SCHOOL OF VISUAL ARTS: Fall 2015 MPS in Digital Photography Program

Clay McBride

Large Format Print Week with
Celebrity and Portrait Photographer Greg Gorman

Clareese Hill

Ksenia Tavrina

Photography Icon Bruce Davidson Lecture

Tom Ashe Reviewing Online Class Prints

The School of Visual Arts
Master of Professional Studies in Digital Photography Program

The Master of Professional Studies in Digital Photography is an intensive graduate degree program that addresses the technical and creative aspects of current digital image practices, which professional photographers and photo educators require to be at the vanguard of contemporary fine art, commercial, portrait, and fashion photography practices. Within the year, the diverse and talented students excel at producing technically outstanding and conceptually compelling images and multimedia projects, and are ideally positioned to pursue gallery representation, editorial or commercial work, as well as high-end digital retouching and consulting careers.

SVA offers two versions of the MPS Digital Photography Program; a full-time one-year On-campus/Summer Residency program for students that prefer learning in a classroom environment and a part-time two-year Online/Summer Residency for those who would benefit from the convenience and flexibility of the virtual learning experience. Both programs culminate with a summer session and group exhibition in New York City.

MPS Digital Photography Program Co-Founder and Chair, Katrin Eismann, is an internationally respected photographer, educator and author specializing in creative digital photography. Her books include Photoshop Masking and Compositing, Photoshop Restoration and Retouching, The Creative Digital Darkroom, and Real World Digital Photography, among others.

Applications for Fall 2015 MPS Digital Photography Program are being accepted now! Study with Elizabeth Avedon, Michael Foley, Greg Gorman, Tom P. Ashe, Darren and Debra Klomp Ching, Russell Hart, Stella Kramer, Matthew Richmond and Katrin Eismann, along with a roster of other greats! Check out the complete MPS Digital Photography Curriculum and Faculty [here].

Check out my Thesis: Book+Branding Class of 2014

Thesis: Book+Branding Class of 2013 



SurfLand: 11.03.16 #5 Dave
Unique tintype. Broken Head, OZ, 2011   
(c) Joni Sternbach

SurfLand: 15.02.22 #4 Sky
Unique tintype. Goleta, CA, 2015
 (c) Joni Sternbach


"Surf Site Tin Type" Book Signing
Saturday, May 2, 1PM to 2PM 
Artbook/D.A.P at Booth C-5 


Surfland Exhibition

Wednesday, May 6, 7-9 PM  
Artist Reception and Book Signing

Galerie Hug
40 Rue de Seine, Paris, France



 "Acido Dorado" series © Mona Kuhn

PRIVATE (Steidl, 2015)


"New Works"
Diane Rosenstein: Stage 32, Stand 10

"Acido Dorado"
Flowers Gallery: Stage 31, Stand 7

"PRIVATE" Book Signing
Saturday May 2, 2pm
DAP New York Backlot, Stand C-3


The i3: Images, Ideas, Inspiration summer lecture series features presentations by cutting-edge digital photographers and industry experts.  The series is curated and hosted by Guatemalan photographer Jaime Permuth.

Presented by the Masters in Digital Photography,
Katrin Eismann, Chair

Celebrity Portrait Photographer

Photojournalist and Author

Documentary Photographer and Author

Fine-Art Photographer

 School of Visual Arts
136 West 21st Street, Room 418
New York, New York
Free and Open to the Public 
Download and Subscribe to the i3 Lecture Series on iTunes here. Includes photographers Elinor Carucci, Phil Toledano, Radcliffe 'Ruddy' Roye and 70 others. 


MICHAEL O'BRIEN: The Picture Review Conversation Series • Austin, Texas

"On More Than a Picture"
The Picture Review In Conversation with 

In our continuing series of talks on the process, craft and life of working in the visual arts, The Picture Review team is thrilled to announce that nationally renowned documentary and portrait photographer, Michael O’Brien, will be joining us In Conversation "On More Than a Picture, A Conversation with Michael O’Brien and Sean Perry" May 16th, 2015.

From his biography, “Michael O’Brien is one of the country’s premier portrait photographers. In a career that has spanned four decades, O’Brien has photographed subjects ranging from presidents to small-town heroes. His candid, unapologetic style captures the dignity and humanity of his subjects, whether they be celebrities or ‘ordinary’ people.”

Mr. O’Brien’s images have appeared in numerous magazines, including Life, Esquire, National Geographic, Fortune, the New York Times Sunday Magazine, Texas Monthly, Vanity Fair and the London Sunday Times. He has twice been the recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Award for outstanding coverage of the disadvantaged. O’Brien is the author of two books: The Face of Texas, 2003 and 2014, and Hard Ground in 2011, a collaboration that presents O’Brien's compassionate portraits with poetry by artist and musician Tom Waits.

Eighteen of Mr. O’Brien’s images have been selected for inclusion in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C., five of which were recently featured in The Face of Texas exhibition at The Wittliff Collections: Willie Nelson, George Strait, Judge William Wayne Justice, Larry McMurtry, and Harvey Penick with Bud Shrake. His photographs are also held in the permanent collections of the International Center of Photography in NYC, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and The Wittliff Collection of Mexican and Southwestern Photography at Texas State University.

Our presentation includes rarely seen pictures from his early work and we will have the wonderful opportunity to preview images from his newest title, The Great Minds of Investing. Mr. O’Brien will also be demonstrating a few of his techniques for working with light and a book signing will follow.

To celebrate our special guest, we are pulling out all the stops with our first ever May Fair, featuring the Spring TPR Team's Light + Sound exhibition of large-scale prints, the debut of the ACCMe Studios photo booth, refreshments and a plethora of surprises and delights!

We look forward to seeing you there!
"On More Than a Picture: A Conversation with Michael O'Brien"
Saturday, May 16, 2015 • 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Austin Community College Photographic Technology
11928 Stonehollow Drive, Bldg 3000
Austin, TX 78758



I was honored to be invited as a Reviewer for the third annual "New York Portfolio Review" sponsored by the New York Times Lens Blog and the City University of New York’s (CUNY) Graduate School of Journalism. The reviews took place over a recent weekend with Day One for photographers 21 and older, each of whom received six private critiques; Day Two for photographers 18 to 27 years old, with four private critiques for each participant, rounded out with talks by Santiago Lyon, director of photography for The Associated Press, on building an editorial portfolio, and by the photographer Phil Toledano on the creative process. There were several other great speakers during the day including collector WM. Hunt, photographers David Guttenfelder, Radcliffe 'Ruddy' Roye and Austin Merril of Everyday Africa, who joined New York Times Lens Blog co-editor, James Estrin and Kerri MacDonald for a very lively panel discussion.

Of the twelve photographers I was scheduled to review on Day One, and a few I met on my own time during breaks, I was impressed by every project shown and
want to share some of it with L'Oeil de la Photographie readers HERE.

James Estrin took the lead along with his Lens Blog colleagues David Gonzalez and Whitney Richardson, and Laura Roumanos of United Photo Industries and Photoville, screening and editing thousands of (free) entries down to the chosen photographers who were then assigned one-on-one portfolio reviews with some of the top photography editors, curators, gallerists and book publishers. Estrin noted, "We have looked through over 3500 entrants for the free NY portfolio review sponsored by the NY Times Lens blog and CUNY J School and whittled it down to those accepted. The amount of excellent work was overwhelming...I can firmly say there is wonderful and surprising photography being done all over the world by people of all age, race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. I apologize to those who didn't get accepted this year. Thank you for sharing your work. It was an honor to look at it so closely. Please try again next year." Both days were extremely successful with reviewers and photographers making beneficial connections.

On Day Two, of the eight reviews, most were recent student graduates and this was their first portfolio review. I was impressed by the level of work and want to share some of it with L'Oeil de la Photographie readers HERE.


MALCOLM LIGHTNER: MILE O' MUD Kickstarter Campaign

Mile O' Mud
Photographs (c) Malcolm Lightner

"I've been delighted by Malcolm Lightner's 'Mile O' Mud' series for several years now. His photographs capture the country culture surrounding Florida's Swamp Buggy races. I can almost hear the racing engines propelling the swamp buggies through the mud with a chorus of cicadas singing along the banks. These photographs bring out the southern roots in me – gators and pistols, mud wrestling and beauty pageants, Budweiser and BBQ – images full of my favorite rednecks and they are proud of it. Southern charm at its best."– Elizabeth Avedon

THE PROJECT: Before embarking on my “MILE O' MUD” project in October 2002, my encounters with the swamp buggy races consisted of a few abbreviated visits to the track as a child, with my mother, who was not interested in the races but in locating my father, who had gone missing for several days.

I began to photograph swamp buggy racing to pay homage to my family heritage and to document what I consider to be a rare slice of Americana. On my first visit to the track, I drove into the parking lot of the Florida Sports Park, heard the engines of the buggies roar, and witnessed the great plumes of water trailing behind the boat-dragster hybrids. I could feel the vibrations from the raw horsepower pound against my chest, and it almost took my breath away. I thought to myself that this was going to be fun! The races occur three weekends out of the year, and I managed to make the trip at least once a year from 2002 to 2013 except 2005, when the races were cancelled due to Hurricane Wilma.

In my own mind, this project felt like time travel. I experienced firsthand the people and culture that were a large part of my parents’ life that I never witnessed but that felt somehow defining. Initially, it was the buggies themselves that attracted me, though I soon began to discover endless narrative possibilities and connections among the drivers, spectators and enthusiasts. I unveiled family connections that I did not know existed and heard numerous stories about my father, who had the reputation of a hard worker in the plastering and construction community. He was an all-around tough guy, someone you would not want to mess with.

I came to understand Swamp Buggy Racing as a metaphor for life’s daily struggles and the innate drive to overcome obstacles against great odds while trying to maintain a sense of humor and grace. The races demonstrated to me the All-American desire to compete to win as well as the power of family and community.


Introduction by Padgett Powell and Essay by Malcolm Lightner. Clothbound Hardcover, 12.125 x 11.875 inches (landscape), 136 pages. Photographs: approx. 86 in color. PowerHouse Books: November 2016

KALPESH LATHIGRA: Lost in the Wilderness

Lost in the Wilderness
Photographs (c) Kalpesh Lathigra

As you drive across the midwest of America, one is in awe of the vast endless landscape. If the land could speak, it would be a poem of people who once roamed free but were broken by the greed of others. During the period of 1860 -1890, the Native American people were the victims of genocide.

The US Government at the time broke treaty after treaty with the various tribes. Their land was forcibly taken in what became known as the Indian Wars. The First Nations, from the Navajos, Cheyenne, Apache, Cherokee and Sioux were forced on to reservations where the quality of arable land was poor and the once numerous herds of buffalo had been decimated.

As a child I played Cowboys and Indians. I was told i had to be the Indian because my cultural heritage was from India. As children we don't question the games we play or the slow burn affect on our consciousness of what we absorb through popular culture, film, music, books and photography.

My work for a long time has focused on forgotten communities. On the insistence of a good friend I read Dee Brown's classic, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and Ian Frazier's On the Rez. Both books inspired me to visit Pine Ridge Reservation, the dictated home of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Nation. Across the Great Plains I felt a belonging I cannot describe in words. The land has a raw beauty where one becomes lost in the wilderness of the soul.

Over the years I made numerous visits to Pine Ridge and the Lakota welcomed me into their lives telling me stories of their past, present and their hopes for the future.

These photographs are a poem through the land. Each one has a story to tell.


DANDY LION: (Re) Articulating Black Masculine Identity at MoCP Chicago

Photograph (c) Russell K. Frederick

Photograph (c) Radcliffe Roye

"Dandy Lion: (Re) Articulating Black Masculine Identity is an exhibition....seeking to shake up, deconstruct and affirm loosely the social conventions of style and fashion among black folk. Met this gentleman who said he saw the ad in the "Reader" and knew he had to come see the work. Here he is standing in front of two of my images that are in the show. " – Radcliffe 'Ruddy' Roye on Instagram

"Dandy Lion: (Re)Articulating Black Masculine Identity" is guest curated by independent curator Shantrelle P. Lewis. Work featured from emerging and renowned photographers and filmmakers from the US, Europe and Africa, include Hanif Abur-Rahim, Jody Ake, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, Rose Callahan, Kia Chenelle, Bouba Dola, Adama Delphine Fawundu, Russell K. Frederick, Cassi Amanda Gibson, Allison Janae Hamilton, Akintola Hanif, Harness Hamese/Loux the Vintage Guru, L. Kasimu Harris, Jamala Johns, Caroline Kaminju, Charl Landvreugd, Jati Lindsay, Devin Mays, Terence Nance, Arteh Odjidja, Numa Perrier, Alexis Peskine, Radcliffe Roye, Sara Shamsavari, Nyugen Smith, Daniele Tamagni, Richard Terborg and Rog Walker.

(Re)Articulating Black Masculine Identity 
April 6 – July 12, 2015
at Columbia College Chicago
600 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605

DEAR DAVE: Foley Gallery

Air Kiss, 2007
Photograph (c) Jessica Craig-Martin

Andrew B. Myers, Balloons, 2013

Joseph Tripi, Formica Desk: Side #2, 2007
List of Participating Artist's
(dble-click image to enlarge)

DEAR DAVE, Approaching 20 Issues in Print
April 16 – April 19, 2015
59 Orchard Street, NYC

Opening Reception:
April 16, 2015

Conversation with Stephen Frailey, Editor
And Mark Alice Durant, Editor At Large
April 18, 2PM

a tri-annual publication of photography and writing. It celebrates a community of visual thinking, with affection and humor, and publishes idiosyncratic and original work that is deserving of further recognition. DEAR DAVE, is interested in the most unpredictable work of all genres and sensibilities.

Publisher, David Rhodes; Editor-in-Chief, Stephen Frailey; Director of Design & Digital Media, Michael J. Walsh; Managing Editor, Maria Dubon; Cover Editor, Mary Ehni; Fashion Director, Lindsay Hart Thompson; Associate Editor, Sheilah Ledwidge; Editor-at-Large, Mark Alice Durant; Lead Web Designer & Developer, Eric Corriel; Editorial Assistant, Caroline Tompkins; Webmaster, Eric Graham; Editorial Advisors, Philip Gefter, Michael Kazam, Jimmy Moffat, Roger O. Thornhill, Jessica Craig-Martin; Distribution, Disticor Magazine Distribution Services


SUSAN MAY TELL: Appalachia

Oversee, Elkins, West Virginia, 2012
Photograph (c) Susan May Tell

 Appalachian Mist, Altoona Pennsylvania, 2012
Photograph (c) Susan May Tell

A selection of Susan May Tell's photographs taken in Appalachia will be exhibited at Central Booking Gallery from April 16 - May 10th. The group show, organized by Joyce Ellen Weinstein, includes artists who work in a variety of media including sculpture, painting and photography.
Opening Reception:
Central Booking Gallery
21 Ludlow Street, New York, NY 10002
April 16th, 2015, 6-8pm
And Congratulations to Susan May Tell. The MacDowell Colony has awarded Susan May Tell a Fellowship for the 2015 Summer Residency. Their tagline is "Freedom To Create" -- which is exactly what she will be doing. Using the studio's darkroom, she will revisit, edit and print her early (1974-82) B&W negatives. Although the early edit led to solo exhibitions, the fellowship offers the opportunity to prepare an updated portfolio for galleries and museums. It will also be a fascinating opportunity for May tell to look through the prism of time to see what the imagery says now about that era.



Robert Stivers "The Art of Ruin" cover
Twin Palms Publishers, April 2015

 Robert Stivers from "The Art of Ruin"

For many of his images, Stivers begins with a sharply focused negative that is then manipulated in the printing process causing intentional loss of clarity to achieve sensual, dream-like images akin to early Pictorialism at the turn of the 20th Century. – Twin Palms Publishers

Robert Stivers "The Art of Ruin"
16 x 20 inches, 26 four-color plates, 54 pages


RADCLIFFE "RUDDY" ROYE: PhotoJournalist and Documentarian PDN Video

"Photographer Ruddy Roye has attracted 120,000 Instagram followers despite–or perhaps because of–his gritty, difficult subject matter and the long captions he posts to help humanize his subjects. Using Instagram largely as a tool of social activism, Roye draws attention to racial and economic injustice primarily in New York City, and often in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, where he lives."

“A lack of black images [and] black photographers has created this void for people like me,” says Roye, who was born and raised in Jamaica. “Instagram has allowed me a light that didn’t exist before.” In this video, he explains how he found his Instagram voice, and discusses the professional risks he is taking by refusing to look away and remain silent." – PDN PULSE

Ruddy Roye discusses photojouranlism with my SVA Photography students, sharing his own personal history, his beautiful black and white portraits and introducing his Jamaican "Dancehall" series.

Photo District News (PDN) has featured one of my favorite photojournalist's PhotoJournalist's Radcliffe "Ruddy" Roye! Known for his documentary photography specializing in editorial and environmental portraits and as a "Photographer with a Conscience," Roye changes the hearts and minds of everyone he encounters. More about Roye's photographs here

WE SHALL OVERCOME: The Road To Freedom Civil Rights Photographs at Fahey/Klein

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking to 25,000 civil rights marchers at end of Selma to Montgomery, Alabama march, March 25, 1965. Photograph © Stephen Somerstein

Martin Luther King Jr. with John Lewis, Reverend Jesse Douglas, James Forman and Ralph Abernathy and Group Entering Montgomery, 1965. Photograph © Steve Schapiro

The Selma March, 1965
Photograph © Steve Schapiro

Selma Organizer, 1965
Photograph © Steve Schapiro

Eddie Brown being carried off by the Albany police, 1962
Photograph © Danny Lyon

Police Car Window, Atlanta, 1963
Photograph © Danny Lyon

Myrlie Evers at her husband's memorial service, June 15, 1963. Photograph © Flip Schulke

 The bullet hole in Medgar Ever’s home where he was assassinated in Jackson, Mississippi, June, 1963. Photograph © Flip Schulke

Stop Police Killings, Selma, 1965
Photograph © Steve Schapiro

Coretta Scott King, Ebenezer Baptist Church, attending her husband's funeral, (LIFE cover) on April 19, 1968. Photograph © Flip Schulke

Documenting The Road To Freedom

Civil Rights Photographs By
Danny Lyon • Flip Schulke
Steve Schapiro • Stephen Somerstein

The exhibition focuses on the historic 1965 March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to demand free-and-clear voting rights for African Americans. These powerful photographs capture the heroes of the Civil Rights movement – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and James Baldwin – but also the countless grass-roots organizers and anonymous marchers who risked everything to trudge a long, dusty, and violent path to equality.

March 26 thru May 2, 2015

148 North La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles

CHRISTIE'S PHOTOGRAPHY DEPARTMENT: Browse Spring Sale March 27–31, 2015

Christies Auction • Sale 3726 • March 31, 2015 
20 Rockefeller Plaza, New York

It Is Free to Browse the Preview
    Preview Viewing Times
      • Mar 27, 10am - 5pm
     • Mar 28, 10am - 5pm
    • Mar 29, 1pm - 5pm
     • Mar 30, 10am - 2pm

Posted on Istagram by Darius Himes, International Head of Photographs, Christie's / Former Director, Fraenkel Gallery / Co-Founder, Radius Books / Co-Author, "Publish Your Photography Book". Follow https://instagram.com/dariushimes


NEIL SELKIRK: An Exclusive Interview with the elusive Photographer and Arbus Master Printer

 Robert Kennedy Announces for President, 1968
Photograph © Neil Selkirk. All rights reserved

Arbus, Avedon, Selkirk 
Poster for The Minneapolis Institute of The Arts, 1993

G. Gordon Liddy and Timothy Leary for Interview Magazine
Photograph © Neil Selkirk. All rights reserved.

Neil Selkirk and Marvin Israel reviewing prints of "Masked Man at a Ball N.Y.C. 1967" in Diane Arbus's Darkroom, Spring 1972. Photograph by Cosmos Sarchiapone

Marvin Israel and Diane Arbus photographed at her 1971 Master Class by her student Cosmos Sarchiapone.

Diane Arbus: Monograph. Edited and designed by Doon Arbus and Marvin Israel. Published by Aperture in collaboration with the landmark posthumous retrospective exhibition of Arbus' work at the Museum of Modern Art in 1972.

"If people know the work of Diane Arbus from the books, they have been looking almost entirely at reproductions of prints I made. All the books thus far are nearly 100% my prints. My philosophy has always been “if you can tell the difference between mine and hers, I’ve failed.”

L'Oeil de la Photographie
edition March 18, 2015

Neil Selkirk, born in London in 1947, is an accomplished portrait photographer and masterful documentarian. He studied Photography at the London College of Printing, graduating in 1968; later studying with photographer Diane Arbus in her 1971 Master Class. Selkirk worked as an assistant to many of fashion photography’s most iconic figures (Richard Avedon, Hiro and Chris Von Wangenheim) before his own distinctive style succeeded in drawing editorial assignments from major magazines that include Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Interview, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, among others.

I spoke with Selkirk in his New York studio last week about his upcoming exhibition, Certain Women, at Howard Greenberg Gallery and the history of his career through the decades. He is the only person ever authorized to make posthumous prints of the work of Diane Arbus.

Elizabeth Avedon : What year did you come to America? 

Neil Selkirk : Before the end of school in London, I came looking for a job during the two-week Easter vacation. March, 1968. While I was here, Lyndon Johnson withdraws from the Presidency, Martin Luther King Jr. is shot, Newark erupts in riots. I had just interviewed with Irving Penn, I’m walking east on 40th Street towards Fifth Avenue, passing the New York Press Club. The door opens and Bobby Kennedy walks out. He’s just announced for the presidency. With cameras on him, but no crowd, he’s shaking hands with imaginary people so it would look as if he was engaged. I’m standing there with my camera snapping away thinking, “This is Bobby Kennedy!”. So incredibly much happened in the two weeks I was in New York, there was just no question of not coming back.

EA : You once told me some advice you were given about looking for a job in New York. What was it again?

NS : David Montgomery, a fashion photographer in London, said, “Don’t call first. Arrive at the door.” And it was fantastic advice.... My first real day looking for a job in New York I got job offers from Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Melvin Sokolsky, and Bert Stern. All four of them. I was on a tourist visa and I had to go back to London. I accepted the job at Penn, they applied for my visa, but were turned down. They never  appealed, and they never informed me that I didn’t have a job.

I worked for Avedon in London a few weeks later as a local assistant. They had just banned cigarette advertising on television in England and the advertising agencies were trying to find someone to do still photographs that would cost as much as a TV commercial so they could mark it up 15%. So they hired the most expensive photographer in the world, Richard Avedon, to come to London and take pictures of dog’s  heads; a hand holding a cigarette by the head of the dogs, Red setters, Golden Retrievers and some Labs. And that’s what we did for a week. I can’t imagine what they must have paid him.

The great thing about the job was that in the evenings when we weren’t doing these ads, we photographed Anjelica Huston and Julie Driscoll. Polly Mellon, the fashion editor was there - it must have been for Vogue. Julie Driscoll was a pop singer with Brian Auger and Trinity. Musically they were a very hot band at the time. At the end of the shoot, Dick (Avedon) gave her a kiss and she, being very, very English, said in her slightly Cockney accent, “Oh, I bet they’ll be awful,” which is a totally English way to say “Thank you.” He just froze. He sort of straightened, and said, “When I take pictures, they’re good.”

Anjelica Huston was photographed in her father, director John Huston’s house, which is where without knowing it I encountered my first Arbus photograph, an image that shattered me in a way that I had never been affected by a work of art before or since.

We were driving back from the house in a taxi and Dick received a message that said something like, “Mick Jagger can’t do it tomorrow, but he can do it Thursday,” Dick said, “We are shooting on Thursday. If he wants his picture taken, he can come to New York.” I don’t think he ever photographed Jagger. Never did.

I became the Avedon studio guy in Europe. As a result of that, I worked for Hiro in Paris, shooting the Collections for Harpers Bazaar.   

EA : What did you do when you couldn’t get a visa to work for Penn?

NS : When I finally found out that my job in New York with Penn had fallen through I took a job working for Adrian Flowers in London. Flowers was a big name in London’s photography scene in the 1950s through the early 90’s. His studio in Chelsea’s Tite Street was the place to be photographed for advertising and editorials for actors, celebrities and artists.

We’re on the set in Adrian’s studio photographing. I’m off to his right, and I’m probably a pretty good assistant, but he is really uptight about me having worked for Dick and he said, “Neil, I know you’ve worked for all the greatest photographers in the world, and you’re an intimate of Richard Avedon’s, but would you please pass the film holder!” I must have been behaving like a complete jerk. Later, when I approached him with “They want me to go to Paris to work for Hiro for two weeks.” He said, “What if I say no?” I said, “Then I’ll quit.” He should have said, “Get out,” but he folded.

So now I’m in Paris with Hiro and he hires me to work in New York. They had an immigration lawyer and I was able to get a trainee visa. I worked for Hiro for about 9 months in New York. Then Michael O’Neil, who was Hiro’s assistant, left to go on his own and I became the first assistant. I worked there until I left abruptly in July 1971.

EA : What did you do after you left Hiro?

NS : The day after I was fired I got a call from Tina Bossidy, the stylist for Chris Von Wangenheim, who was a rising star in the fashion photography world at that time. She said, “Hello, my name is Tina. I work for Chris Von Wangenheim. We are looking for somebody to assist Chris in Europe.” And I said, “Well, how about me?” She said, “But you work for Hiro” and I said, “Not since yesterday.”

We immediately shot off to Rome and Paris. When we were in Paris, we were in the Harpers Bazaar studio where Chris was shooting the Collections. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Avedon came in  the studio and confided to Chris that Diane Arbus had killed herself. Chris then took me aside and broke the news to me. That was July of 1971. I had done Diane’s class the previous winter.

I sent a postcard to Marvin Israel, art director and intimate friend of Arbus’, that just said, “If anything is going to be done in the way of a show or book, I’ll be back in November and I will be happy to help in any way I can.” I spent the rest of the summer and fall in England and when I got back in November of ’71, Marvin and Doon Arbus, Diane’s daughter,  asked me to work on what became the monograph Diane Arbus and the 1972 posthumous Arbus retrospective show at the Museum of Modern Art.

They needed someone to go through all of her photographs to find the negatives because there was no indication on any of the prints of the associated negative numbers. It still remains a complete mystery how she found her own neg when she wanted to make a print. So I spent the winter going through all her contact sheets looking for the negatives of all the photographs she had ever printed. Finally, in the spring, I started to print for the book and the show.

The show opened at the Museum of Modern Art in November of 1972. It was incredibly successful. I think it was the most successful one artist show the Modern had ever had in any medium, not just photography. It was estimated that over seven million people worldwide saw the exhibition.

Initially, nobody wanted to publish the book. Just before the show was scheduled to open, Michael Hoffman at Aperture said he would publish it, and it immediately went to seven printings. Now it’s one of the most successful photography books of all time. It’s sold half a million copies or so.

[“Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph” Fortieth-anniversary edition, 2011. “The monograph of eighty photographs was edited and designed by the painter Marvin Israel, Diane Arbus’s friend and colleague, and by her daughter Doon Arbus. Their goal was to remain faithful to the standards by which Arbus judged her own work, and to how she hoped it would be seen. Nearly fifty years has not diminished the impact of these pictures; they penetrate the psyche with the force of a personal encounter, and transform the way we see the world. This is the first edition in which the image separations were created digitally; the files have been specially prepared by Robert J. Hennessey using prints by Neil Selkirk.” – Aperture ]

EA : While you were printing for the show, did anyone realize that it was going to change the face of Photography?

NS : No, it was being done because everybody involved had a sense of mission and commitment to do it, because we cared.

I have a couple of memories:

Marvin came down to Diane’s darkroom every morning to look at the prints, which was in the basement of an apartment building. I would finish printing at 2 or 3 in the morning and then meet him four hours later at like 7 o’clock in the morning. I remember he came in one morning and pushed the door open and said, “They shot Wallace!” He was jubilant. 

I remember walking down 7th Avenue from her darkroom and there was a bar called The Buffalo Roadhouse.  It was always on the other side of the road. I remember watching people at 2 or 3am in the morning, just when I finished printing, and thinking, “One day I’m going to be able to buy a beer.“ I literally never went in. I remember cracking open a penny jar to get on the subway which was 35cents and taking 35 pennies. They told me they wouldn’t take pennies.

Nobody had any money, its incredible how little money there was. I was paid something like $3,000. for the year – for the total year – I believe it came from the Museum of Modern Art, plus I got all the film left in Diane’s closet. I got a bunch of 120 film and $3,000. for the year.

None of us could afford anything. We needed one more 16 x 20” processing tray and we couldn’t buy it. We didn’t have the 15 bucks or whatever it was. So I called the Avedon Studio and said, “Have you got a tray you don’t need” and I wound up with this beaten up ancient developer tray of Dick’s which I then used to print the Arbus museum exhibition prints and is now one of the star trays in the book “Developer Trays" (powerHouse Books, 2014).

EA : You are and have been the connecting link to Diane Arbus for all of us through your prints of her work.

NS : I’m very conscious of that as a responsibility. I have always been obsessive about matching every aspect of the character of her prints whenever possible. If people know the work of Diane Arbus from the books, they have been looking almost entirely at reproductions of prints I made. All the books thus far are nearly 100% my prints. My philosophy has always been “if you can tell the difference between mine and hers, I’ve failed.”

They try to get as many original prints as they can for the exhibitions. About 40% of the 1972 MoMA show were my prints. Many more of Diane’s prints have been found since then; there were whole troves of prints that no one knew existed at the time of the MoMA show.

EA : Tell me about the Master Class with Diane Arbus. Is that how you met her?

NS : No, I’d already met her at Hiro’s and Avedon’s studio. She and Marvin would sometimes drop by. In fact she came into Hiro’s one day and asked, “If I give a class would you come?” Paul Corlett, another Hiro assistant, and I said, “Sure!” She asked a lot of people around Westbeth, the artist’s building where she lived, too.

She interviewed and ultimately accepted everybody who applied. My girlfriend, she was probably my wife at that point, had a really, really awful Shepherd mix which I dragged around everywhere. I didn’t know that Diane hated dogs. She later said - essentially that everybody’s work was so bad that she was afraid if she did the class she’d get contaminated. It was so great. She said wonderful things.

Diane’s last Master Class was at Westbeth. Marvin sat in with her on a lot of occasions. Anne Tucker, subsequently photography curator at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, was in that class; Paul Corlett and Cosmos, a widely known eccentric Greenwich Village photographer, were in that class. I think the assignments were based on a class she did with Lisette Model ten years before; and she just reviewed stuff and talked.

A lot of the text in the Aperture monograph is taken from Ikkō Narahara’s recordings of the class. Marvin said the trouble was his English was so bad that he always turned the tape recorder off when she was just about to say something fabulous. You could see something great coming and “plunk” he turned the recorder off.

I felt at the time I didn’t know if I was getting anything out of it. I always thought that I would find out years later. The thing is, I was, subsequently, after her death, so completely swamped by being totally immersed in all of her photography within a year, that I would never know. The immersion in her work completely changed everything for me because I was trained in England as a commercial photographer.

I basically went where Diane had gone, because they were the places that were interested in good photographs. So I went to Esquire and then very gradually, actually started using stuff that I learnt assisting in the commercial world to make glitzy pictures. Then Marvin told Ruth Ansel at the New York Times Magazine she should be using me. I took a portfolio up there of all the stuff I’d been doing for Esquire. She looked through all the work and said, “What’s this in the back of the box?” I said, “It’s just stuff I’ve been doing on the street.” She pulled it out and said, “This is great! Will you do this for us?”  So then I started working for the New York Times Magazine and taking unembellished photographs.

The first job I did for the Times, I think it was Maurice Nadjari, Governor Rockefeller's Special Anti-corruption Prosecutor. I got the photograph I wanted, I made a beautiful big print, I dry mounted it, I overlaid it, I did the whole thing to make it look incredible, took it in and Ruth said, “Wow, this is fantastic” and she ran it in to the editor, and the editor said, “Fantastic” so they ran the picture. After that for a period of years, I delivered a single photograph for each job, and they printed it. It was so amazing, and it lasted until eventually I shot Henry Kissinger who looked in the portrait as if he had doubt. They wanted something a little more heroic so then they asked for the contact prints....I was never able to work the old way again.

So one’s magazine career turns out to have been an endless struggle to get good work published…

Marc Balet, who was Creative Director at Andy Warhol’s Interview came to me and said would I shoot for them. I did a lot of quite good political stuff for them. It was mostly political stuff for the Times Magazine as well. I did all the Watergate people, I would keep getting these calls from Vanity Fair saying photograph this person, photograph that person, photograph the next person, and I did.  A lot of them were really good pictures but they rarely ran the stories.

I used to say, “The best magazines only lasted six months.” What I think I was trying to get at was the idea that quite often, really smart people manage to launch a magazine with very high ideals and standards, but frequently they simply fail, or are so radically watered down in order to survive that they cease to be anything but a shadow of their original concept. The first six months can be an exhilarating time for everyone involved.

The Village Voice did a fashion supplement called View and that lasted six months. The Movies lasted six months. Spy lasted longer but succumbed. Paper and Wired and Colors have survived by adapting, but working on the first issues was thrilling.

There was a magazine that started up by David Bruel called Avenue. It was delivered by limousine to all the doorman buildings between Fifth, Madison, Park from like 57th Street to 86th Street. It was super, super high end, and they just wanted great photography, there were no  restrictions whatever.

I found myself doing this wonderful shtick. Everybody I photographed, and they were all people of social significance in that area…. I suddenly realized, after a couple of assignments, that I had hot dog vendors in the picture, so I started deliberately including them in subsequent shoots; the shadowy figures actually delivered real substance. Then someone from Time Inc took over from David Bruel and he said, “Wait a minute. There’s a hot dog stand in the background!” I said, “Yeah, there’s always a hot dog stand.” I never worked for them again.

At around that time, I had two young children, I started doing corporate work. It paid ten times as much as magazine work. It was almost all traveling. I used to get up in the morning and go to the airport for years. But I simply did not have the time, and in fact could not afford to do all the editorial work. I had a really good gig working for corporations, doing annual reports and things like that. It was completely steady for almost twenty years. I made plenty of money, owned two houses, it put the kids through college. And that business died just as I was ready to get out. In the meantime I had been able to pursue and finance projects of my own devising that are turning into books.

EA : OK, we’ve turned the recorder off several times to tell each other some great stories from the past. Can’t we do a book of everything we can’t say on record?

NS : Isn’t it amazing what isn’t said? For ten or twelve years I did the Dow Jones Annual Report, the Wall Street Journal’s annual reports basically. My favorite place to have lunch was the cafeteria at the Wall Street Journal because everybody who worked there knew everything. I was so aware of how much we never hear about because for various reasons it isn’t published - it can’t be published. It was just amazing all the things these people knew! It’s incredible what you can’t say. I can’t remember what it is I just realized I couldn’t tell you.

It is an indication of how you can’t trust most books that are about anyone in the form of a biography. I don’t know if you are familiar with Heidegger on Aristotle, but I have a great quote that I saved. “What was Aristotle’s life?’ Well, the answer lay in a single sentence:

‘He was born, he thought, he died.’ And all the rest is pure anecdote.” ― Martin Heidegger

Biography presented as truth is bullshit. That’s what’s so great about the “Slide Show and Talk By Diane Arbus” which is essentially a film record of an event. The soundtrack is an original audio recording of a 1970 slide presentation by Diane in which she speaks about photography using her own work and other photographs, snapshots and clippings from her collection. It was compiled and edited by Doon Arbus, Adam Shott and myself.

Even though it was essentially recorded on only one evening – in other words it’s not legitimate to say that this is “her” in the broadest sense – but it’s so much closer, just to hear her voice. It’s so important. You get a clue, where as everything that’s been written doesn’t give you anything like the sort connection….  the attachment one feels from a little bit of somebody talking to someone else about something that interests them.

EA : Is the slideshow a DVD?

NS : It’s not on a DVD. It would be, could be. It’s on hard drives - because it was too big – it’s very complicated - we’re inept.  We would schlep around the world with these hard drives and computers and have back-ups ready and all. It was always deeply stressful making sure it showed up on the screen. There’s a lovely story here. 
+  +  +

Neil Selkirk’s Certain Women are on view at Howard Greenberg Gallery from March 19 – May 2, 2015. A hand bound, limited edition book containing forty-four original, individually signed prints accompanies the show.

March 19th to May 2nd, 2015
Howard Greenberg Gallery
41 East 57th Street, New York

NEIL SELKIRK: Certain Women : Howard Greenberg Gallery

Ruth V.  
Photograph © Neil Selkirk. All rights reserved. 
The prints are embedded in 3/4" thick slabs of 40x50" glass.

Terry E. 
Photograph © Neil Selkirk. All rights reserved. 
The prints are embedded in 3/4" thick slabs of 40x50" glass.

edition March 18, 2015

Neil Selkirk : Certain Women at Howard Greenberg Gallery

“On the day of her portrait each of these women had a child between the ages of ten and twenty,” reads the first line in Neil Selkirk’s hand bound, limited edition book, Certain Women, the same title of his exhibition on view at Howard Greenberg Gallery from March 19 – May 2, 2015. “That is the only thing you know about them. They are all anonymized. You don’t know what her name is, who she is, where she was photographed, when she was photographed.”

“Although in most cases I have spent only ten minutes or so in the presence of these women, since then I’ve been living with them off and on for twenty-five years, but quite intensely for the last five,” Selkirk tells me. “Recently I just started contacting them. Two of my favorites turned out to be related. I just called one, as she still had the same phone number. She has absolutely no recollection whatever of the event - which is exactly what I wanted. I wanted it to be inconsequential. That’s not true. I didn’t want to impose myself on the situation.” 

“The photographs were taken using an ancient 12 x 15” wooden field camera built in the late eighteen or early nineteen hundreds, modified to accept standard 11 x 14” film holders. I chose the camera in part for its massive, daunting presence, it imposed on both subject and photographer a palpable sense of gravity. I was deliberately diffident, and avoided dominating the moment, which tended to leave each subject in communion with herself, gazing, not so much into a lens, as into a mirror that offered no immediate reflection.”

Selkirk, a masterful portrait photographer, first developed the film in his darkroom in the old fashioned way. The negatives were then drum scanned and he made the prints from the resulting digital files using seven different monochrome piezographic inks that he mixed himself. The combination of the huge, luscious film negative, and the unprecedented tonal range of this archival digital printing technology has produced images of exceptional depth and radiance.

A hand bound, limited edition book containing forty-four original, individually signed prints accompanies the show.

EA: Were all of the women shot in New York?

NS: It started out in New York and then I just started going further and further afield; to the Carolina’s, Maryland, Virginia, and I went to Indiana, and eventually all the way to Montana.  Montana was essentially the end. I was there maybe a week or ten days. It was so good, there was just no point in continuing. It was twenty years I was shooting them.

EA: Why didn’t you photograph these women with their children?

NS: It’s about the women in complete remove from the children. It’s about THEM. It was random in that I photographed everybody who said yes. I asked a lot of people I knew, or ran into, did they know anyone. They would say, “I know so and so, so and so” and then I’d ask them. And it was really interesting; it just sort of spread.

Essentially I didn’t try to make anybody comfortable. I would show up at somebody’s house, obviously I’d arranged it, and I said “I want you just the way you are, nothing special” and I’d look around and decide where I’m going to take the picture. I’d say give me 20 minutes or half an hour to set the camera up and I’ll whistle when the time comes. Almost invariably that’s what happened. I would get the camera set up and find what the picture was. My philosophy has always been not to root desperately looking for the perfect place. The right place to take the picture the philosophy says is “right here, right now.”

So if you are standing outside, I’m going to do it “here”.  I’ve taken a lot of pictures and I know what the consequences of “here” are going to be. It’s very consciously not trying to find a story that I want to tell. It’s taking me as far out of the process of editorializing by use of the background as I possibly can. Obviously you’re making decisions all the time, but if you say I’m not going to go round and round and find the most perfectly lit location, I’m just going to take the picture of the woman from “here.” And then we’ll see whether they are worth looking at.

Describing the prints embedded in massive three quarter inch thick slabs of forty by fifty-inch glass, Selkirk says, “They feel great, like this exquisite thing to the touch. The mothers images are eternally suspended, as if frozen in perpetuity in amber.”
March 19th to May 2nd, 2015
Howard Greenberg Gallery
41 East 57th Street, NY