My friends at PhotoEye Gallery informed me recently that the Astra Velum Limited Edition Artist Book has passed the halfway mark. In fact, as of this writing, there are only 7 of the 25 editioned copies left. PhotoEye will have the book at FotoFest, as well as at their gallery and online bookstore. You can also purchase the book from me directly, from 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland, and Panopticon Gallery in Boston. Order your copy today, and add it to your collection, before they’re all gone.
I was so very saddened this week to learn of the passing of dear friend and photographer, Jim Leisy. Jim was an anchor in the Portland photo community, someone who made things happen.
Jim and I spent a week in China together in November, at the Lishui Photo Festival. We had a great time exploring, photographing, and showing our own work at the festival. Above is a portrait I took of him at a lake outside of Lishui.
Full of good humor and kindness, he will be sorely missed.
A few months ago, I received an email from Yan Li, curator at High Noon Culture and Art in Beijing, China. I had met her briefly at PhotoLucida in March—and by briefly I mean I ran over to her table at the very end of the very last review session, gave her my collateral, and that was it.
So I was a little surprised when she emailed me several months later, inviting me and 9 other American photographers to show their work in November at the 2013 Lishui International Photography Festival in Lishui, China. I was eating lunch at a cheap teriyaki shop when I received the email, and immediately texted my wife, “Can I go to China in November?” She said yes.
So, here I am, flying from Hong Kong to Wenzhou, China, where I’ll be picked up and driven 2 hours to Lishui, China. Like me, you’ve heard of Portland, Oregon, and its 1 million residents, but you’ve never heard of Lishui, China, and its 2.6 million inhabitants. What immediately struck me in preparing for this trip was how little I actually knew of China and its geography. I couldn’t have told you where anything was on a map, Beijing or Tibet or Shanghai or Chengdu, or Lishui.
I’ve spent several days in Hong Kong with dear friends, and enjoyed my time immensely. They’ve also helped me brush up on a few key phrases in Mandarin (which I vaguely recalled from my time with them in Taiwan 15 years ago).
Aside from my Mandarin, it’s been hard to know how to prepare, or what to expect, in Lishui. We were told to show up on November 4, 2013. We were asked to bring 15 matted prints. And that’s it.
I’ve read blog posts by other American photographers invited in previous years. But that’s about all I have to go on.
So, I’m going to roll with the punches, and I’m expecting it to be an adventure.
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And an adventure it was. My time in Lishui was so full, I had no time to write updates. Now that the dust is settling, here’s a recap and a number of random thoughts on the week:
First, I had a great time with a bunch of great people. Going in to this trip, I was unsure about how the group dynamic between our contingent of 9 American photographers would be. (Heidi Kirkpatrick, Jim Leisy, Susan Kae Grant (and her husband Richard Klein), Clay Lipsky, Barbara Ciurej, Bill Vaccaro, Ryan Zoghlin, Fritz Liedtke, and curator Yan Li.) I needn’t have worried. We had a fantastic time together. Not only did we all like and respect each other as artists, but we had a lot of fun.
Next, the festival. This was the 2013 15th Lishui International Photography Festival. Finding detailed information online about the festival is pretty much impossible, even with Google Translate. As I mentioned before, we really knew nothing more than what to bring and where to land. Beyond that, we just took everything one step at a time. Our hotel wasn’t great, but sufficient. They plied and piled food on us meal after meal, far more than we could eat. The government paid for the whole thing, so we didn’t have to shell out a penny, except for drinking water (!), a tour, and souvenirs.
The festival itself is actually pretty incredible. It consists of the work of hundreds of photographers—some in collections of an individual photographers’ work (such as our exhibits), and some group shows curated by guest curators (such as the large show of photography books curated by Chiara Capodici and Fiorenza Pina of Little Big Press in Italy). According to an article in Lishui Today, “more than 150,000 works by photographers from 98 countries and regions were received, of which over 600 photographs were selected and exhibited.” It spanned perhaps a dozen venues, of which there were 4 major sites. Our particular site was an old oil pump factory. It was both awe-inspiringly beautiful and dumpy at the same time. Beautiful light filtered in to these old factory buildings, which were filled with photography. But the floors and walls were still covered with dirt and oil stains. An odd juxtaposition, something in China that you just get used to. In the 6 or so buildings at our site, one with 4 stories of work, there were hundreds of photographs and books on display.
Our group’s work was hung in a large building with high ceilings and clerestory windows. It turned out to be an excellent location for portraiture, of which I took full advantage. Here are some of my portraits of my fellow artists, and some local curators and photographers, at the factory:
On our last evening together, after a long day of sightseeing, Yan informed us that she had some good news. She told us that out of our group of 10 people, we had been given 4 major awards: Susan Kae Grant won an Award of Excellence, Barbara Ciurej (and her collaborator Lindsay Lochman, who wasn’t able to come) won a Grand Prize, I also won a Grand Prize for the Astra Velum series, and our curator Yan Li won a Curator’s Award. Out of 11 awards given to photographers, our little group walked away with 3 of them. (You have to understand that we didn’t know there were any awards at this festival. Like so much on this trip, we didn’t know anything about it until we were eating dinner at Pizza Hut on the last night, and Yan shared the good news with us.)
Our group had plenty of adventures together outside of the photo festival. From having tea with a celadon pottery master, to foot massages, to bus trips into the terraced rice paddies, we really enjoyed each other’s company. I also really enjoyed getting to know local Chinese people. Each day, our hotel was assigned 5 local university students to act as helpers/translators for the photo festival’s guests. When I travel, I most enjoy getting to know local people, customs, language, and culture. So I made it a point to talk with some of the students each day. They also became our translators, tour bookers, photography store locators, models, and friends. Clay Lipsky and I also met a number of Chinese curators and photographers at the exhibition. Everyone was very friendly; one photographer we’d just met was receiving an award at the Lishui Photography Museum; he asked us to pose in photos with him as he was given his award, and also gave several of us small prints as gifts.
Speaking of Chinese photographers, people in China like to take pictures of foreigners. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say I was photographed more during my week in Lishui than I had been in the previous 10 years combined. Aside from a few photos of us ending up in the local paper, I have no idea what those people will do with the images of us and our work. But it was fun to feel like a rock star for a week, autographs and all.
And while I’m speaking of autographs, let me offer a little advice to anyone reading this that is invited to future Lishui Photo Festivals:
- First of all, if you get invited, go. Go into it with a spirit of adventure.
- Also go with a generous attitude; make friends with your fellow photographers from near and far. Make sure no one feels left out.
- Bring cards to autograph and give away. People will LOVE this. Bring a Sharpie so you can sign your cards in front of people. Hand it to a Chinese person using both hands, which is a sign of respect.
- Buy/drink bottled water. Don’t get dehydrated.
- Bring a few gifts to give to other photographers, your curator, or new friends. A small print, or copies of your book, will suffice, and will make you a lifelong friend.
- Get a VPN (Virtual Private Network) client on your laptop and phone. This will allow you to access Facebook and other sites that the Chinese government blocks, and also keep your data more secure.
- Check your mobile phone plan and understand what your international data/text/phone plan is. Thankfully my carrier, Tmobile, just started offering free international texting and data, and cheap phone calls, so I didn’t feel at all hampered while abroad.
- Get a foot massage at a reputable masseuse. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone in the States to give one like the Chinese do.
INTIMATE STORIES AND PORTRAITS REVEAL THE SECRET WORLD OF EATING DISORDERS
Artist Fritz Liedtke’s new book Skeleton in the Closet culminates an 8-year project
telling the stories of people struggling with anorexia and bulimia.
Portland, Oregon (October 22, 2013)— Artist and photographer Fritz Liedtke has published his new book, Skeleton in the Closet: Eating Disordered Lives, culminating eight years of listening to and photographing women and men with eating disorders, and shedding light on this secretive world.
In a society saturated with shallow, narrow definitions of beauty, eating disorders are an increasingly prevalent trend. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, “In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life….”
Movie stars, magazines, fad diets, internet porn, fashion models, MTV…the pressure to look thin and to be successful is an oppressive force that is difficult to resist. In lives that are spinning out of control, controlling what you eat can feel powerful—as can keeping it a secret.
Skeleton in the Closet’s intimate portraits of women and men struggling with the secrets of anorexia and bulimia is both fine art monograph and memoir. Through compelling photographs and personal stories, it reveals a first-person look inside the minds of those who live with and try to leave behind an eating disorder.
Artist Fritz Liedtke—who relates the story of his own struggle with anorexia in his introduction—has created an award-winning series that includes women and men of all ages and ethnicities. The book is prefaced with an essay by award-winning novelist Gina Ochsner, and offers insight and hope to anyone wanting to better understand eating disorders and the challenge of overcoming addiction.
Fritz Liedtke is a professional photographer and artist, whose award-winning work is regularly featured in magazines, and collected in to museum collections. His most recent book, Astra Velum, was published in 2012. Gina Ochsner’s novels and short stories have won the Flannery O’Connor Award and The Oregon Book Award, received NEA and Guggenheim grants, and been published in The New Yorker, Glimmertrain, and The Kenyon Review.
Skeleton in the Closet is available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and other fine booksellers.
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Join author Gina Ochsner and I for an author signing party in celebration of the release of Skeleton in the Closet!
October 11, 2013, 7-9pm, at my studio, we’ll be having drinks and hors d’oeuvres, books for sale at a discount, and more. I’d love to see you there!
The studio is located at 2809 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, in Portland. It’s a bright orange building, and hard to miss. Come by, say hi, enjoy some wine, and celebrate with us!
(If you’d like to RSVP, you can do so on the Facebook event page–but feel free to come even if you don’t RSVP.)
For many with eating disorders, the food they eat isn’t seen as nourishment, but as an obsession or poison.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health and research published in leading psychiatric journals, those with anorexia, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder have higher suicide rates than any other mental condition. Newly published research findings reported by Corban Assistant Professor of Biology Sarah Comstock, Ph.D., address a new area of concern; women struggling with eating disorders while pregnant may also predispose their children to obesity and other health risks.
On Oct. 15, the complexities and human side of eating disorders will be explored during a free public forum at Corban University. Comstock and award-winning photographer Fritz Liedtke, whose book and gallery exhibit “Skeleton in the Closet” presents firsthand accounts of women and men who have struggled with eating disorders, will hold an open and candid conversation about this issue.
During the “Skeleton in the Closet, The Intersection of Art and Science Explore: Body Image, Eating Disorders, Obesity and Pregnancy” event, Comstock will present her scientific findings and Liedtke will discuss the intimate conversations and emotions involved with his project.
The free public forum begins with a reception in the Psalm Visual Arts Gallery at 6 p.m. and will be followed by a discussion at 7 p.m.
Corban University is located at 5000 Deer Park Dr. SE in Salem. For more information, email Psalm Visual Arts Gallery Director Steve Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 503-375-7591.
I am very pleased to announce that Skeleton in the Closet: Eating Disordered Lives has been published. The result of many years of work, this powerful series is now available in print form in a beautiful 102-page book.
Skeleton in the Closet’s intimate portraits of women and men struggling with the secrets of anorexia and bulimia is both fine art monograph and memoir. Combining compelling photographs and personal stories, it gives the reader a compassionate, first-person look inside the minds of those who live with and try to leave behind an eating disorder.
Artist Fritz Liedtke—who relates the story of his own struggle with anorexia in his introduction—has created an award-winning series that includes women and men of all ages and ethnicities. This beautiful, full-color book is prefaced with a moving essay by author Gina Ochsner, and offers insight and hope to anyone wanting to better understand life with an eating disorder and the challenge of overcoming addiction.
The book contains new images, as well as the new essay. It’s beautiful, haunting, and hard to put down.
The book is available on Amazon, as well as other fine booksellers. Purchase your copy here–and I’ll be happy to sign it for you next time I see you.
This month I was awarded one of the coveted Best of ASMP awards for 2013. The American Society of Media Photographers is the gold standard for photographers working in commercial and editorial photography, so it’s a real honor to be named to one of the top spots.
The award was featured in the ASMP magazine, as well as in an extensive interview online. View the print magazine feature, and read the online interview, about my projects Astra Velum and Skeleton in the Closet.
The Astra Velum Limited Edition Artist Book was recently purchased by several museum collections. I’m honored to have the book and photogravures added to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Griffin Museum of Photography, and the Scripps College Rare Book Collection, as well as a number of private collectors. There are still copies available; add yours to your collection today!
When I was in my teens, I remember picking up a Zane Gray novel from my grandparents’ bookshelf. I remember thinking to myself, “This book is solid; it is the perfect size and weight.” The heft of it in my hand, the embossed hardcover, the deckled edges of the paper, the lightly embossed text…it was perfect. It was the first time I’d thought of a book as something more than just a medium for words.
Over the years, I’ve designed a few hundred books for clients, and for myself. I’ve also made a few handmade books in art classes. But more recently, having seen handmade books by Lauren Henkin, Heidi Kirkpatrick, Laura Russell, and others, it dawned on me that there was more to explore in the medium of book arts.
Inspired by this, I created several hand-carved antique books, repurposing old books with my own images and imagination. I had a similar feeling in picking them up as I did with the Zane Gray book: they felt good in my hand. And inside the covers, they were full of surprises.
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In thinking about fine art photography books, both the form and the content should matter. Most press printed photography books are plain books, with pictures and words printed in them. The form is bland, and has little to do with the content. On the other hand, artist books often feature innovative book forms, but the content on the pages is weak or lacks cohesion and purpose.
With Astra Velum, I wanted to create a book in which both the content and the form are meaningful, beautiful, and solid. If you consider the various elements that compose the book, you’ll notice the thought put into them. The custom cover paper references stars in the night sky—just as the title Astra Velum is Latin for ‘veil of stars’, itself a reference to the constellations of freckles on these faces. Each piece of cover paper is uniquely textured and speckled, just as each face is unique. The essay text, embossed with warm inks into the paper, is reminiscent of the texture of warm freckles on flawed skin. The intimacy of the portraits themselves is heightened by the fact that you are holding them in your hand, close to your own face.
Ultimately, holding the book in your hands becomes an experience. More than merely looking at photos on a wall, or reading an essay in a magazine, opening the cover of Astra Velum becomes a way to enter in to the beauty and pain of the women whose stories are captured in the book.
Here is how one recent collector described the experience:
Your Astra Velum artist book and Ella photogravure print arrived a couple hours ago. Since we are experiencing a particularly cold and snowy winter, I removed the contents of the well packed shipping box and placed the individually wrapped book and print on my front room viewing table to allow time to come to room temperature.
I decided to first open the photogravure of Ella. Being unfamiliar with photogravure and understanding you had made adjustments to the process to best reflect your vision, I removed the print from its sleeve and protective covers not knowing what to expect. Well, I was amazed with what was before me. I know it will take many hours of viewing and reflection to begin to truly appreciate Ella, but already I cannot imagine being happier with my acquisition.
Next I picked up the artist book. Its size and heft, rich fabric with sparkles, and Ella’s image showing through the window all witnessed I was holding something special and precious in my hands. The images are stunning and Gina Ochsner’s story brought tears. Although I have only spent a little time examining the book I am touched by the beauty of its images and fullness of its words, not to mention its exquisite craftsmanship.
I am certain I have acquired what will become most treasured possessions.
I was pleased to discover that my image “Asia” was awarded the Grand Prize in Rangefinder Magazine’s B&W Alternative Photographic Processes competition. You can see the article in their digital edition online at Rangefinder.