Fall. If you live in a major city you might laugh. But hey, we'll take what we can get, and it's often pretty good.

JSMA Tax Shelter (Wikimedia Commons)

It was kind of fun to see the Lik photos in a museum, even if it's just temporary. Those photos caused such a shit storm last year. Remember? They're not art! They're not investment grade! He's a snake oil salesman! Boo hoo, he's not in our club! How dare an outsider subvert the auction houses!  

Yes, Lik cleverly manipulated the market to inflate speculative value, then convinced rich collectors to invest. In other words he did exactly what every successful art dealer does. But he did it without an art pedigree, and that pissed people off. I love it when art snobs get their tighty-whities in a bunch, so for me the Lik sale was a golden moment. And now the photos were in a museum. This was even better! Artforum and ARTnews just threw up a little in their mouths. I'm guessing the show will not get a write up there, nor in the local Eugene press because very few people here pay attention to photography. (*4/16 addendum: Bob Keefer wrote about the show today.)

I'm not defending the content of Lik's photos. I think all three at the JSMA are boring. But a lot of boring stuff winds up in museums. Why not these? Curatorial judgement is not always about aesthetic merit. It's also about careers and taxes and influence and all sorts of factors. And if a lousy photo in a museum upsets people and makes them question their preconceptions, isn't that a good thing? Isn't that what art is supposed to do? 

But don't listen to me. Check it out firsthand. Attention photographers (and/or accountants) in the Willamette Valley. The Lik photos are on display at the JSMA through June. Come see for yourself what ten million bucks of tax-free pictures looks like.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Selfie Stick Alternative Uses

Fencing Match Documentation Aid

Personal Mustache Groomer

Smartphone S'more Stick

Fake Kite For Calm Days

Canine Pole Vault Pole

Surprise Purple Laser Attack On Capitol

Vanity Mirror Extension

Unibrow Parasol

Personal Space Enforcer

Film Camera Disposal Tool

Humility Detection Probe

Kitten Spear

Hula Hoop Training Scaffold

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Quiz #31: Birth And Death

Below are 45 questions related to birth and death. Some photographers in the quiz are more famous than others but all names will be generally recognizable to photo nerds. 

Score one point for each correct identification. 45 points possible. The first person to email me the answer with the highest point total before 9 AM Pacific, Monday, April 20th, 2015, wins a mint copy of Trent Parke's Minutes to Midnight plus handmade bonus gift. Good luck!

1. What two photographers were born August 17, 1896?

2. What two photographers died a day apart, June 23 and June 24, 1976?

3. What photographer died on his birthday?

4. What photographer died the day before his birthday?

5. What photographer died during a Super Bowl?

6. What photographer was born on Thanksgiving?

7. What photographer had a birthday once every four years?

What are the birth names of:

8. Abbas
9. Brassai
10. Chim
11. Disfarmer
12. Helios
13. Hiro
14. Izis
15. Kertesz
16. Man Ray
17. Nadar
18. Weegee

19. What two war photographers died on May 25th, each more than 4000 miles from their birthplace. 

20. Name two photographers born on that date.

Palindromic birthdays (multiple answers possible). Name a photographer born on:

21. 1/1 (January 1st)
22 2/2
23. 3/3
24. 4/4
25. 5/5
26. 7/7
27. 9/9
28. 10/10
29. 11/11
30. 12/12

Identify the photographer:

31. October 16th, 1890, New York — March 31st, 1976, Orgeval, France

32. July 20th, 1895, Bacsborsod, Hungary — November 24th 1946, Chicago

33. June 17th, 1898, Springfield, OH — December 9th, 1991, Monson, ME

34. March 23rd, 1899, Frankfurt, Germany — March 10th, 1998, New York

35. December 6th, 1899, Zolochiv, Ukraine — December 26th, 1968, New York

36. November 3rd, 1902 St. Louis — April 10th, 1975, New Haven, CT

37. May 2nd, 1906, Rigo, Latvia — June 25th 1979, New York

38. December 23rd, 1908 Mardin, Turkey — June 13th, 2002, Boston

39. November 20th, 1911, Warsaw, Poland — December 10th, 1956, Suez, Egypt

40. June 24th, 1916, Zurich — May 16th 1954, Peruvian Andes

41. December 30th, 1918, Wichita, KS — October 15th, 1978, Tucson, AZ

42. October 31st, 1920, Berlin — January 23rd, 2004, Los Angeles

43. March 2nd, 1921, Vienna — September 15th, 1986, New York

44. June 7, 1941, Wells, Somerset — March 13, 1972, London

45. February 15th, 1956, Boras, Sweden — April 11th, 2015, Stockholm

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Paired Au Pair

Chicago, 1970, Vivian Maier

San Francisco, 1960, Henri Cartier-Bresson

New York, 1954, Vivian Maier

Nan One Month After Being Battered, 1984, Nan Goldin

Chicago, 1952, Vivian Maier

1963, Carl Mydans

1953, Vivian Maier

Cabana, 2000, Larry Sultan

Chicago, 1962, Vivian Maier

Versailles, 1975, Elliott Erwitt

Date and Location Unknown, Vivian Maier

Luxembourg Gardens, 2000, Richard Kalvar

Chicagoland, 1971, Vivian Maier

Untitled (Biloxi, MS), 1972, William Eggleston

1976, Vivian Maier

New York, 1982, Lee Friedlander

All Vivian Maier photos from A Photographer Found (Harper, 2014)