History of Photography



Introduction  
History of Photography

A World History of Photography

The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991

Photographers' Dictionary









 

 


THE STORY BEHIND THE PICTURES 1827-1991

 

 

1   Nicephore Niepce. View from the Study Window, 1827

2   Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre. Boulevard du Temple, 1838

3   Eugene Durieu/Eugene Delacroix. Nude from Behind, ca. 1853

4   Duchenne de Boulogne. Contractions musculaires, 1856

5   Auguste Rosalie Bisson. The Ascent of Mont Blanc, 1862

6   Nadar. Sarah Bernhardt, ca. 1864

7   Francois Aubert. Emperor Maximilian's Shirt, 1867

8   Andre Adolphe Eugene Disderi. Dead Communards, 1871

9   Maurice Guibert. Toulouse-Lautrec in His Studio, ca. 1894

10 Max Priester/Willy Wilcke. Bismarck on his Deathbed, 1898

11 Heinrich Zille. The Wood Gatherers, 1898

12 Alfred Stieglitz. The Steerage, 1907

13 Lewis Hine. Girl Worker in a Carolina Cotton Mill, 1908

14 August Sander. Young Farmers, 1914

15 Paul Strand. Blind Woman, 1916

16 Man Ray. Noire et blanche, 1926

17 Andre Kertesz. Meudon, 1928

18 Robert Capa. Spanish Loyalist, 1936

19 Dorothea Lange. Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936

20 Horst P. Horst. Mainbocher Corset, 1939

21 Henri Cartier-Bresson. Germany, 1945

22 Richard Petersen. View from the Dresden City Hall Tower, 1945

23 Robert Doisneau. The Kiss in Front of City Hall, 1950

24 Dennis Stock. James Dean on Times Square, 1955

25 Bert Stern. Marilyn's Last Sitting, 1962

26 Gerard Malanga. Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground, 1966

27 Helmut Newton. They're Coming!, 1981

28 Sandy Skoglund. Revenge of the Goldfish, 1981

29 Robert Mapplethorpe. Lisa Lyon, 1982

30 Joel-Peter Witkin. Un Santo Oscuro, 1987

31 Sebastiao Salgado. Kuwait, 1991

 

see also:

Skoglund Sandy




Chapter 28

 


1981


Sandy Skoglund
 

 


Revenge of the Goldfish
 


The Mellowest of

Nightmares

Since the 1980s, photographic artists have increasingly taken to 'designing' their pictures. Consciously following the trail blazed by advertising, they have used imagination and wit to overcome the strictures of the Classical Modern. Rather than seeking themes in reality and 'taking' it straight, they invent new pictorial worlds. They often manipulate their pictures in the name of brilliant and outrageous ideas, and thereby take up the challenges posed by the Postmodern. Along with Cindy Sherman and David LaChapelle, Sandy Skoglund numbers among the outstanding exponents of this so-called 'staged photography' - al-though the New-York-based artist also wishes her constructed environments to be understood as art in their own right.

 

Revenge of the Goldfish: it's impossible not to fee! the contradiction in the name given by Sandy Skoglund to the work she created in 1981. Her later tableaus would feature foxes- or dogs. The viewer may well be overcome by disgust on seeing Germs are Everywhere (1984), or succumb to a sense of discomfort in the face of the shimmering green felines in Radioactive Gats (1980). Even the fidgety squirrels in Gathering Paradise (1991) somehow seem more threatening than the over-sized goldfish that have some-how found their way into a middle-class bedroom. In fact, the two protagonists of the scene - mother and son (or is it brother and sister?) -seem to not even have noticed the arrival of the fish. The woman is sleeping, the boy is dozing as he sits on the edge of the bed. The scene oscillates oddly between the real and the surreal. What sounds threatening in the title reveals itself in the picture to be markedly peaceful and relaxed.

At most, it is the mass of the reddish-orange creatures taken as a whole that creates a rather alarming effect - fish that somehow have mistakenly wandered into an environment where they really do not belong. Much easier to understand is the room, in which we find everything that a conventional bedroom ought to offer: bed, dresser, lamp, mirror, latticed window. Admittedly, everything has been dipped into a swampy green wash - in fact the whole scene is somewhat reminiscent of an oversize aquarium. Can it be that the picture is thematizing the reverse of a standard assumptionP Namely, that the people have becomes captives of nature, caught as it were in a foreign environment, just as in a 'normal' household aquarium, nature has been imprisoned by people?






Sandy Skoglund
Revenge of the Goldfish
1981


 

 

Sculptures of papier-mache, plaster, or polyester

 

Anyone confronting the photographic works of the American artist Sandy Skoglund for the first time - anyone who has recovered sufficiently from the trompel'oceil effects of her minutely detailed installations to make out her goldfish, squirrels, cats, dogs, or babies for what they in fact are, namely sculptures made from papiermache, plaster, or polyester - will inevitably ask how she does it. In other words, once viewers realize that the scenes are amazing theater sets, located somewhere between fact and fiction, reality and artifice, they inevitably inquire after the technical and artistic processes she employs. To set the cards straight right from the beginning: Sandy Skoglund is responsible for all the creative steps involved in her work; she is consummately the author of her photo-graphs, in the sense introduced by the French nouvelle vague. Skoglund develops her ideas and constructs her worlds in her gigantic Soho studio located in the midst of New York's art district. Here she designs and models her figures from photographic patterns that she has abstracted from magazines and other printed matter; she sets up her 8-by-io-inch large-format camera, checks the development of her 'scene' through the focusing screen, arranges the lighting - and then takes her photograph.

Sandy Skoglund
The Green House
1990
 

 

A plethora of photographic 'power acts'

 

According to her own understanding, Skoglund is neither sculptress, nor painter, nor photographer. Douglas Crimp once denoted the phenomenon of her work as a 'hybridization' of the arts. More precisely, Skoglund belongs to the generation of artists who are applying academic skills originally acquired in the areas of sculpture or painting to what has become known since the beginning of the 1980s as 'staged photography'. The photographer may either find or invent what appears before the lens. The resulting picture may be a documentation, or a reaction to a situation specially created or arranged for the camera. "Document and discovery" - thus Jorg Bostrom has termed (1989) the two fundamentally divergent paths that photography has unconsciously pursued ever since Niepce's View Out of the Window (1827), on the one hand, and Daguerre's Stilt Life (1837) on the other. Whereas the Classical Modern apotheosized Paul Strand's definition of absolute objectivity as the ultimate task of all photography, including 'artistic' photography, the Postmodern photographer has in contrast shown a fascination for design. "Right now we are experiencing a plethora of photographic 'power acts' within the original medium of photography," Gottfried Jager points out concerning the trend. He enumerates "staged works, montages, decollages, expansions of every sort that run directly and completely against the original intentions of the photographic process, and begin to undermine it, dissolve it. The picture's truth-to-reality is thus shaken and confronted with radical questions that make this 'truth' itself into the theme." Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons, and Teun Hocks 'stage' themselves before the camera; Joel-Peter Witkin and Joe Gantz on the other hand create narrative tableaus of sometimes shocking character. Arthur Tress and David Levinthal have meanwhile specialized in miniature stages; Calum Colvin and Victor Schrager, in still lifes. In a highly respected analysis published at the end of the 1980s, Michael Kohler comprehensively addressed these various approaches to staged photography, and brought Sandy Skoglund's work to the attention of a European audience, which in fact tended to be surprised, particularly by the fineness of the details. In America, Skoglund's work has been praised as towering over anything else being done in the pictorial field. Skoglund herself admits that her work demands much effort- not only on her part, but also on that of her viewers. "Obsession and repetition in the process of making things is one constant element in my work," the author has noted.



 

Sandy Skoglund
The Green House

 Preliminaries to her work finished in 1990. The artist only began in the late eighties to  document the growth of her elaborate installations.

Still more or less alone at the time, Sandy Skoglund now has  her own team which helps her in the realization of her complex ideas.

 

Traces of the American horror film

 

Oscillating as it does between the witty and the ridiculous, Skoglund's ceuvre has been hard to place. Critics have variously attempted to locate

t somewhere between dream and nightmare, or within the art-historical tradition of Duchamp and Magritte, or under the categories of Dada and Surrealism. But strictly speaking, Skoglund's oeuvre reveals the inspiration of much more trivial influences. Disneyland and the colorfulness of American West-Coast photography in general have made their mark on Skoglund. Also present are traces of American horror films and, naturally, the anxieties of middle-class America, which Skoglund handles with ironic flair. A breath of suburban tristesse wafts unmistakably through her work. She admits that mediocrity interests her, and "My own background is middle class, and class perceptions in terms of taste are at the root of a lot of the choices that I make."

Skoglund, the descendant of Swedish immigrants, knows what she is talking about. Born in Quincy in 1946, she grew up in California and went to school in the Midwest. 'Middle America' - the petty-bourgeois underside of the U.S. - is thus as familiar to the artist as the back of her hand. Hitchcock sent forth his flocks of gulls and crows in an attempt to crack open deadening small-town assumptions; Skoglund does the same with the cats, foxes, squirrels, and new-born babies that swarm forth to transform petty-bourgeois dreams into nightmares. Skoglund has been strongly influenced not only by American cinema, but also by European. As a nineteen-year-old art student, she spent a year in Paris, where she became fascinated by the possibilities of film. She acquainted herself with the nouvelle vague, watched movies by Chabrol and Godard, and flirted with the idea of film herself, but the division of work and responsibility in film-making contradicted her perfectionist impulses. Sandy Skoglund requires absolute control over every step, every detail. She ended her studies in the U.S., moved to New York, and took up minimalist painting. After years of searching and experimentation, she finally turned to photography: She found herself thoroughly bored by the work of traditional masters such as Steichen, Stieglitz, or Weston: even commercial art seemed preferable to that! She discovered the work of Ed Ruscha, terming it "the first photography...I really related to. I loved the anti-aesthetic - the dust, the scratches, the stupidity of the repetition..." What she basically values in photodesign is the calculability and manipulability of the end product - the contradiction between being and seeming, reality and artificiality. Skoglund feels that turning to natural images for stimulation is deeply embedded somehow in the American culture.

With her first, full-colored still life in hand, Skoglund approached a gallerist. Marvin Heifermann, at the time director of photography for Castelli Graphics. In spite of his interest in color photography, he initially found the artist's work exaggeratedly shrill. Skoglund did not give up, however, and Heifermann soon found himself fascinated and genuinely amused both by the detailed realism and the eclectic content he discovered in Skoglund's photographs - everything from Walt Disney to horror films. With Ferns and Radioactive Cats at the end of the 1970s, Skoglund had in fact discovered an art strategy for herself that corresponded equally to her affinity for painting, film, and photography. Now she could successively take on the role of script-writer, stage designer, painter, sculptress, director, and, ultimately, photographer. "In this approach," remarks Michael Kohler, "the whole point is to use photography as an aid in presenting imaginary worlds, inventing pictures. Out of this, an interesting double-layered base is called into existence, because observers assume that what has been photographed is real, but by looking more closely, they notice that they have been fooled. This whole trend plays with this reverse, or flip-flop, effect."




Sandy Skoglund

Breathing Class
2000

An example of Sandy Skoglund's more recent work. Once again live, performers become part of a surreal staging.

 

 

Environments with unparalleled attention to detail

 

As mentioned earlier, Sandy Skoglund is by no means the sole exponent of staged photography, but she is the only artist who conceives, constructs, and sells her installations as works of art alongside their photographic representations. The critic Ann Sievers speaks of the "interdependence and equal status" of the two forms. Carol Squiers explains; "The photo and the installation arc nominally the same and yet they are different in both obvious and maddeningly subtle ways." Skoglund's procedure is correspondingly exact; she is not satisfied to make a sham just for the camera, but instead, creates complete environments with unparalleled attention to detail, working a half year to produce a single scene. Her work is extremely labor intensive, requiring far more effort than would be needed to produce a photograph alone. Today, viewers may respond to Skoglund's elaborate tableaus with fascination, shock, or amusement, but in the early days, her scenes chiefly elicited confusion and irritation in the art world. Diane Vanderlip, curator of the Denver Museum of Art, recalls a conversation with Lucas Samaras and Philip Tsiaras in the early 1980s in which she asked for their opinion of two of Skoglund's works. They pronounced it highly intelligent, but questioned whether it was serious art. Vanderlip let the works go; later she discovered her errors and purchased Fox Comes for the Denver Museum of Art - at a price of $40,000.

Cindy Sherman has staked out media and cultural criticism as the special areas for her self-stagings. Skoglund, by contrast, does not pursue any similarly identifiable intention with her pictures. The artist denies that her works reflect a single intention. Nonetheless, many viewers sense a connection between Radioactive Cats and the debates on the atom, or interpret The Green House as a contribution to the discussion about the greenhouse effect, and take Maybe Babies as a comment on the abortion debate. According to the artist, however, similarities with contemporary problems are, so to speak, merely accidental. She defends a less narrow approach, arguing: "If the politics are open rather than closed, the piece adapts to the envi¬ronment rather than the other way around."

Skoglund's works appeal more to the senses than to the intellect. As an artist, she relies upon the emotional intensity of her work and finds a similarity between their effect and the manner in which Hollywood films manipulate emotions. So-called 'high art' does not interest her. In a moment of epiphany early in her career, she realized "the idea of making [conceptual] art was not a good way to approach things... Instead, I saw myself as trying to make something that my relatives could understand." This direct approach has been her trademark through the decades.

 

 

 

Sandy Skoglund (born 11 September 1946) is an American photographer and installation artist.

Skoglund creates surrealist images by building elaborate sets or tableaux, furnishing them with carefully selected colored furniture and other objects, a process of which takes her months to complete. Finally, she photographs the set, complete with actors. The works are characterized by an overwhelming amount of one object and either bright, contrasting colors or a monochromatic color scheme.
Born in Quincy, Massachusetts, Skoglund studied both art history and studio art at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, graduating in 1968. In 1967, she studied art history at the Sorbonne and Ecole Du Louvre in Paris, France. After graduating from Smith College, she went to graduate school at the University of Iowa in 1969, where she studied filmmaking, multimedia art, and printmaking. In 1971, she earned her Master of Arts and in 1972 a Master of Fine Arts in painting.
In 1972, Skoglund began working as a conceptual artist in New York. She became interested in teaching herself photography to document her artistic endeavors, experimenting with themes of repetition. In 1978, she had produced a series of repetitious food item still life images.
One of her most-known photographs, entitled Radioactive Cats, features green-painted clay cats running amok in a gray kitchen. An older man sits in a chair with his back facing the camera while his elderly wife looks into a refrigerator that is the same color as the walls. Another image, Fox Games has a similar feel to Radioactive Cats and is also widely recognized. A third and final oft-recognized piece by her features numerous fish hovering above people in bed late at night and is called Revenge of the Goldfish. The piece was used as cover art for the Inspiral Carpets album of the same name.
Skoglund was an art professor at the University of Hartford between 1973 and 1976. She is currently teaching photography and art installation/multimedia at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
Skoglund has recently completed a series titled "True Fiction Two". This recent project is similar to the "True Fiction" series that she began in 1986. This series was not completed due to the discontinuation of materials that Skoglund was using. Kodak canceled the production of the dye that Skoglund was using for her prints. Each image in "True Fiction Two" has been meticulously crafted to assimilate the visual and photographic possibilities now available in digital processes.

 

 


Fresh  Hybrid

 


Landscape in Roses

 


Picnic on WineI

 


Raining Pop Corn
2001

 


Radioactive Cats
 


Walking on Eggshells, 1997

 


Fox Games

 


Ferns, 1980

 


Babies at Paradise Pond, 1995

 


Untitled

 


Germs are Everywhere, 1986

 


Cats In Paris
1993

 


A Breeze At Work
1987

 


The Invisible Web
1986

 


The sound of Food (True Fiction)
1986

 


The Cocktail Party
1992

 


The Wedding
1994

 


Laws of Interior Design (True Fiction)
1986

 


Gathering Paradise
1991

 
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