New Topographics increasingly means color

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MattKing

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Maybe Herzog was just too far out front to be considered as part of the same race. But conceptually, the painter Edward Hopper had a lot of influence over all of it.
 

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jtk - I particularly like Trager's Wesleyan University images - a relatively affordable book if you can find it. It kinda inspired my large format shots of UCB, although I was rather distracted by a student assistant, who I ended up marrying.
 

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Herzog was more undiscovered than anything - unless you were around the community and got to go to his slide shows or perhaps knew him as part of the photographic or university community - he was a (mostly photographic) technician at the University of British Columbia.
He was very active and travelled a lot. Apparently the work he is now justly well known for doesn't really give a sense of how wide ranging his photographic interests were - if you went to one of his slide shows (and paid the small admission fee) you were just as likely to see slides of exotic travel locations as you were to see his shots of urban Vancouver life.
Apparently he had a preference for the Palo Alto Kodak Kodachrome lab - he would often take his (developing included) Kodachrome into my Dad's Customer service department at the North Vancouver Kodak Canada lab and have it forwarded to Palo Alto for processing. Which of course made no logical sense, because Palo Alto and North Vancouver had almost identical technical benchmarks for Kodachrome processing. My Dad just shrugged it off as typical photographer eccentricity. He did remember him though, and not just because of the volume of Kodachrome he shot.
 

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Interesting. There were some exceptional photographers in the Northwest who got very little national attention.
 
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Herzog's work (if the book is representative) seems distinctly "street" rather than "New Topographic" if it's necessary to apply a name to it. Great to have Kodak's exceptional Palo Alto Kodachrome lab so conveniently available. Little known, it did RUSH processing, same day if you didn't tell others about it and got it to them when the door opened. I vaguely remember that the price was boosted a little.

Also, the "logical sense" for sending to Palo Alto rather than anywhere else was probably that the best 3 Kodachrome labs in the world were, according to Kodak's own gossip, #1 Palo Alto, #2 somewhere in Texas, #3Paris.
 
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My favorite? Lewis Baltz.

"This long-awaited compendium of Lewis Baltz's writings from 1975 to 2007 is drawn from his critical writing for magazines such as Art in America, The Times Literary Supplement, L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui and Purple. The book includes Baltz's texts on Edward Weston, Walker Evans, Robert Adams, Michael Schmidt, Allan Sekuka, Chris Burden, Thomas Ruff, Barry Le Va, Jeff Wall, Félix González-Torres, John McLaughlin, Slavica Perkovic and Krzysztof Wodiczko, among others. This important publication gives Baltz's literary output the standing it deserves and offers a unique insight into some of history's leading photographers.

Born in 1945 in Newport Beach, California, Lewis Baltz is a defining photographer of the last half-century. After studying at the San Francisco Art Institute and Claremont Graduate School, Baltz came to prominence with the New Topographics movement of the 1970s. His awards include a Guggenheim fellowship and the Charles Pratt Memorial Award, and his work is held in most major museum collections. Baltz's books with Steidl include 89–91, Sites of Technology (2007), Works (2010), The Prototype Works (2011) and Candlestick Point (2011)."
 

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Herzog's work (if the book is representative) seems distinctly "street" rather than "New Topographic" if it's necessary to apply a name to it. Great to have Kodak's exceptional Palo Alto Kodachrome lab so conveniently available. Little known, it did RUSH processing, same day if you didn't tell others about it and got it to them when the door opened. I vaguely remember that the price was boosted a little.

Also, the "logical sense" for sending to Palo Alto rather than anywhere else was probably that the best 3 Kodachrome labs in the world were, according to Kodak's own gossip, #1 Palo Alto, #2 somewhere in Texas, #3Paris.

I referenced Herzog's work because of his early use of colour mostly, although his urban landscape work has some relevance to the subject.
And as far as Kodak gossip was concerned, my Dad was in the middle of it.
Same day Kodachrome processing was quite common at the North Vancouver lab - certainly my slides went in with Dad in the morning and were usually back to me by the end of the day :smile:.
Palo Alto offered the entire range of Kodak processing services - including sheet film Kodachrome and colour print and all sorts of other exotic services. North Vancouver was limited to Kodachrome and Ektachrome still and movie film, up to 135/828 in size.
But the quality standards of the three Canadian Kodachrome facilities were just as high if not higher than the US and international counterparts.
 

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"This long-awaited compendium of Lewis Baltz's writings from 1975 to 2007 is drawn from his critical writing for magazines such as Art in America, The Times Literary Supplement, L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui and Purple. The book includes Baltz's texts on Edward Weston, Walker Evans, Robert Adams, Michael Schmidt, Allan Sekuka, Chris Burden, Thomas Ruff, Barry Le Va, Jeff Wall, Félix González-Torres, John McLaughlin, Slavica Perkovic and Krzysztof Wodiczko, among others. This important publication gives Baltz's literary output the standing it deserves and offers a unique insight into some of history's leading photographers.

Born in 1945 in Newport Beach, California, Lewis Baltz is a defining photographer of the last half-century. After studying at the San Francisco Art Institute and Claremont Graduate School, Baltz came to prominence with the New Topographics movement of the 1970s. His awards include a Guggenheim fellowship and the Charles Pratt Memorial Award, and his work is held in most major museum collections. Baltz's books with Steidl include 89–91, Sites of Technology (2007), Works (2010), The Prototype Works (2011) and Candlestick Point (2011)."

 

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I've always kinda wondered what is meant by or what characterizes, "New Topographics" but, in my mind it has always been associated with color and only color.

as an aside and possibly related, I saw an interview with Bernd and Hilla Becher a while ago where they were recalling a situation where a student had asked about learning color photography and the Bechers pointed to one of Stephen Shore's more famous photos and said something to the effect of, "talk to Stephen Shore".
 
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That's a time machine backwards. Now if you want that kind of Shore color scheme, ya gotta either find some funky "retro" film (which isn't available in 8X10 sheets like Shore used) or resort to something like tortured inkjet. Meyerowitz likewise. I enjoy their books, and like I already mentioned, have seen their prints in person back when all they could afford to do was contact printing; but I have never had an inclination to follow their color recipes. And Shore's later work ... kinda boring to me. He had his fifteen minutes in the sun. Never was a particularly good printer, and once he gained traction, wisely had most of it done by a pro color lab instead.

My own current color neg work of potentially analogous subject matter involves hues even cleaner than I got with chrome film and the Ciba medium, rather than the kind of deliberate funkiness of actually exploiting the repro limitations of past color neg films like the New Topo movement did. I've even have an old Darkroom Tech magazine stashed in a box somewhere describing how to balance a colorhead relative to CN film by understanding yellow isn't yellow, but kinda pumpkinish, green really somewhat cyanish, etc, and what kind of off-color mud to expect mixing them. Well, that might have been once true, but certainly isn't anymore. CN films and their printing papers have significantly evolved.
 

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IMHO, Steven Shore is one of those guys who believed that if he took enough pictures he would get a few good ones. I went to his retrospective a few years ago and yes, there were hundreds of pictures and a few good ones. Perseverance pays off.
 

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ALL those guys were like that, Arthur. No, they weren't random machine-gunners at all, and had, each in their own way, a particular kind of color or compositional strategy. But they often recklessly experimented on purpose. A few like Meyerowitz and Misrach eventually found funding sufficient to allow them to print just about everything, and an awful lot if was outright belly-floppish. But the sheer risk-taking itself seems to have been a factor in them garnering a degree of that haute attention and that legacy a few of them now enjoy. Others are as dead a dodos by now, in terms of repute. Quite a bit of that style actually began in the Southern Calif desert before the east coast wave; and most of that was highly pretentious and obnoxiously artsy.

The majority of those old Ektacolor prints have faded and discolored anyway. It wasn't a particularly permanent media. Meyerowitz had some of his 35mm street work DT printed, and that's still going on. But when Misrach had some of his own random strobe swamp series night shots done in that manner.... gosh what an ugly mess. Not every evolutionary side branch stays around.
 

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Well, to that I'd retort that Robert Adams was never a part of that, even though he had a quantity of burb images. I already distinctly commented earlier that his printing style itself had little in common with theirs. But I have no idea what he might be doing today. And it's cumbersome to get into all the spinoff genre, like "environmental photography", which often degraded into something looking like one of Eliot Porter's worst prints plus some soda cans or an outhouse prominently in the view. Or in Adam's case, there were often but not always sociological overtones, but that hardly defined his compositional style itself. Then there's Travel Photography relative to other cultures and sights. Add "street photography" and even studio-staged content.

The New Topo batch were all over the map in that respect : all of the above, none of the above, can't make up their mind .... Mainly just blatant exploitation of the inherent color reproduction flaws of the color neg film of that era. That's the only common denominator I can think of. Shore did pure scenic work as well as city and burb themes, but it all kinda stylistically fit together, perhaps too predictably. "Topographics" per se seems to have been a rubber stamp afterthought by the academics.
 
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There again, I hate all this diecast academic pigeonholing. Just let Adams be Adams, you be you as a photographer, and me be me. But "very specific concept and style????? Bah, humbug! It had about as messy an explosion every different direction one can think of when it first launched into public view, and didn't even start with one person or place or alleged prefabricated ideology. I first encountered it when early prints were being literally thumbtacked to an alternative gallery wall, all mixed up with other themes as well. That silly taxonomic terminology didn't even exist yet, let alone a common ideology. It's only after a trend gets traction that a lot of copycats turn up wanting a piece of the action, demanding some kind of flag to rally around. But I'm not selling museum tickets advertised with new, new, and NEW so many times over and over and over again that all of it sounds old and worn out by now. You can only cry wolf so many times.

Did Roberts Adams even do color photography? And style? He has about as much in common with Baltz and Chaucer has with Voltaire.
 
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Some of Drew Wiley's posts about New Topographics from another thread have now been moved here. My apologies for any discontinuity in how the thread reads.
 

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Some of Drew Wiley's posts about New Topographics from another thread have now been moved here. My apologies for any discontinuity in how the thread reads.

Yeah, it looks like Drew's having a hell of a conversation with himself. It would be nice if it weren't crammed into a different thread.
 

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Sorry about that. I do these posts on the fly and didn't realize the distinction. Right now, I'm just waiting for my RA4 chem to reach temp equilibrium. I don't want to directly interact with some of the posts that didn't get transferred, but one of them seemed to imply that the terminology of New Topographics was based on a name of particular exhibit arranged by Szarkowski. Well, if someone like him invites you to a show, any photographer would probably take the bait, even if he had titled it Pork and Beans instead.

The point I was trying to make was that he was selecting photographers already working in particular individual styles, and combining them under his own umbrella with its own label, and not necessarily by how they thought of themselves or their own work beforehand. And I also hinted how I actually saw the early works of a number of these individuals several years beforehand, and before that New Topo label ever gained currency. So the label itself seems like an artificial rubber stamp post-applied; but that tendency is nothing new in the art world. And in the broader genre, quite a bit was already being done here on the West Coast that Szarkowski might not have even been aware of.

But now I committed the misdemeanor of stating, "post-whatever" myself. I sorta got the distinction between Post Impressionism and post-impressionism, but still can't quite figure out the meaning of "repealed re-posted pre-impressionist post-modernism". Perhaps it's an art academic's manner of describing postpartum creative depression.
 
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Another photographer who has some retrospectives coming up, and who, if I stretch things a bit (maybe quite a bit), might be considered Pre New Topographics...Bill Owens. He also started up the first microbrewery in California...moved on to helping set up distillaries around the world..

His work, Suburbia, is turning 50. https://billowens.com/photographs/suburbia-c

There will be anniversary shows soon in Carmel and in Norway. I have handled most of his prints while getting a show up on the walls for a retrospective for his 80th birthday (in Hayward where he lives). One of the most interesting people one could hope to meet. Makes great whisky.

 

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Sorry about that. I do these posts on the fly and didn't realize the distinction. Right now, I'm just waiting for my RA4 chem to reach temp equilibrium. I don't want to directly interact with some of the posts that didn't get transferred, but one of them seemed to imply that the terminology of New Topographics was based on a name of particular exhibit arranged by Szarkowski. Well, if someone like him invites you to a show, any photographer would probably take the bait, even if he had titled it Pork and Beans instead.

The point I was trying to make was that he was selecting photographers already working in particular individual styles, and combining them under his own umbrella with its own label, and not necessarily by how they thought of themselves or their own work beforehand. And I also hinted how I actually saw the early works of a number of these individuals several years beforehand, and before that New Topo label ever gained currency. So the label itself seems like an artificial rubber stamp post-applied; but that tendency is nothing new in the art world. And in the broader genre, quite a bit was already being done here on the West Coast that Szarkowski might not have even been aware of.

But now I committed the misdemeanor of stating, "post-whatever" myself. I sorta got the distinction between Post Impressionism and post-impressionism, but still can't quite figure out the meaning of "repealed re-posted pre-impressionist post-modernism". Perhaps it's an art academic's manner of describing postpartum creative depression.

As mentioned in the other thread, Szarkowski had nothing to do with the New Topographics exhibition. It was held at George Eastman House and was curated by William Jenkins.

Maybe this confusion arises because Szarkowski did curate the somewhat similarly titled 'New Documents' exhibition that featured the work of Winogrand, Friedlander and Arbus.
 
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Another photographer who has some retrospectives coming up, and who, if I stretch things a bit (maybe quite a bit), might be considered Pre New Topographics...Bill Owens. He also started up the first microbrewery in California...moved on to helping set up distillaries around the world..

His work, Suburbia, is turning 50. https://billowens.com/photographs/suburbia-c

There will be anniversary shows soon in Carmel and in Norway. I have handled most of his prints while getting a show up on the walls for a retrospective for his 80th birthday (in Hayward where he lives). One of the most interesting people one could hope to meet. Makes great whisky.


Bill Owens... I may remember first seeing his work via the sadly-departed Oakland Tribune (maybeit owned the Livermore paper), later reading his opinionating online...very cranky...I don't think his photos had much to do with New Topo because he was genuinely appreciative of the humans with whom he perhaps-identified (hence his great "Suburbia" book) ...but their "banality" does ring some New-Topo type bells for me, too. He had been a genuine press photographer...I attended high school in the East Bay, not far from Hayward. Hard to imagine his work hanging in Carmel, where the big money used to be (Clint Eastwood's restaurant, Charles Schwab's home etc). Thanks for reminding. I decided last minute to NOT attend Altamont where my family had farmed and where he documented the Hell's Angel killing (don't know if he got Mick Jagger).
 
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Bill Owens... I may remember first seeing his work via the sadly-departed Oakland Tribune (maybeit owned the Livermore paper), later reading his opinionating online...very cranky...I don't think his photos had much to do with New Topo because he was genuinely appreciative of the humans with whom he perhaps-identified (hence his great "Suburbia" book) ...but their "banality" does ring some New-Topo type bells for me, too. He had been a genuine press photographer...I attended high school in the East Bay, not far from Hayward. Hard to imagine his work hanging in Carmel, where the big money used to be (Clint Eastwood's restaurant, Charles Schwab's home etc). Thanks for reminding. I decided last minute to NOT attend Altamont where my family had farmed and where he documented the Hell's Angel killing (don't know if he got Mick Jagger).

I think California's oldest surviving microbrewery was Anchor Steam Beer, fyi... And that had a lot to do with Ken Kesey...who wrote about Vaughn's neighborhood.
 
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....the terminology of New Topographics was based on a name of particular exhibit.....

The point I was trying to make was that he was selecting photographers already working in particular individual styles, and combining them under his own umbrella with its own label, and not necessarily by how they thought of themselves or their own work beforehand. And I also hinted how I actually saw the early works of a number of these individuals several years beforehand, and before that New Topo label ever gained currency. So the label itself seems like an artificial rubber stamp post-applied; but that tendency is nothing new in the art world. And in the broader genre, quite a bit was already being done here on the West Coast that Szarkowski Jenkins might not have even been aware of.

Ah...now, I understand.
It is a label that was made up by an exhibit curator and unilaterally imposed upon a small group of photographers.
It was a label - not a movement.
I wonder if any of the featured artists ever used the label to refer to themselves or their own work...

Thank you.
 

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Microbrewery was perhaps the wrong term. First California Brew Pub -- where one could legally make the beer and sell the beer for consumption under the same roof. Still in operation, good food, too. The Hopland brew pub was a close second.

I would not call Bill new topography, but sort of a precurser. Take out the people, and you just about have the New Topographics...because sometimes I get the feeling he looks at people the same way.
 
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