Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts tagged as “photography”

Revealing The Fringes Of Paris: Benoît Fougeirol’s Award Winning Book Zus

Special To Topanga Journal

The photographer of the award winning book Zus is Benoît Fougeirol. He is based in and around Paris. Zus was published by X Artists’ Books. The publishing company is a collaboration between actor and writer Keanu Reeves, Los Angeles-based artist and writer Alexandra Grant, designer Jessica Fleischmann and editor Florence Grant. X Artists’ Books is an independent publisher, versus a self publisher, or vanity press. The books coming out of this little press are of value and on engaging subjects.

Kriss Perras headshot by Alan Weissman

By Kriss Perras

Zus documents, via a sociological photographic essay, sensitive suburban zones, or ZUS, a French acronym for Les Zone urbaine sensible. These forgotten pockets are located on the peripheries of the major metropolis of Paris, France. The ZUS are documented on the book’s cover by what appear to be mere confetti dots. These fringe districts were defined by administrative boundaries brought about by the “emergence of a social problem,” reports X Artists’ Books.

Fougeirol’s. “realistic approach allowed the viewer to explore these territories…through his photographs without a judgmental, hierarchical or authoritarian point of view.”   ADAGP Jury

With the help of security, Fougeirol photographed these marginalized areas sometimes in wide aerial shots showing what appear to be successful housing zones and in other shots close details depicting the decay and frailty of the projects’ failures. The honest and shocking photos are of walled in housing units that seem to be of buildings that were previously architecturally beautiful. Once beyond the walls, we see doors with faded paint that appear permanently jarred open. Tastefully designed staircases are fenced in with wired gates. In another disconcerting visual, the ZUS are laid out like war zone maps inside the book. The photos portray an innate sadness, a sense society is tearing a certain segment of people apart from the main group and setting them into a fringe society. Zus is a photojournalistic investigation into these areas that makes the viewer wince, if you care at all about people.

According to writer and professor Jean-Christophe Bailly, whose essay accompanies Fougeirol’s images: “We [were] not expecting so much immobility, or such ruins. Strangely, and as if by a flourish of tragic irony, this emptiness of space brings to mind the Ideal City in Urbino. There, too, the anonymous painter omitted all human figures. But where the imaginary scene from the Quattrocento was offered as the theatre of an existence yet to come, the images of the real city, the images of the ZUS, come across as decaying segments of a bygone existence: ‘people lived here.'”

Zus was nominated for the 2018 Les Prix du Livre at Arles. Zus recently won the Third Edition of the 2018 ADAGP Revelation Artists Book Award. This was part of MAD (Multiple Art Days), France’s national association of graphic and fine artists (Société des Auteurs dans les Arts graphiques et plastiques). June marked the month where 20 artists’ books were selected for consideration for the ADAGP Revelation Artists’ Book Award, which would also be exhibited during the fair. It was announced September 13 that Fougeirol had won the ADAGP Revelation Artists Book Award. 

The ADAGP jury stated Zus had, “renewed the approach to how the [Parisian] banlieues are represented.” The jury also stated Fougeirol’s. “realistic approach allowed the viewer to explore these territories…through his photographs without a judgmental, hierarchical or authoritarian point of view. The open configuration of the edition itself is free to be explored and leads to a sense of discovery of places so radically determined by their architecture they are almost impossible to access in real life. (Zus) is an edition to read, to leaf through, to unfold, to display, in short, to discover even while it captures the volatility of the ZUS.” 

The limited edition of Zus is in the collections of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Centre Georges Pompidou and the Bibliothèque d’Art et d’Archéologie, Genève. The limited edition sold for $900 each, and as of the writing of this article is sold out. 

The paperback edition of Zus is 9 ½ × 12 inches and 375 pages. It can be purchased from X Artist’ Books for $60.


Subscribe to our newsletter

Herb Petermann: Hidden Figures In Feminist Photography

Special To Topanga Journal

The fleeting capture of a woman’s body as she passes across the photographic lens. She’s an impressionistic figure in this photo. Topangans know this photographer best for his landscapes, earth toned captures of our Santa Monica Mountains. Herb Petermann’s photographs are ephemeral and feminist. In this interview, Petermann takes us on a personal and historical journey of photography.

Kriss Perras headshot by Alan Weissman

By Kriss Perras

Petermann said in the 1980’s he frequently worked in the field of photography. He had a lab in Santa Monica in an office building. The landlord there cut off the hot water, something he needed to develop the color cibachrome prints he was working with.

“With black and white it wouldn’t have been a problem, but this was color,” said Petermann. “The landlord said the pipes are leaking, and he was going to spend a lot of money on plumbing. I said what about the other people that are there. They need hot water to wash their hands. He was stuck on getting rid of hot water.”

“Cibachrome was a long lasting supposedly a very stable process. We still have the photos to prove it because, I processed those prints in 1979. Now it’s 40 years later. The colors are still there. They’re still very vibrant colors.” Herb Petermann

Petermann started woking out of his Santa Monica apartment developing big prints in a tube. He was processing 30 x 40 prints in his small bathroom he remade into a dark room. He processed the large prints in a drum about 32 inches big. This form of color processing has been discontinued because it was expensive and environmentally a disaster, explained Petermann. Developing cibachromes was a toxic process. Ventilation was important in a closed space. Even working with the neutralizer, the cibachrome development process tended to erode metal pipes.

“I was worried the plumbing in the apartment would go bad,” said Petermann. “Cibachrome was a long lasting supposedly a very stable process. We still have the photos to prove it because, I processed those prints in 1979. Now it’s 40 years later. The colors are still there. They’re still very vibrant colors. They’re still very stable.”

Petermann today processes prints that will last over 100 years. He uses a pigment printer for his photographs today. 

“Epson makes a pigment printer,” said Petermann. “These are also very stable colors in the process. It lays down layers of pigment that will last 150 years. It works pretty good. I have some prints up. They’ve been up for five or ten years.”

A pigment printer uses strictly pigments rather than dyes. According to experts, this is a far superior printed image than other printing processes, including the traditional gelatin silver printing process. Pigment printing has a longevity that dye based and other forms of printing do not. The end result is an exceptional archival print. Archival means the material is permanent, chemically stable and safe for preservation purposes. There are no standards though for how long an archival material will last.

When we stepped further back into photography’s history with Petermann, he talked about old Daguerre photographs, Cyanotypes and the processes of printing from when color was first introduced into the development process. He gave an expert perspective on photography’s history.

“There’s Cyanotype printing and a number of other types of printing,” said Petermann. “Cyanotype has a bluish color. They’re pretty stable. Color didn’t come in until Kodak came out with Kodachrome and Ektachrome. Kodachrome is a very stable transparency. One nice thing is if you printed from Kodachrome to cibachrome you could see what you’d get. In black and white you didn’t know what you were getting, because you were looking at a reverse image. You almost had to think in reverse when you worked in black and white. Sometimes you had to make a number of prints before you got it right.”

Like the male pioneers who developed these processes Petermann refers to, there were female photographers who broke ground on the annals of photography’s history too. Let’ build a small timeline of the development of the first photographic processes, then uncover some of the hidden female figures behind the lens, and the men, who used those processes Petermann refers to here.

To start at the beginning, there are so many contributors to the beginnings of photography it is difficult to give credit to just a single person for inventing this art and science. In general history credits one person as the inventor of photography, but there were too many advances in the creation of this art and science for this journalist to be so liberal in credit. We’ll start with three of the main male figures whose processes our hidden female figures utilized.

Let’s begin with Sir John Herschel (1792 – 1871) He is largely credited as the inventor of the cyanotype process, or the blueprint. He was an astronomer searching for a method of copying his notes, so the story goes. He experimented with silver and salts and discovered hyposulphite of soda dissolved silver salts, according to the Getty Museum. As such he was able to create the first cyanotype image on paper in 1839. Using iron salt coated paper, exposing it to sunlight and then washing it in water, this process created a white image against a blue background. This is how it gets its name: blueprint. Sir Herschel also gave us the words photography, negative, positive and snapshot in relation to the camera. 

Using hyposulphite of soda in the cyanotype process would later became very significant with the work of Nicéphore Niépce (1765 – 1833), William Henry Fox Talbot (1800 – 1877) and Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre (1787 – 1851). Niépce worked with the Camera Obscura, which is known to have existed at least as far back as the 13 – 14th Centuries. He took the device one step further than just being a drawing aid. He put paper coated with silver salts known to blacken with daylight in the back of the camera. It was in May of 1816 that Niépce created the first image using this method. He called these images retinas. He is also largely credited as the inventor of photography. 

Talbot invented the positive-negative photographic process in 1839, as it is still practiced today. This is the Calotype process using silver nitrate. Calotypes are negatives made using silver chloride coated paper. When exposed to light in a camera obscura those areas hit by light became dark in tone, creating a negative image.

Daguerre partnered with Niépce in 1829, according to the International Photography Hall of Fame. Daguerre experimented with Niépce’s heliographic process he had developed, and Niépce with Daguerre’s camera obscura. By the time the experimenting was done, Niépce had passed away leaving his share of the partnership to his son. Daguerre kept experimenting after Niépce’s death, finally producing his first image in 1837 using silver iodide, copper plates, warm mercury and fumes formed over an amalgam with the silver creating a clear direct positive the image. The plate was washed with a saline solution to prevent further exposure. Daguerre allowed the plate to remain in the partnership, but it would be called a daguerreotype. 

Constance Talbot (1811 – 1880), wife of Talbot, is credited by many sources as the first woman to take a photograph. Being the wife of Talbot himself, she learned from him. She took a hazy image of a short verse by Thomas Moore, the Irish poet. That photograph is still printable today, according to the Metropolitan Museum Of Art’s book, Impressed By Light: British Photographs From Paper Negatives. 

Anna Atkins (1799 – 1871) is largely credited as one of the first female photographers. She created a book of over 300 images that currently resides in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It is titled Photographs of British Algae. They’re beautiful blueprint, or cyanotype, images of seaweed and aquatic microorganisms captured between 1843 – 1853. There are now only 20 existing copies of this book left, the Rijksmuseum copy being the best known preserved.

Geneviève Élisabeth Disdéri (1817 – 1878) was an early French photographer who first learned from her husband, André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri. She was his partner in their Brest, France Daguerre studio for the late 1840’s. He is a daguerreotypist credited with inventing a unique nine by six centimeter carte de visit, or small photographic images mounted on a card. Geneviève is known for her 28 daguerreotypes of Brest, two of which are Ruins of St Mathieu and Cimitière de Plougastel. She used the collodion technique some sources say she learned from her famous Parisian husband. This process dispensed with the expensive silver plate and instead used a glass covered in an emulsion layer of collodion mixed with silver nitrate. This created a negative that when placed on a black background showed a positive image. Outdoor photographs at this time were very rare. Geneviève became famous for taking such photographs.

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815 – 1879) was a British female photographer who wanted to make photography an art. She began when she was 48 years old, in 1863. She was a portraitist. Her works were of celebrities and children. One such photograph she took of a celebrity was of Sir Herschel, someone she considered a dear friend and mentor. She used soft focus and formed the basis of what is now known as Pictorialism, or projecting emotional intent into the viewers imagination. She was however widely criticized during her time as technically deficient for using this technique.

Jumping forward in time to World War I, Harriet Chalmers Adams was the first female photojournalist to visit the trenches. She was a correspondent for Harper’s Magazine in Europe. That wasn’t her first byline though. She had previously spent three years traveling Latin America where she took 3,000 photos. She presented those photos to National Geographic. In 1907 they published her work. After, she would receive twenty more published works in that respected publication in her lifetime. She was just one of a few women to be included in National Geographic at that time. 

At the Smithsonian, is housed the earliest known surviving black and white photographic negative. It’s a seminal portrayal of poverty by Dorothea Lange during the Depression Era. It’s of a Migrant Mother in Nipomo, California in 1936. It’s a very famous photo, and perhaps an image the has come to symbolize the American Depression. Lange helped define the direction of 20th Century documentary photography. She was employed by the New Deal’s Farm Security Administration (FSA). According to governmental archives, there were nearly 80,000 photos taken by FSA photographers of Depression Era scenes between 1935 and 1943, the largest documentary photography project ever undertaken.  The FSA was created in 1937, redeveloped out of an earlier New Deal project called the Resettlement Administration (RA). The archival records show the FSA resettled poor farmers on more productive land, promoted soil conservation, provided emergency relief and loaned money to help femurs buy and improve farms. It also built experimental rural communities, suburbs “Greenbelt towns’ and sanitary camps for migrant farm workers. Lange documented with her lens such resettlements, and the poverty associated with the Depression Era farmers and also the Japanese Internment camps. 

Diane Arbus (1923 – 1971). Another woman who learned photography from her husband, Allan Arbus. At first her worked converged with his in the world of fashion. She soon breached out on her own into the streets of New York. There she found her own trailblazing work where she documented the city’s streets. She took dark images in sometimes seedy or morbid places like the morgue. She photographed places on the edge, Brooklyn and Manhattan’s tenements, and the taboo, Hubert’s Freak Museum in Times Square, Coney Island and gay nightclubs. Tragically suffering from depression, she committed suicide in 1971. The words “last supper” were the last entry written in her journal. 


Subscribe to our newsletter

Pulitzer Nominated Jeff Widener’s Black & White Dreams

Days End Copyright 2017 Jeff Widener

The images are sometimes ethereal, composed so the eye moves fluidly about the frame and finds hidden elements often at first not seen, and they’re always emotive.This Pulitzer nominated photographer is famous for his iconic “Tank Man” photograph taken during the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. In that photograph, a lone man stood defiantly in front of a long row of tanks about to invade the square where the students were protesting. Widener then and now leaves you involved in the frame, the people he photographs and the moment in time he captured. Something as simple as snowflakes on a man’s jacket becomes emotionally involving and pleasing to look at. The viewer becomes more than just a spectator of the photograph. You jump into the frame and the moment with the photographer. Widener takes us to many places and people’s lives in this series of black and whites. He traverses the globe, and sometimes looks at the ground, to find inspiration. In our Q&A with Widener, we find out what made him go back to film in our digital age, why he enjoys the Leica Rangefinder camera and how he first became interested in photography…(Read More in our October 20, 2017 Digital Issue on Magzter or iTunes).

This is premium content. You can purchase the October 20, 2017 digital issue of Malibu Arts Journal on Magzter  for $4.99 here:


Massillon: Jeff Charbonneau and Eliza French Photography

Massillon Exhibition Eliza French & Jeff Charbonneau

Massillon: a narrative story told through pictures. While there is humor in these dark and sometimes peculiarly frightening images, a sense of melancholy, terror and doom fills the sequence that overwhelms the small gallery. Horror and the supernatural are found in the real life tale re-imagined by Jeff Charbonneau and Eliza French. they weave a tale of the life of Zeta Eliza Wolley and the culture in which she lived near the turn of the 20th Century. Wolley’s life was grotesque, mysterious and desolate. She had a strange fantastical mind brought about by the archaic and barbarous cultural beliefs regarding the role of women in the home and society at that time. This is a black and white Chromogenic series of gruesome absurdity told through the eyes of a descendant.

MAJ: The exhibition is inspired by the true story of your ancestor Zeta Eliza Wolley, specifically her life and death in Massillon, Ohio in the late 1800’s. Tell us a little about her life and death there, in words?

FRENCH: Zeta Eliza Woolley was born to Irish immigrant parents in the 1880’s in Wellsville, Ohio, and was raised there and in Massillon. By age seventeen, she was married to a Pennsylvania Railroad worker and bore his children for the next six years. As a woman of petite stature and frailty, she suffered great physical afflictions each time she became pregnant and gave birth. Her plea to doctors and to her husband for contraceptive measures was ignored due to the unquestioned cultural expectations for women of that time. Sadly, her physical and mental anguish increased with each new child. And in less than a decade, she had five. Four of her five children died in early childhood from unknown circumstances. Handwritten letters from her husband suggest that two years before the death of her fourth child, Zeta Eliza Woolley “fell ill” and became prone to wandering great distances alone. She would hide in abandoned coal mines in the area until discovered. Upon the death of her fourth child, she attempted suicide in one of the mines and was placed permanently in the Massillon State Lunatic Asylum. Her only surviving daughter was subsequently raised by an aunt and uncle in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from the age of six onward. She visited her mother in the asylum once a month for the following nineteen years. Zeta Eliza Woolley was abandoned by her husband who filed for divorce and shortly after remarried and began a new family. The two never saw each other again.

Our artwork in this series is motivated by an attempt to grasp onto someone we’ve never known, but whose story has had an indelible impact on the people we love. We do not attempt to portray her life factually, or realistically, but instead, draw deep inspiration from the situation of her suffering, and the hope that within that suffering, a vital fantasy life flourished. At the same time that we utilize the inescapable reality of the domestic role assigned to women at the turn of the century as motivation for pictures of loss, frustration and melancholy, we also react to the injustice of this role to create contrasting scenes of beauty, mystery and seduction.

MAJ: What, in your opinion, is the encroaching stench of new Victorianism?

FRENCH: The phrase, “the stench of New Victorianism” is a figurative way of referring to the rise, in very contemporary times, of a moral code (what we might call an immoral code) that has begun to jeopardize the cultural liberation of America in the 1960’s and 70’s. Without implying that everything Victorian was ascetic, we are cautioning the reappearance of dominant ideologies that remind us of those aspects of Victorian culture which had to be shed in the name of individual liberty. The Victorian period, we remember, also gave birth to the provocative ideas of Marx, Darwin, Nietzche and Freud. Unfortunately as a culture we most often label anything Victorian as sexually repressed, rigidly affirmed through social class and economically opportunistic and sometimes disregard the intellectual developments. These assumptions remain fair, however, because most of the common mythology is true. In our photo essay, we had the opportunity to look at the entire span of a woman’s life and interpret the various social mores and historical events and decisions that may have had a direct impact on her existence. Some we can find records of – others we can only imply or imagine. In our portrayal of Zeta Eliza, we see displacement, perhaps based on class; a conflict of morality and purpose concerning the obligation of a woman to reproduce; a system that confined and institutionalized anyone deemed to be unfit or a threat to the moral wellbeing of the community. We see parallels in our present day society. We have religious and political leaders encouraging young adults to repress themselves sexually and once again question a woman’s reproductive rights. We have a housing crisis, an economic crisis and a growing divide between the haves and the have-nots. We have enacted doctrines that limit civil rights and justify the occupation of foreign territories.

An American doctrine during the Victorian period. was “Manifest Destiny”, which justified violent takeover of Native American territories. The state lunatic asylum at Massillon happened to be built on Native American cornfields and was the brainchild of President William McKinley – then Governor of Ohio. Perhaps he felt he was “cleaning up” society, much like our current administration feels they are “cleaning up” the “axis of evil”.

As artists that are handed down an oral history of an ancestor, we appreciate the embellishments and symbolism that are enhanced or modified through each generation. We allow this to influence our interpretation and consciously, or sometimes unconsciously, “filter” it through our personal circumstances. In manifold circumstances, Zeta Eliza Woolley was confronted with many of the same issues that we are dealing with today, and the images portray these parables and parallels as questions. Maybe our philosophical and social dilemmas haven’t really changed. We only pose these as questions and don’t portend to know the answer(s).

MAJ: Your photo Ablation, how did you created/what techniques were used for this work?

CHARBONNEAU: This photo was shot on a cliff in Northern California with traditional black and white film. We created a “garden” on the cliff edge with metal pinwheels on a very windy day. The vintage scythe is about a century old and is still functional. We have made our own filters that we use on our cameras. Some of the filters increase the contrast of the black and white film to the point of turning day into night and others soften the focus and diffuse light. We develop and print our images in a traditional wet darkroom. In the case of this print, we sandwiched two negatives together in the enlarger. One negative was Eliza chopping the “garden” with the scythe, the other was taken at the same location an hour or so later with just the clouds rolling in. Once we have a print that we like we give it a “toning” bath, first in selenium, which turns the mid tones and low tones into a rust hue and then a gold bath, which enhances the highlights and adds a blue tonality. Once this print is dry we use it as our new negative to print onto a metal based paper. That is then mounted to a sheet of Dibond (an aluminum based archival mounting board) for the final exhibition print.

MAJ: The same with Concresence, how did you create that work?

FRENCH: This photo was shot at sunset at a wetland marsh also in Northern California. The waning sun created a beautiful mirror reflection of the dress, the landscape and of Jeff dragging a net in the water. We printed this the same way as Ablation but with only one negative. As we were printing, we realized this image looked great turned upside down since the reflection was proportioned equally in either orientation. This also “reflected” our feelings about our subject’s life being turned upside down. 

Alex Prager’s Photography: Off To London With The Big Valley

Annie From The Big Valley by Alex Prager 2008

She’s witty and sincere. There’s a pleasantness about her that’s charming and genuine. She has no formal education past 8th grade but is articulate and of raw talent and vision. Alex Prager is a color photographer and was an eruption into the art scene with her Polyester exhibition last summer out at Robert Berman’s Gallery at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. Prager’s London exhibition, The Big Valley is currently at the Michael Hoppen Gallery and is no disappointment after Polyester.

“The London show is going really well. It’s surprising how well people are responding to my work over here. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go because I’m so used to showing in my hometown of Los Angeles. This is only the first time I’ve really ever shown in Europe. I love the scene over here. London is the perfect contrast to L.A. for me, my second favorite place in the world,” said Prager in an interview about her London show.

“I’ll be back in LA in September maybe or August, not actually sure. I’m in London working on my new series. So, I guess I’ll stay until I feel like I need to be back in L.A. to finish it. I prefer shooting in L.A., because I get more done when I’m out there. But, there’s nothing in the world like being in London for the summer.”

Prager creates iconic voyeuristic images of women steeped in sometimes hypnotic, sometimes classic Hollywood cinematic moments. Her models wear retro costumes and obvious polyester blonde wigs with fake gigantic eyelashes and eerily perfect make-up. The poses are staged to create an even further thriller feeling. These are Barbie Dolls about to be lost to some horrific ending. The influences of Hitchcock and David Lynch are evident yet not so that they are mere replications or rip-offs. It’s the lighting that makes her photography so fantastic. She manages to capture the intricacies of a dark night coupled with the vivid foreground of a car’s overhead bright light. The two create a disturbing scratchy awareness of impending doom.

The works are a series of narratives with a sense in each of more story than what is seen. Her storytelling expertise is clear as the imagination is pricked to continue the image after the frame and wonder vis-à-vis before the shutter closed. Even one piece to the next there is a connection of sorts. There are missing frames between but a disquieting relationship exists between the pieces. A French jump cut, maybe, but certainly La Nouvelle Vague. There is a subconscious dismissal of landmark cinematic form, an abundance of childlike iconoclasm and evident Godard deep focus.

Prager got into photography at the age of 20 after visiting a William Eggleston exhibition at The Getty. It is even more flooring to know she is self-taught. There was no formal training for Prager. The images are pure raw talent.

Prager is the recipient of the 2006 London Photographic Award and has shot for such notable publications as Rolling Stone, Elle Japan, I-D, Flaunt, Complex and MOJO.

Topanga Journal
This site uses cookies. Close