Frontier Psychiatrist

Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

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I’ve known photographer Dan Farnum since pre-school in Saginaw, Michigan. We grew up sharing many of the same experiences, and in college we both turned to artistic pursuits. And although we hadn’t always remained super close throughout the years, we’ve kept in touch, mostly meeting up with friends back in town for the holidays. After seeing his photographs on his website, I realized that he was wrestling with many of the same issues that I was in my poetry: the American experience, landscape, and culture, especially as viewed through the lens of our hometown, which is poor and violent and stands in the shadow of a failed auto industry.

In his most recent series Young Blood Dan turns his eye toward Michigan’s urban youth. Over the years, he has shown his work in exhibitions and galleries in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New York. He received his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and BFA from the University of Michigan, and is now a professor of photography at the University of Missouri. Recently, I caught up with him to discuss Michigan, skateboarding, and the art of photographing strangers.

Frontier Psychiatrist: Your Young Blood series features portraits of Michigan’s urban youth. Where did the idea come from?

Dan Farnum: As you know, I was born and raised in Saginaw and have personally witnessed how the economy affected family and friends. So I have an investment in this region that I feel allows me to view the location in a more intimate manner. I focus on youth in particular in this region since they are the primary people who either have the ability to change urban communities or perpetuate the problems. Something positive that is happening in some urban neighborhoods is community farming and gardening. On the other hand, my hometown is known as having the most violent crimes (per capita) in the country for almost a decade. Much of the crime is associated with young people.

My background as a skateboarder is also an influence. I used to skate in several of the places I now photograph. I feel as though I am documenting a personal history as well as making a broader cultural statement. There is a lack of supervision in these kinds of locations that is great for skateboarding, but tends to also facilitate mischief. My teenage experiences serve as a common thread to open discussions with many of my subjects. This ability to bond with people helps them feel more comfortable while I take their portrait.

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Bell System

As I roam New York with my camera, much of my time is spent looking for graffiti on poles, construction barriers, sidewalks, and security gates. Nowadays, I also take a cautious glance at the street to find a different type of artwork – one forged of iron and mostly ignored.

The ubiquity of manhole covers in Manhattan for access to every type of service – sewers, telephone, gas, water, fire department, and others – offers a panoply of intricate geometric beauty. I spy circles, stars, cogs, squares, parallel lines, radiating patterns, leaves, helixes, and text spelling out acronyms, uses, locations, and ownership.

The 14 images collected here represent a handful of the more “colorful” manhole and access covers I’ve seen and walked across. They run the gamut from simple to intricate, and those bereft of any text that hints at their purpose are perhaps the most charming.

Sadly, older and distinctive manhole covers are becoming harder to find. Newer covers, while often maintaining the use of geometric patterns, are being simplified and systemized. They feel cold and dispassionate. That’s why I take photographs of manhole covers: I’m afraid a unique form of street art is slowly disappearing.

So the next time you’re out walking, take a look down. You might discover a gem beneath your feet.

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Mark Meatto is the director of How To Grow A Band, a new documentary about Chris Thile and Punch Brothers that Paste Magazine named one of the Best Films of 2012 (So Far). This was his first Pitchfork Music Festival, and he provided images for our wordy review of the fest, posted yesterday. He’s never seen so many Scottie Pippen jerseys in one place.


USA_Chicago_Front Psych

Summer is as much a time of enjoyment, as it is a time of reflection. When chilling poolside or in the woods or in a movie theater or in your living room or at a punk show, it’s hard not to think, “Man, this is the life.” It’s also a challenge not to reflect on summers gone by; something about the warm, moist air and mammoth, blazing sun triggers a memory playback. Last weekend, I filled my nights with fresh music experiences, with some new favorites (Tycho), some new finds (The Young) and some new classics (Wilco), all which managed to get me feeling pretty nostalgic.

My American Music Weekend began on Friday night at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall—one of the city’s newest and most consistent venues—with Tycho, the burgeoning electronica producer/graphic designer from San Francisco. After catching snippets of his set at Clive Bar in Austin, TX during SXSW, Tycho and his latest full-length Dive (2011, Ghostly International) haven’t strayed far from my thoughts or headphones. Scott Hansen—aka Tycho, ISO50—has a connection with sun, warmth and water in a similar manner to many visually based musicians, but he stands apart in his ability to convey his sundrenched vision eloquently and with grace. In a pre-show interview (to be posted in its entirety on FP next week), Hansen discussed his work and how it relates to his design practice. His description of the connection between the two simultaneously opened my eyes and sparked thoughts of my visually oriented friends, and their understanding of the visual space. I can’t go anywhere new without thinking of the old.

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Speed Racer

This paragraph is designed to give you context about the pictures you are about to look at. But as you look at the pictures, the context will become apparent. Or it won’t. Suffice it to say, these are images that hit me at eye level every day, and I can’t seem to look away. All but one were taken in New York, where I expect the masses view them as an accumulation of ruinous paint or stickers adding to the din of a city’s peaceful beauty. I see them as art. And perhaps messages of hope or warfare. I dedicate it to “Maria y Paco” (look closely) who seem to have found love, at least post-it note temporarily.

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Max Maddock is a white male, who occasionally has references available. He’s a writer who often takes photos of things that most other people ignore. And he’s a photographer who sometimes writes. He hunts for urban squirrels daily with his trusty Brittany Spaniel. He abhors artists’ statements.

As discussed in our recent journal, Mess With Texas (aka MWTX) has been the highlight of SXSW thus far.  We hope these photos from the party will convince you.

Torchy's Tacos

Yesterday began with a pilgrimage to Torchy’s across the river for perhaps the finest truck dining I’ve ever had. Two breakfast tacos later, we were back in the car heading to our hotel with Archers of Loaf’s Icky Mettle grinding on the stereo, and I got to thinking about cycles, trends and the merits of distortion. At some point after the fest, I want to write a piece about how SXSW has taught me that punk’s not dead, or maybe that punk is undead, but it’s been a long week, and I’m tired.

Inspired by our Archers of Loaf Mazda 3 jam, we caught Crooked Fingers, Eric Bachmann’s other, slightly more tame act at The Stage on Sitxth. Jumping between his acoustic, an electric 12-string and a Fender Jazzmaster, Bachmann and crew expertly touched on both the tenderness and madness of rock and roll. Their best was the closer “Typhoon”, which is the closest you can get to a Springsteen post-rock song.

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Sons of Dionysus

A Transmedia Novel of Myth, Mirth, and the Magical Excess of Youth.