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Christopher Blay Loves Loli Kantor's Work, Hates Photography. Sorta.

by Anne Bothwell 30 Oct 2012 10:43 AM

Loli Kantor’s work documenting the Jewish experience in rurual Ukraine has guest blogger Christopher Blay thinking about photography in general.


Loli Kantor is a photographer whose current work focuses on the Jewish experience in rural Ukraine.  Born in Paris, raised in Tel Aviv, Kantor now lives in Fort Worth.  Guest blogger Christopher Blay, also a Fort Worth artist and curator, shares his thoughts about her work, and photography in general. 

  • Loli Kantor’s work is concurrently on view at Gallery 76102 and Artspace 111, both in Fort Worth, TX.
  • Christopher Blay’s exhibition, Machine Time, opens at the Mckinney Avenue Contemporary Saturday.


I love Loli Kantor’s work and hate photography.  Kinda.

I can declare this with confidence, because both things are so true. This is my struggle.

Ok, so I only kinda hate photography, or let’s just say I have “issues” with photography. Which is a good thing, because it makes me look harder at every photograph, even though it’s exhausting and I mostly want to turn away.

The contrary argument to my position, and I’ll go into my position later, is that I just haven’t seen really great photographs. That the photographs around here aren’t representative of what good images are all about. That argument is so wrong, and I have a long list of superior photographers. You ready? Here goes: Peter Feresten, Richard Doherty, Dornith Doherty, Kenda North, sometimes Kevin Todora, Luther Smith, Susan Kae Grant, Dick Lane, Leighton McWilliams, Nick Prendergast, and now my fingers are getting tired.

But let’s get back to Loli Kantor’s photographs. Kantor is the hardest working photographer in Texas. I’ve followed her work since we met and exhibited together in the summer of 2000, and the sheer volume of work and the exhaustive, meticulous process that it bears out is undeniable. All the aforementioned photographers have these traits;  craft simply disappears and the power of their storytelling is immediately revealed.  Kantor is no exception. Her compositions are tight; her colors are real in all their psychological relevance, and the depth of content in these images open us to the consciousness of survivors of unspeakable holocaust in Eastern Europe. Her subject is heavy. She explains on her website her work provides “a complex and nuanced view of these communities as they have struggled to preserve their Jewish Identity amidst the continuing legacy of the Holocaust, the subsequent Soviet regime, and the pressures of modernity.”

So what’s my problem with photography? It’s kinda hard to be precise about it, but I know it has to do with the fact that I’ve effectively seen every image ever made. In his book Towards a Philosophy of Photography, Vilem Flusser, philosopher and media critic, compares the photographer to a chess player, trying to find new moves and ways of playing the game.

“Photographers endeavor to exhaust the photographic program by realizing all their possibilities. But this program is rich and there is no way of getting an overview of it. Thus photographers attempt to find the possibilities not yet discovered within it: They handle the camera, turn it this way and that, look into it and through it.”

Flusser, whose writings always make me very happy, and who I always find myself talking about, was speaking in a broader context about how photographers relate to the camera more as functionaries than as programmers. We are automatons programmed by the camera to make it better. All this to say that I’ve given up on photographs as sources of information, and relish the images for their more magical properties and the way they function in this feedback loop between cameras and photographers. Although… I am really happy to see how we as viewers of images are now able to engage the photograph in a way that questions its veracity. “Is it real or photoshopped?” I love that question, because it lifts the veil a bit and dispenses with the mediated experience.

So to go back to Kantor, Let’s just say I’ll keep my eyes opened.

Christopher Blay’s exhibition Machine Time is one of three shows opening at McKinney Avenue Contemporary on Nov. 3.