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Public / Private / Portrait

A new photo book of questioning faces curated by Mossless, made in collaboration with the International Center of Photography

by Nara Shin
on 26 April 2016

Mossless was founded in 2009 by Romke Hoogwaerts as a digital platform for interviewing a different photographer every two days. It made the transition into the physical world in the form of artist-made publications, and their fourth issue—a thematic photo book titled "Public/Private/Portrait"—is currently raising money on Kickstarter to cover printing costs. It will complement the International Center of Photography's exhibition "Public, Private, Secret" in their new 250 Bowery space; after permanently closing their Midtown location last year.

"There is no argument that we are advancing, other than that the lines of 'private' and 'public' spheres have shifted towards yet-to-be delineated territories," says Hoogwaerts of the theme. "We do this by showing many different artists who comment on these shift in various ways. You could say they don't all agree, better yet, some are invoking the theme conceptually and others are simply implicated by it. If you know Lapham's Quarterly, we seek to employ a similar approach to themes, in a way, but rooted in contemporary work." Examples include Sabrina Jung's eerie, bodiless "Photographers Masks of Deaths," Bobby Scheidemann's paparazzi-like shots of commuters stuck in rush hour traffic on I-35 in Austin, TX, and Lisa Lindvay sharing her family's private moments as her mother (never pictured in the resulting series "Hold Together") sunk deeper into depression.

"The book is not about surveillance and it's not about selfies, but both themes do appear in because they're obviously tied to the issue we're exploring," he continues. "The book is about a collective 'me'—about how the battleground of what is 'public' and 'private' has encroached individualism itself, whereas in the last few centuries, that battleground (where the two spheres collide) was one's household."

Asked how his selection process works, Hoogwaerts responds, "It's mostly intuition but that's guided by looking at as many projects as possible and considering works within the context of everything else that we saw. Sometimes you just see a photograph and have an immediate response to it. When that happens, you know there's something special there, and I put trust in that first feeling." He adds, "I don't care about whether the artist has a sizable following, in fact if the artist is too well-known I usually will not consider them. My first encounter with a work could be through Tumblr (like with Bobby Scheidemann) or an artist's newsletter (like with Sabrina Jung), a submission, a list of alumni, or a museum's group show roster (like Wendy Red Star), and so on."

"The thing is, most publishers would refuse to print work that has already been shown online. We don't really work that way, since so much of what we do is about contextualizing. Besides, there's an intimidatingly enormous number of photographers at work these days. Having said that, I am excited to say that there will be some brilliant original works in the book," says Hoogwaerts. Mossless has done a great job of triggering interest and thrill; the photographs featured in the story alone have us itching to know more about each artist, and how they draw or step over the lines between what's public and private.

The book will include photos contributed by artists like Signe Pierce, Kris Graves, Molly Matalon and more, plus, "There were two painters in particular who were just so on point and relevant, it would be silly to bar the thought of inclusion for the sake of sticking to one medium," says Hoogwaerts. There's a few poems as well, and a couple essays—like Lapham's, I prefer to take a multidisciplinary approach to investigating themes. I believe that you can only truly understand concepts through richly variegated approaches. That's what we aim for."

Pre-order "Public/Private/Portrait," which will have a nifty reflective cover, via Kickstarter for $38. The new ICP Museum will open at 250 Bowery, NYC on 23 June 2016.

In order, images courtesy of the following artists: Jen Davis, Tommy Kha, Wendy Red Star, Daniel Mayrit, Sabrina Jung, Lisa Lindvay

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