venerdì 30 agosto 2013

martedì 20 agosto 2013

Don Hong-Oai : Master of Pictorialism Photography

Little is known about Don Hong-Oai, an extraordinary Chinese photographer which through pictorialism he created a series of amazing photographs that look like Chinese traditional paintings.

Born in 1929, in Guangzhou, China’s Guangdong province, Dong Hong-Oai left his home country when he was just 7, after the sudden death of his parents. Youngest of 24 siblings, he was sent to live within the Chinese community of Saigon, Vietnam. There he became an apprentice at a photography studio owned by Chinese immigrants and learned the basics of photography. During this time he became particularly interested in landscape photography, which he practiced in his spare time. At 21, after doing a series of odd jobs, he became a student at the Vietnam National Art University.

In 1979, a bloody border war started between Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China, and following a series of repressive policies that targeted Chinese immigrants, Dong Hong-Oai became one of the millions of “boat people”who left Vietnam during the 70s and 80s. At the age of 50, speaking no English and knowing no one in America, the artist arrived in San Francisco and was even able to set up a small darkroom. Selling his photographs at local street fairs he was able to raise enough money to travel back to China periodically to take photos of surreal landscapes, and more importantly study under the tutelage of Long Chin-San, in Taiwan. This famous master, who died in 1995, at the age of 105, had been trained in the traditional art of Chinese landscape imagery painting,  which wasn’t intended to accurately depict nature, but to interpret nature’s emotional impact. The dramatic monochromatic landscapes created using simple brushes and ink combined different art form (poetry, calligraphy and painting) and allowed artists to more fully express themselves.

At one point in his career, Long Chin-San started to experiment with ways to translate that impressionistic style of art into photography.He developed a method of layering negatives to correspond with the three tiers of distance and taught his method to Don. Looking to better emulate the traditional Chinese style, Don Hong-Oai added calligraphy and his seal to the image. In the 1990s, his new art modeled on the ancient style started drawing critics’ attention, and soon he didn’t need to sell his photography from small stalls in street fairs. He was now represented by an agent and his work was being sold in galleries throughout the U.S., in Europe and in Asia, to private art collectors but also by corporate buyers and museums. He was in his 60s and for the first time in his life he had achieved some level of financial stability.

Don Hong-Oai died in 2004, at the age of 75, but left behind an incredible volume of pictorialism work that is as popular today as it was when it first conquered the art world.

lunedì 12 agosto 2013

"Save the Holy Places" - 27 April 1948 published by the Washington Post Source

Title: "Save the holy places" / Herblock

Creator(s): Block, Herbert, 1909-2001, artist

Date Created/Published: 1948 April 27.

Medium: 1 drawing on layered paper : ink, crayon, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing.

Summary: Editorial cartoon shows two businessmen or diplomats, one holds a paper labeled "Palestine issue" and the other holds a briefcase labeled "U.S. diplomacy", the latter points towards oil wells in the distance and says to the other, "Save the Holy Places".

Jaffa – more than just an orange

The Jaffa Orange was the principal export of Palestine in the 1890s. The history of the Jaffa orange (and the city -the Bride of the Sea- after which it has its name) reflects the recent history of Palestine.  

The orange – Palestine’s heritage
The small bitter orange, Baladi, probably arrived in Palestine in the 9th century. The  Jaffa orange – as it was commercially named – probably arrived from Hindustan or Northern Iran in the 17th century. Regardless, by the 18th century Swedish naturalist Haselquist gave the first European account of oranges in Jaffa “ . . . . a forest of orange trees of a big size . . . .” The presence of grapefruit was first recorded in 1882.

A closer look at Jaffa Town
The town and port of Jaffa, its surrounding villages, together with the land, comprised an area of around 85 000 acres. Remember, Jaffa district with a population in 1946 which was 71% Jewish was the most colonized part of Palestine. By the 1940s, adjacent Tel Aviv had grown from a small settlement to the second largest city in Palestine - all in the space of 25 years.
Jaffa town was predominantly Arab with a population of over 100 000, of whom about 28 000 were Jewish. The rest of the Sub-District had a majority Jewish population. They, however, only owned 39% of the land. Arab owners accounted for a further 47% with the remaining 14% publicly owned.
Prior to the events of 1948, of the eleven localities with more than 750 acres devoted to citrus, only two – Petah Tikva and Kefar Sava – were Jewish settlements.

This was the Jaffa and district which was about to face a combined onslaught from the regular army, the Haganah, and the Irgun. Such was the affinity between the two terrorist organizations (both perpetrated massacres during 1948), they eventually merged.

I saw a scene which I never thought to see in my life. It was the sight
of the whole population of Jaffa pouring out on to the road carrying
in their hands whatever they could pick up. . . . . as fast as their legs
could carry them. It was a case of sheer terror.
The Palestinian Catastrophe Michael Palumbo (p.87)

Documentary "JAFFA, the orange's clockwork" 
Directed by Eyal Sivan, the orange’s clockwork narrates the visual history of the famous citrus fruit originated from   Palestine and known worldwide for centuries as "Jaffa oranges". The history of the orange is the history of this land. Through photography and cinema, poetry, paintings, workers of the citruses’ industry and historians, memory and present mythologies, Palestinians and Israelis cross and combine.

mercoledì 7 agosto 2013

Van Leo - An Iconic portraiture

Van Leo (Egypt, 1921-2002)
Self portrait of Van Leo
Born in Turkey to Armenian parents, Levon Boyadjian arrived in Egypt in 1924, the year the family settled in Zagazig. In 1927 the Boyadjian family moved to Cairo, where Van Leo was to make a name for himself that enabled him to live from his art for over 57 years and be recognised all over the city as the master of the photographic portrait. He died in 2002, having closed down his studio and donated most of his collection to the American University in Cairo, and to the Fondation Arabe de l'Image (Beirut). In 2000 he was awarded the Prince Claus Prize for his career.

Van-Leo’s camera zoomed in on mid-20th century Cairo – a period marked by sophistication, glamour and celluloid dreams on which the photographer thrived. Through his black-and-white photographs, Van-Leo worked to iconise his subjects and evoked a drama that more often than not resulted in copious self-portraits of the photographer, posed in numerous guises. From intellectuals and celebrities to laymen and more – all flocked to be immortalised by one of the Middle East’s great art photographers.

 Dont miss his collection visible at Rencontres d’Arles Photographie