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Happy New Year / Meilleurs Voeux 2017

Au Large.


Let's see how far we can go.

All my very best wishes.


Voyons jusqu'où nous irons sur l'embarcation du moment.

Avec mes meilleurs souhaits pour vous sur la votre.


Trump in Selma

TheSilentMajority_2_1400px_CFascination for the Absurd.


I had to go see Donald Trump, and it was quite an eerie experience. This was in Selma N.C., about 57 miles from Durham, but in an alternate universe. I thought I'd be safe with my disguisement, but there is no mask for someone like me in such an environment. There is a video on the Facebook page of the Church of Photography (click on "videos" on the left) of this adventure by my companion film maker Stewart Nelsen in this adventure. The photographs here need no commentary.


Il a bien fallu que je fasse mon devoir professionel, et que j'aille rendre visite à Donald Trump. Le calendrier a voulu que cela soit à Selma, Caroline du Nord, à environ 95 Kms de Durham, mais dans un univers alternatif. J'espérais que mon déguisement avec T-Shirt nationaliste et casquette du tour de France me rendrait sufficient ridicule pour passer inaperçu, vain effort. La leçon est qu'il n'est pas de masque pour mon genre d'acabit dans un tel monde. Ma carrière d'agent secret est remis en cause. Mon compagnon dans cette mission, Stewart Nelsen, Réalisateur, a produit une vidéo accessible sur la page Facebook de l'Eglise de la Photographie (clicker sur "videos" dans le menu à gauche). Les photographies ici n'ont sans doutes besoin d'aucun commentaire.

IsisInfiltrator_1200px_CIsis Infiltrator

Chuck Cromagnon

LockHerUp_1400px_CThe People Want Games and Bread

Funny Investor

Cheerleaders_1400px_CThe Trump Cheerleading Section

TheMussoliniMoment_1400px_CThis Mussolinian Moment


Cervantes is Among Us, The Origin

Edward Weston_Pepper 1930

Edward Weston: Pepper ,1930

In 1856, Gustave Courbet painted The Origin of the World (see below) which is my favorite painting in the whole art history. While there are many Van Gogh and more contemporary painting s that I adore, this painting is my desert island one because of the challenge it implies to the bourgeois vision of the world. I find it utterly modern, and still provocative more than 150 years later. It is also notable that this very realistic painting, especially for its time, came on the heels of the invention of photography in 1837, and it is my belief that we are then witnessing the start of the realists movement that the French poet Charles Baudelaire will incarnate, notably with Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) which will owe him prosecution for indecency by the second Empire later in the 19th Century.

I mention Courbet's painting, as I am talking of "origins" here, and it seems that Courbet's masterpiece, opens the way to sexually explicit art in modern Western art, and therefore to what follows. I understand that posting this painting is controversial, especially in America, and so I will also add something that Adam Gopnik wrote "“… I think the French view of sex and life is essentially right and ought to be universally applicable: Sex with children or by force is wrong, and the rest is just the human comedy, unfolding, as it will. Puritanism is a sin against human nature ...” Adam is obviously talking of the French culture of the 21st Century, not the one of the 19th which it seems that some other countries are stuck into.

Somewhat later in 1930, Edward Weston, the father of photography as an art form, produces the pepper photograph above. It is a sensual study of shape that will mark the history of photography. There is no clear suggestion of anything particular, except for the voluptousness of what until then had only be seen as a mere vegetable.

CervantesIsAmongUs_Jean-Christian Rostagni

Jean-Christian Rostagni: Cervantes is Among Us, 2005

In 2001 we took our first trip to France since I had moved to the U.S. in 1993. The whole family (Trisha and our two daughters, then very young) went along. We visited Denis and his wife Solange in Bonnieux; I was writing then my first article for Photo techniques magazine on Denis. Soon upon our return, I find an eggplant at the market that was clearly reminiscent of Denis's and that surprizing pear. I of course bought the eggplant with the intention of photographing it, and realized that a studio photograph would border plagiarism of Denis' work. So I decided to bring the "subject" in my world, the everyday world, and this is how The Old Bore and the Kid in Me was born during a breakfast at Weaver Street Market with our friends Kelli Dugan and John St Clair.
The child in the background is our daughter Olivia, that Denis had quite charmingly bonded with during our then recent visit. The Old Bore and the Kid in Me inspired me to start a series titled La Nature Humaine which is a collection of photographs of nature metaphoric for human tales, and is in tribute to Denis and through him to Weston.

In october 2005 I saw those mushrooms at Duke Gardens. They were growing under a large oak tree, and that pear photograph of Denis clearly came back to my mind. This photograph though has political implications, as beyond the obvious sexual analogy, it above all wants to be reminiscent of the little guy who is not afraid of the bigger or more powerful ones, or if he is, hedoes not give in to his fears. I see Don Quixote in this mushroom that I hope to be emblematic of the call to stand up for what is right and against the forces of oppression which go back to the origins of society, and have nothing to do with Courbet's painting.

Denis Brihat_Poire-_Pear__-1971

Denis Brihat: Pear ,1971

In the early 50's, my mentor Denis Brihat sees an exhibition of Edward Weston in Paris, falls in love with that approach of photography which he decides to explore himself, in that direction. I will meet Denis in 1977, as one of my professors in the Department of Photography in the University of Sciences, Saint Charles in Marseille, and he will become a major source of inspiration for me. In the 50's Denis had settled in Bonnieux in the Luberon and since then developed there a collection of black and white photographs of vegetal life (fruits, vegetables, herbs, trees) colorized through toning, which means that he essentially photographed vegetal life and transformed it into mineral prints. I consider Denis as the current Edward Weston, as his work presents a clear evolution from Weston, pushing its boundaries.

Denis has always been an avid gardner, and once planted a pear tree, which the first year only produced one pear, the one in the photograph above. This photograph is iconic of Denis's work and was certainly present in my mind when I shot Cervantes is Among Us. Denis Brihat is represented in the U.S. by Nailya Alexander's gallery in New York.


Can You Be a Successful Investor?

Edward Weston, Charis, Santa Monica, 1936. 9"1/2 x 7" 5/8, sold in December 2014 at Sotheby's for $653,000.

Eveil Matisse, nu

Jean-Christian Rostagni, Eveil Matisse aver Béatrice, Atelier en Provence, 1990. 12" x 18" piezzography prints, only a few left, $775.

Alfred Stieglitz, Evening, New York, 1931. 9"5/8 x 7" 1/2, sold in December 2014 at Sotheby's for $929,000.

new york, empire State, rockefeller view

Jean-Christian Rostagni, The City with Altitude, 2007. 13" tall print: $400., 16.5" tall print: $650.


Heard on the Radio

Obama inauguration



Mario, SoHo
Mario's Window for Thirty Years

This is a window in Mario's loft on Greene in SoHo. A 32" tall print of this photograph was on display for the month of October 2014 at the Durham Art Guild in the "Pixel and Grain show" where it got the People's Choice Award.

DAG_Pixel and Grain

Mario was a friend of my wife. She had met him while in Manhattan, 33 years ago. He was a studio photographer and master of a 5,000 sq. ft. loft in SoHo, compliments of rent control.  I met him ten years later.  He was the quintessential Italian, from Rome, with a Puglian tendency. Mario could go through a lot of red wine, and would tell captivating stories, notably one in which he and his girl friend left London for a vacation near Sicilia.  They took a boat to a small island, anticipating an escape into the austere but quaint local hospitality, only to discover that all the natives had left after painting on City Hall "We all left for Australia, it's all yours now, enjoy!"  The next boat back was three days later and could not come soon enough.  I have always wondered if that was a true story or if it had been inspired by some old film that everybody had forgotten, as it did feel like a Giuseppe Tornatore kind of script. Rome was never far from Mario's mind, with memories of Fellini, Dominique Sanda.  Mario loved beautiful women, and managed to be surrounded by them.  And they were there, 30 years later, faithful, in that space on 25th St, loaned for the occasion thanks to Graham, a long friend of 40 some years.  They had come to pay tribute, for his memorial, on his birthday, September 27, 2014. He would have been 73.

Mara_Mario Mara, September 28, 2014
Mario had passed away a year before, from a fulgurant cancer. He and I had two reasons to know each other, the second one was photography.  We also were both in exile from a latin country in an old world that we both missed.  That made for endless conversations, like when we walked on 9th Avenue, arm in arm like Italians do, probably lamenting on the art scene these days in NY.  Oh, that was sweet.  It seems that there was an endless number of art openings in NY, everyday, and we toured them together, which resembled a quest of the Grail in Sodom or Gomorrah.  That was in 2007, and around those years we got to explore New York thanks to Mario's hospitality.  It is because of him that I was able to capture there some of my most important photographs, hence my series on Manhattan.

Mario, Olivia, Alma Mario and Our Daughters in 2007
Mario lived like a monk, and most of us used to think that he would last forever.  Many of us are, therefore, still in denial about his death, as it does not seem possible.  At the memorial not everyone knew each other; at best we had heard of each other in conversations with Mario.  The only person there that everybody knew was Dorothy, his long time companion that he had met in London in the early 70's.  We all knew of Mara, Mario's daughter, but some had never met her. I was tickled that she takes so much after him, notably because I have daughters too, and I have always worried that they look too much like me, what I call the Chiara Mastroiani syndrome!  Mara handles that challenge graciously.  Her resemblance with Mario is touching and reassuring. It is as if he smiles at us through her eyes.