Burk Uzzle is a photographer who has had a long career. When I was a college student I would spend hours going through the stacks of the art library looking at photography books. I remember the day I came across Landscapes by Burk Uzzle (published in 1973 by Light Impressions). I sat down on the floor and turned the pages of this small book full of black and white photographs. I was struck by the Uzzle’s humor and graphic eye. I was floored. I checked the book out and continued to go through it at home.
In the introduction Ron Bailey write: “…he instantly struck me as both the most cantankerous and best 23-year-old photographer in the world. He tilted at the wide-angle lenses then in vogue, tore up layouts in front of art directors…” and I thought, this is my guy. I was more than willing to challenge the authority of any editor at the time, it probably has more to do with being in my early 20s more than anything else.
Uzzle’s straight ahead view of the world is something that I can’t get over. There is a certain loneliness in some of the images. People appear lost in their own space. Uzzle is not one of those photographers who needs loaded situations to make remarkable photographs. (That said he made one of the enduring photographs from Woodstock.) The bulk of these images are small moments made in out of the way places.
There is a certain sort of “street” vibe to the photographs. Not like Garry Winogrand, though. Uzzle is after a statement about the times more than anything else. The photographs are made up of both journalism and commentary. I was the kind of young photographer who wanted to make commentary pictures all of the time and get them published as journalism. That was part of my problem. I was not able to learn the balance necessary to make “my pictures” for “my employer” until later in life. Now, I am trying to make commentary pictures, then still have journalism in them, because I don’t really know how not do to that. Burk Uzzle appears to me as someone more willing to grow and change than I am, which is frustrating. Why am I the one who keeps wanting to go backwards? Part of the reason I am writing more is get to the bottom of this and other questions about my own photography.
Uzzle has rolled with the times and changed and grown as a photographer, which is why I am attracted to his work. It was during graduate school when I rediscovered Uzzle and realized how much these photographs have influenced my work. I see many photographers trying to work in the same way he did. Uzzle made pictures of life. He may have been paid to work as a photojournalist, but his work is more than that. He has moved on. Many of his current pictures are lit and made with larger cameras. His book Just Add Water could be seen as a current update to Landscapes.
My review of Terry Evans’ book Prairie Stories is now published here.
Danny Wilcox Frazier updates his book “Driftless: Photographs from Iowa” with a documentary that is now playing on Mediastorm.This is one of the best sorts of presentations I have seen. Taking the time to make it the right way helped. Words are escaping me right now. Watch it is really all that I can say.
You can buy his new book The Last Days of W. here.
Robert Frank and “The Americans” is featured heavily in the magazine. This story about the conversation with Charlie LeDuff got my blood boiling again. Jeff Ladd, the author, refers to him as “evasive” in public. LeDuff’s article in Vanity Fair points that out plainly. But, any effort by LeDuff to engage Frank was deemed clownish. No one has taken Frank to task for being evasive. Well, I am now. Anyone who has/had a problem with this interview should place the blame directly on Frank’s shoulders. He is evasive and he chose LeDuff. This fact is glossed over because no one wants to criticize Robert Frank. Well, I am. If you do not like what you hear in this interview, write Robert Frank a letter. Or me, I can take it.
Charlie LeDuff is one of the last characters left in Amercian journalism. When I say characters I am putting him up there with Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe, George Plimpton and Hunter S. Thompson. I doubt someone who treated Frank reverentialy would have gotten less out of him than LeDuff did. Also, from what l understand Frank chose LeDuff, a fact that is glossed over. After reading his article I don’t think that there is anyone else who could have accomplished what LeDuff did.
I skimmed the nearly 1,800 entries to the Photography Book Now contest Blurb is sponsoring. These are just the ones online. I do not know how many hard copy entries that were submitted. This contest has been mentioned in other blogs out there. My initial response is that the photograph is far from dead. Digital is keeping it alive with the advent of book publishers like Blurb. Thank goodness.
There are a lot of people taking pictures out there. Some good, most OK, and more than a few people are taking pictures of naked women.
I did not look at all of the entries. I am guessing that a third of the entries are really worthwhile and of that about 100 are the best. Here are some that caught my eye. By that I mean: I had heard of the photographer before, the cover was interesting, the title was interesting, there was no image on the cover or I just thought, let’s take a look.
I know that if I entered mine would not be in the worthwhile category, so please stick with me. I do not think that just portfolio books were the spirit of the competition.
After a while I could guess at the pictures. There were some covers that proved to be the best picture in the first 15 pages. (Blurb lets you browse the first 15 pages.) There is a lot of Alex Soth inspired landscape work being done. A lot of three-quarter length portraits. There is nothing wrong with that, but I could tell what I would see from the cover image.
If I had to choose one, from all of what I saw, I would easily say Olivier Pin-Fat. No question his work was the most unique, in my opinion, from what what I saw. He is pushing photography to its limits more than most of the people who entered the contest. I could just say go look at his book and you will see the best one, but I am probably wrong about that since I did not look at every book and did not see the hard copies.
Having witnessed a few contests being judged, I would say getting down to 100 will be more about editing out the obvious for one reason or another. From the top third. I will take time. Probably getting down to 10 or 20 will be more difficult. It will take a consensus. Picking a winner from 10 or 20 will be the real work, but, if they are all doing it together in one place, my guess is that as a group, they will have a an idea of what they want and don’t want.
I did not enter this contest. I really felt like I do not have enough right now to put together to make a book. I hope the contest will continue. In time, I hope I have enough pictures to make a book.
There are other books that are worth buying. I do not know how it is priced, but some are expensive. I tend to be populist and would want a smaller and cheaper book out there so people would buy it. Then again, I do march to the beat of a different drummer. I should not forget to mention Paho Mann’s book.