The Photography Issue: family albums, prom portraits, street shots, spy satellites -- a portfolio of the exceptional local scene
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This is the second year that the Guardian has devoted an issue to local photographers. I'll wait until it happens a third time before deeming the project an annual endeavor. It's easy to believe in that possibility, because the range of photography in the Bay Area right now is exceptional. This great state of affairs is partly due to spaces and organizations such as SF Camerawork, RayKo Photo Center, and PhotoAlliance. It's also due to more do-it-yourself street-level groups such as Hamburger Eyes and one of this issue's 10 contributors, Cutter Photozine.
Last year's photography issue focused on portraiture, but this year I've opted for a survey approach that allows for spontaneous connections. Jessica Rosen and Sean McFarland both utilize collage, but with vastly different results. Keba Konte's collage aesthetic adds objects to imagery and links history to autobiography. Investigative work leads to political or societal exposure within Trevor Paglen's and David Maisel's photography. Adrianne Fernandez and Bayeté Ross-Smith focus on youth as they bring new twists to traditions such as the family album and the prom portrait. Dustin Aksland's portraiture also includes teenagers, sometimes plopped onto or stopped within American landscapes, while Mimi Plumb likens rural landscapes to the backs of horses.
August may be when summer winds down and a portion of SF prepares to camp elsewhere, but it's an important time for local photography. This issue coincides with PhotoAlliance's and the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery's annual exhibition of local photographers. Two of the 10 artists on the following pages are part of that show. American photography also will be playing a major role at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art next year, when that space presents an exhibition devoted to Robert Frank and his classic monograph The Americans (Steidl).
In honor of an old adage or clichéd truth, there aren't a lot of words next to the pictures that follow. But the text does include Web site information. In most cases, these photographers' sites function as another gallery of sorts, one that lacks the tactile nature and dimensions of an actual photograph but at least suggests the variety of a body of work to date. Scope them out, and scope out Pixel Vision, the Guardian's arts and culture blog, for interviews and other photography-related pieces this week. Last, before you look, some thanks are due to Glen Helfand, Chuck Mobley, and Mirissa Neff for their help in the selection process, and to Kat Renz for a last-minute idea.
Also in this issue:
>>Q&A with Jessica Rosen 
>>Molly Decoudreaux looks beneath local nightlife 
NAME Adrianne Fernandez
TITLE Daddy Sends His Love
BACKGROUND In my "Alternative Album" project, the interplay of social and personal history is essential. It yields a complex tension between irony and nostalgia for the so-called family album.
SHOUT OUTS My influences include artists such as Larry Sultan and Elinor Carruci, who have worked with their prospective families to create intimate images that provide a compelling look into family dynamics.
SHOWS "Gender Agenda," through Sept. 14. The Gallery Project, Ann Arbor, Mich. www.thegalleryproject.com . Also "Not Your Mama's World," Fri/8 through Sept. 9. Washington Gallery of Photography, Bethesda, Md. www.wsp-photo.com 
WEB AlternativeAlbum@aol.com 
NAME Jessica Rosen
TITLE I Could See the Amazon from the 5th Floor of the Robert Fulton Projects
BACKGROUND This work is a large-scale photo collage installation made from cut-up, layered C-prints of my original photographs. It measures about 10 feet by 12 feet. Because this scale relates to human scale, it allows the viewer to experience the image as an environment rather than as an isolated image.
SHOUT OUTS My work stems from a fascination with people. Over the years my art practice has continually focused on portraiture. Although my newer collage works may seem quite fantastic, most are truly portraits in the traditional sense.
SHOW "Jessica Rosen," through Oct. 1. Open 24/7 (storefront window). Keys That Fit, 2312 Telegraph Ave, Oakl., http://www.xaul.com/KEYS/home.html 
WEB www.jessicarosen.com 
NAME Cutter Photozine
TITLE Top to bottom, untitled photos by (1) Ethan Indorf; (2) Keith Aguiar; (3) Ace Morgan; (4) Darcy Sharpe
BACKGROUND Cutter is a San Francisco documentary photo magazine. Founded by Heather Renee Russ and Alison O'Connell, it has a DIY ethic and is eco-positive (it uses recycled paper and soy-based inks). Cole Blevins, Jesse Rose Roberts, Sara Seinberg, and Rachel Styer also worked to put out the first issue, which includes 20 photographers and spotlights Ace Morgan's uncanny blend of rage, longing, joy, and punk rock.
SHOUT OUTS Cutter is dedicated to people telling their stories and documenting their existence. We seek to undo traditional voyeurism toward the "other" and place the power of sight in the focused home of the author.
SHOW The first issue can be purchased at local shops such as Needles & Pens. They're currently accepting submissions for the second issue, due this fall. There will be a release party and photo show in late November.
WEB www.cutterphotozine.com 
NAME David Maisel
TITLE 1165 (from Library of Dust)
BACKGROUND The large-scale photographs of the "Library of Dust" series depict individual copper canisters, dating from 1913 to 1971, which contain unclaimed cremated remains of patients from Oregon's state-run psychiatric hospital.
SHOUT OUTS Robert Smithson, NASA photographs, 19th-century exploratory landscape photographers (especially Timothy O'Sullivan), and the New Topographics photographers from the mid-1970s.
SHOW "David Maisel: Library of Dust," Sept. 4Oct. 4. Tues.Fri., 10:30 a.m.5:30 p.m.; Sat., 10:30 a.m.5 p.m. Haines Gallery, 49 Geary (suite 540), SF. (415) 397-8114, www.hainesgallery.com . Library of Dust (Chronicle Books, 108 pages, $80) will be released in October.
NAME Keba Konte
TITLE Detail from "888 Pieces of We"
BACKGROUND The eighth day of the eighth month of the eighth year is approaching, and in alignment with this auspicious moment I have created this exhibition of 888 photographs printed on wood, copper, and vintage books. I've had to select from thousands of images spanning 42 years in order to choose 888 that reflect my journey: there are protests and portraits, street moments and political movements; freaks, friends, and family members. As a documentary and portrait photographer, one observes the beautiful strangers. However, looking at this large body of work, another story comes into focus: my own.
SHOUT OUTS Roy DeCarava, Gordon Parks, Sebastião Salgado, Ruth Bernhard, Kimara Dixon.
SHOW "888 Pieces of We: A Photo Memoir," Fri/8 through Sept. 8. Oakland Art Gallery, 199 Kahn's Alley, Oakl. (510) 637-0395, www.oaklandartgallery.org 
NAME Sean McFarland
TITLES Untitled (park)
BACKGROUND I work from an archive of photographs I've made, along with images gathered from print and other media. Through collage, new pictures are formed. Recently my work has focused on weather, nighttime, and the ocean.
SHOUT OUTS For now, two books: National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Weather, (Knopf, 1991), and Gerhard Richter's Atlas (D.A.P., 2007). Also, students, friends, and just about any archive.
SHOWS "18 Months: Taking the Pulse of Bay Area Photography," through Sept. 17. Mon.Fri., 8 a.m.8 p.m. San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery at City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlet Place, SF. (415) 554-6080, www.sfacgallery.org . Upcoming: "Johanna St. Clare, Paul Wackers, Sean McFarland, Dan Carlson," October. Thurs.Sat., 15 p.m. Eleanor Harwood Gallery, 1295 Alabama, SF.
WEB www.sean-mcfarland.com 
NAME Dustin Aksland
TITLE Paso Robles, CA (2005)
BACKGROUND This was shot during a trip to Paso Robles. My friend and I pulled off the highway to take the back roads into town. As soon as we pulled off, we passed this man sleeping in his car. We went about a half-mile and I made my friend turn around. We pulled up in front of the car and I shot two frames out of the passenger window.
INSPIRATION "Useful pictures don't start from ideas, they start from seeing." Robert Adams.
SHOWS "States of Mind," September. TH Inside, Brussels, Belgium. "States of Mind," November. TH Inside, Copenhagen, Denmark.
NAME Bayeté Ross-Smith
TITLE Here Come the Girls
BACKGROUND This is part of a series that documents high school students in Berkeley, east Oakland, San Francisco, and Richmond as they mark their ascension from childhood to adulthood through the celebratory rite of passage known as prom. Taking a cue from traditional prom photos, the portraits allow for seriousness and playful flamboyance, depicting a vast array of budding identities.
SHOUT OUTS Walter Iooss, the Magnum photographers, and James Van Der Zee.
SHOW "Pomp and Circumstance: First Time to Be Adults," Sept. 4Oct. 11. Tues.Fri., 10:30 a.m.5:30 p.m.; Sat., 10:30 a.m.5 p.m. Patricia Sweetow Gallery, 77 Geary (mezzanine), SF. (415) 788-5126, www.patriciasweetwogallery.com . Upcoming: "Off Color," Sept. 19Nov. 1. RUSH Arts Gallery, New York.
WEB www.patriciasweetowgallery.com 
NAME Mimi Plumb
BACKGROUND These photos are part of an ongoing series that began about 10 years ago when I photographed a herd in the John Muir Wilderness of the Sierra Nevada. The horses in this new series live in Petaluma.
SHOUT OUTS Horses' backs embody the landscape. They become the horizon and horizon line, at times transforming into the rolling hills of the California landscape where I grew up, before tract houses and strip malls became the norm.
SHOW "18 Months: Taking the Pulse of Bay Area Photography," through Sept. 17. Mon.Fri., 8 a.m.8 p.m. San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery at City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlet Place, SF. (415) 554-6080, www.sfacgallery.org 
WEB www.mimiplumb.com 
NAME Trevor Paglen
TITLE KEYHOLE 12-3 (IMPROVED CRYSTAL) Near Scorpio (USA 129), 2007
BACKGROUND This is a photo of reconnaissance satellite, taken from the roof of my house in Berkeley. It's part of a series of photos of American spy satellites.
SHOUT OUTS I got interested in photography because I was working on projects that were nonfiction allegories, projects that played with notions of truth and what we can and can't see. To me, photography is the medium that does that best. It captures reality and at the same time doesn't. I like that tension. I also became interested in photography post-9/11 because photography became an aggressive gesture in a way that it wasn't before people could be arrested for photographing the Brooklyn Bridge. The act of taking photographs outside became an exercise in civil rights.
SHOWS "The Other Night Sky," through Sept. 14. Wed.Sun., 11 a.m.5 p.m. Berkeley Art Museum, 2626 Bancroft, Berk. (510) 642-0808, www.bampfa.berkeley.edu . Upcoming: Taipei Biennial, Sept. 13Jan. 11, 2009; Istanbul Biennial, 2009; "2008 SECA Art Award Winners," Feb.May, 2009, SFMOMA.
WEB www.paglen.com