A photograph by Bruce Gilden from Magnum's "House of Photos" archive in Rochester, New York.
The New Yorker‘s Whitney Johnson talking to Alec Soth about the creation of Magnum’s photographic archive of Rochester, New York:
A year ago we did a project called Postcards From America. It was a groundbreaking experiment. Rather than waiting to be commissioned, we just made a decision to do something and hit the road. We drove from San Antonio to Oakland. It was really thrilling. But it was also pretty chaotic.
Martin Parr had the idea of doing an archive project similar to what he’d done in the Black Country. Archives are about preserving history. So it made sense to work in a place that was in economic transition. So we started thinking about Northeast industrial cities. Initially we thought about Detroit, but it has already been so well covered by photographers. So we began thinking about other areas and Rochester came up. Given the demise of Kodak, the idea of a photographic archive in this place where so much photographic history was born made a lot of sense. Read More »
I was not surprised when the “occupation” of Zucotti Park was cleared out last November by the NYPD. What surprised me was that it could persist for nearly two months in a place as spatially constricted as Manhattan. New York City is not particularly hospitable to those who wish to live off-the-grid or create autonomous spaces for themselves — artistic, radical, political, or otherwise. New York, it sometimes feels, is the grid.
As urban speculative fiction, Zone One describes, intentionally or not, the problems of the modern American city as a relevant shared cultural space. In its post-apocalyptic world, in which power structures are more diffuse and spread out, meaningful interaction comes from authentic interpersonal exchanges, however fleeting, that occur between nomadic groups of humans perpetually migrating from settlement to settlement. It’s these interactions — based around accumulated rituals, oral histories, shared stories, personal confessions, and folktales — that empower emotionally drained citizens and give them the motivation to carry on. In this world, the values of New York City are increasingly useless — ego, blind ambition, some nondescript, oblique concept of “making it,” brand names, branded identities. Whitehead introduces a genus of zombie called a “straggler,” a zombie whose neural pathways have calcified around a specific, arbitarary task that took up their day when they had a waking life. So it goes, secretaries meaninglessly open and close file cabinets, cashiers blindly punch registers, and the city hums, somehow, at its mindless pace, now a gameshow of gestures and pantomimes that hint at bigger, louder, equally empty ambitions. Read More »