“I believe everyone in your dreams represents a psychological aspect of yourself. So the whole Guest group is offered as an extended self-portrait - females and all.”—Chris Bucklow
The Danziger Gallery in New York has recently opened its second solo show of Christopher Bucklow’s arresting photograms. While certainly not a departure, artistically speaking, from his past photographic work, these photograms are nevertheless beautiful to behold.
Light on paper. Each print is a unique display: the sun’s rays poring through thousands of pinhole apertures in an aluminum foil sheet mapping a human silhouette, each photogram reflecting the length of exposure and intensity of the sun at a given moment. The final result is singular and ethereal, a Cibachrome print that is its own negative.
Beauty is a worthy pursuit whatever the medium. Bucklow’s love of light and color, along with the psychological underpinnings of this work, give these photograms their staying power. Already part of many major museums and collections, Bucklow’s sun-fueled photographs remind us that it’s ok to believe in our dreams. —Lane Nevares
“[Bucklow’s] life-sized photograms are made in a four step process. First, the artist traces the shadow of his model onto a thin sheet of aluminum. The defined silhouette is then run through with small holes, one for each day that the subject has been alive. The metal is placed over a large sheet of photographic paper and exposed briefly to the sun.
These portraits capture something more than a shape, Bucklow references this in connecting the amount of light to the age of the sitter. The prints are limited to one each. The radiation sensitive material is exposed creating an image as unique as the person it captures.”
Photographer Christopher Bucklow pushes the boundaries of his medium to explore nature, process, and the human form. As a part of the “cameraless” photographic movement in the U.K., Bucklow’s ongoing “Guest” series (1993-) uses pinhole camera techniques to create large-scale photograms of human figures. The complex process begins with projecting silhouettes onto aluminum foil and tracing them with thousands of small pinholes. He then places the foil over a sheet of photographic paper and exposes it to sunlight, the various qualities of light on a given day yielding different colors and shades in the projected image.
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Research into England’s oldest medieval altarpiece – which for centuries provided the backdrop to Westminster Abbey coronations – has revealed that it cost no more than the rather unprincely equivalent of eight cows.
Cambridge conservation scientist Spike Bucklow uncovered the knock-down cost of the 1260 AD ‘Westminster Retable’ while researching his latest book 'Riddle of the Image’, which delves into the materials used in medieval works of art.
Commissioned by Henry III during the construction of Westminster Abbey, the altarpiece’s use of fake gemstones is already well documented. However, what has not been known until now is just how little the king would have paid for the Retable, the oldest known panel painting in England. Read more.
Whether it’s Yuji Obata spending five years figuring out how to capture snowflakes in free-fall or Corinne Vionnet’s exploration of tourist snapshots found online, the photographers shown at James Danziger Gallery create beautifully compelling images that reinterpret the way we see the world. The gallery’s roster includes art world icons Andy Warhol and Hans Breder, “Cameraless” photography pioneers Christopher Bucklow and Susan Derges, renowned social documentary photographer Milton Rogovin, digital photography trailblazer Thierry Cohen and preeminent aerial photographer Michael Light.
Thierry Cohen, New York 40º 44’ 39” N 2010-10-13 lst 0:04, AP1 after an edition of 5.
After an illustrious 15-year career in the magazine business, James Danziger founded the gallery in 1990. A Yale graduate, Danziger published his first book on photography almost right out of college. He also worked at The Photographers’ Gallery—London’s first independent gallery devoted to the medium. At the young age of 25, he was hired as the photo editor of London’s Sunday Times Magazineand then moved to New York in 1984, when the legendary Tina Brown became editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair magazine and hired him as the features editor. From there, he continued to build formative relationships with important photographers—Annie Leibovitz, Elliott Erwitt, Evelyn Hofer. These relationships, along with writing an in-depth feature on the Robert Miller Gallery for New York Magazine, were part of what led to him becoming a dealer.
Enoc Perez, Untitled, 2015, Unique Hand Cut & Painted Collage Over Pigment Print.
During the 1990s, the gallery was located in SoHo. It closed briefly from 2000-2004 and reopened in Chelsea, remaining there until February 2016, when it relocated to the Lower East Side. The gallery’s current location at 95 Rivington is a sleek, two-story space designed by RISD graduates Adam Hyman and Georgia Read. Currently on view is a survey of the career of Susan Derges, who has been with the gallery for over 25 years.
Danziger chatted with us about how he became one of the most respected photography dealers in the country, the tendency new collectors should avoid when buying works, what he is bringing to Paris Photo and more.
You were a successful photo editor and journalist for many years. What inspired you to become an art dealer?
One of the last things I did as a journalist was write a very thorough piece on the Robert Miller Gallery for New York Magazine in the late ‘80s—when the gallery was the red-hot center of what was cool and happening in the art world. It made a great impression on me.
What was your first exhibition?
A show of Eliot Porter’s cloud photographs. I helped Harold Evans launch Condé Nast Travelerand had been sent a book which was a retrospective of Eliot Porter’s work. There were maybe four or five photographs of clouds scattered throughout the book, so I called up his studio and asked if there were more cloud pictures because I thought they were so interesting. It turned out that one of Porter’s passions was photographing clouds and he had boxes and boxes of prints of them that had never been shown. I was able to edit a show out of that and fortunately we sold every one.
What was the biggest challenge in the beginning?
Funny enough, the thing that was always the biggest problem for me in the beginning was figuring out discounts. People always ask for discounts and expect them. I came up with a system where the first person who asked got 20% off, the next person got 15% and the third person got 10%. Nobody could understand it. Now we never give discounts. (Just kidding.)
One my favorite discount stories is when my wife’s uncle, who is an art collector, came to buy a piece and asked what I could do for him. I said I could do 10% and he turned to me and said, “Even my enemies give me 10%.”
Chuck Close, Sunflower, 2007, archival pigment print, Edition of 25.
Does pricing get more complicated with the editioning of photographs?
The editioning of photography is probably the single biggest barrier of entry into the photography market. Within the photography world I think it’s pretty established and people understand how and why it works, but one of my mantras is that, “photography collectors collect photography.” What that means is that it’s such a specialized field that if you haven’t defined yourself as someone who’s specifically interested in photography, it’s going to be difficult for you to buy an editioned piece because your mindset just doesn’t work that way. It’s an area that you really have to devote yourself to in order to understand all of the nuances and issues that relate to having a negative or digital file as opposed to a print. There are unique photographic works, but the majority of pieces being shown in galleries and museums as photography are editioned pieces.
Christopher Bucklow, Tetrarch, 2015, Unique Cibachrome.
Why was there a 4-year gap in the gallery history? It closed between 2000 and 2004.
In the late 1990s I was very excited by the Internet. So, in 2000, I started a company called Artland to provide high-quality images via print-on-demand technology. We didn’t carry inventory but had licensing agreements with major museums—The Met, The Whitney, The Louvre. Simply said, we were ahead of our time. So, Artland folded and I then worked as the director of Magnum Photos for two years. I decided I worked best doing my own thing, so I reopened my gallery in 2004. Fortunately most of the artists we had represented came back.
How do you define your gallery’s aesthetic?
I favor works that are harmonious as opposed to dissonant. I think it takes courage as a dealer to practice that point of view today. Finding work that is of the highest standard conceptually but is also aesthetically pleasing is a challenge. It seems like it’s much easier to get critical acclaim, and be perceived as a legitimate top-flight dealer, if the work you’re showing is confrontational or dissonant. So that’s an issue I am always dealing with.
O. Winston Link, Officer Painter Patrol Main Street, Stanley, Virginia., 1956, inch gelatin silver print.
How have you navigated that?
I just look far and wide for work that is conceptually rigorous and aesthetically pleasing. Susan Derges’ work is a great example. I started working with her in the early ‘90s when she was first experimenting with the form of the photogram, which is a photograph made without a camera. She started putting large pieces of color photographic paper in a river at night, allowing the currents and eddies and the foliage by the banks of the river to make their way over the paper.
Then, she would allow the light to capture whatever was happening on top of the paper at that moment. They are original, important works of art that are conceptually important and process-driven—but they are also ravishingly beautiful.
Your current exhibition surveys Derges’ work over the past 25 years. What other works are on view?
Her first series “The Observer and the Observed,” which is a recreation of a Victorian scientific experiment in which you break up a stream of water using sound. In each of the drops, you see her face.
Susan Derges, Observer and Observed No. 12, 1991, Gelatin Silver Print, Edition of 3.
“Full Circle,” which is a sequence of photograms that follow frogspawn as they hatch into tadpoles and then develop into grown frogs. An eight-feet wide work from her “Shoreline” series, made from a wave breaking over photographic paper.
We are also exhibiting her newest pieces made in rock pools on the coast of England. Anywhere where there is a rocky environment next to water, plant and marine life will gather and make little pools. Susan has been scrupulously recording where the rock pool is and what comes out of it—taking things from the rock pool to her studio and making oval pieces. She puts them back in the exact rock pool they came from because she is very ecologically conscious.
What are you showing next in the gallery?
The gallery is 99% photography but our next exhibition will be a painting show by British artist Annie Kevans. The series that will be the main part of our show is called “The History of Art” and features 20 portraits of women painters and presents an alternate history of painting. They range chronologically from the 17th century to the present.
What will you exhibit at Paris Photo?
Paul Fusco’s “RFK Funeral Train” pictures. In 1968, Paul Fusco was on the train that took Bobby Kennedy’s body from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York to Arlington Cemetery in Washington to be buried. It was a hot June Saturday and people came out all along the route to pay their respects. There were other photographers on the train but Paul was the only photographer who photographed what was going on the whole way. He took more than 1,200 pictures that day.
Paul Fusco, Untitled from the RFK Train, 1968, Printed in 2008, cibachrome print, Edition 8 of 10.
I knew Paul from when I worked at Magnum Photos. When I left, I said to him, “I want to publish the definitive set of pictures from ‘RFK Funeral Train.’” Up until that point there were only 150 pictures located. We found the rest at the Library of Congress. They had 1,200 unseen slides, and I went through every single one and convinced the Aperture Foundation to publish a book. We created the master set, which we sold to numerous museums and collectors, but they have not been shown at Paris Photo before. We’re hoping the work will speak for itself.
Advice for collectors?
The tendency for new collectors is usually to try to buy the iconic images of the medium. It’s worthwhile to try to find equally good but lesser known images that speak to you. A cookie-cutter collection of iconic images looses its appeal quite quickly.
Advice for an aspiring dealer?
1. If you can’t open a gallery with a show that sells out, get out of town. You’ve had a long time to think about what you’re going to open with.
2. There is no such thing as a too crowded opening.
3. You’ll know at the end of the show what you should have known at the beginning. Try to make the differential as small as possible.
Liz Nielsen, Midnight Stroll, 2016, Analog Chromogenic Photo, Unique Printed on Fujiflex.
Post written by Nicole Casamento. All photos courtesy of Danziger Gallery, New York.