Amy Li


Ana Santos

Artist Feature

Every week an artist is featured whose single image was published by Der Greif. The Feature shows the image in the original context of the series.

Paula McCartney - Hide the Sun

Jan 16, 2019

The photographs in Hide the Sun investigate a landscape of personal experience through directed portraits, constructed still-lifes and natural elements abstracted from their wider environment.


While sunlight is absorbed by dark backgrounds during the day and absent in the darkness of night, the color yellow flows through the series providing a simulated source of illumination.  Yellow is the most visible color of the spectrum. Next to black, it appears brighter than white.  It is associated with enlightenment and optimism but also caution.


Flowers bloom, ferns unfurl, in continuous renewal while hands reach out in longing, people freeze in melancholic thoughts. Trees and branches break, dying a sculptural death, more beautiful than when they were whole.  Questions arise as to what exists inside or out, what is day and what is night. Subjects surface from the darkness and float on the surface; I’m only able to process what is directly in front of me.  Light is withheld, absorbed by the night or offered in excess obscuring details that would be too much to comprehend. Nature feels displaced in the dark night, artificially lit by the flash, presented as evidence.  Shadows have more presence than the objects that cast them.  Life without context is unsettling. The flowers that bloom in the summer don’t last as long as I hope, while the tree that split apart years ago still stands outside my window.

Artist Blog

The blog of Der Greif is written entirely by the artists who have been invited to doing an Artist-Feature. Every week, we have a different author.
Untitled from the series, Hide the Sun

Hide the Sun

Jan 22, 2019 - Paula McCartney

I began work on Hide the Sun at the start of the summer, as the garden was beginning to bloom-offering color and life that I longed for after enduring the six months of winter where I live in the Northern United States. Several weeks later, a thunderstorm went through my city and toppled over 3,000 trees within an hour. A fallen tree blocked nearly every street in my neighborhood, and one fell on our house (luckily landing on a support beam). The broken trees seemed to outnumber the blooming flowers reminding me that life is a continuous flow of growth and destruction.


          Untitled from the series, Hide the Sun


Except for one image in the series, made in Florida, the other 40 photographs were made in my neighborhood, and most in my backyard.  I like working close to home, both for its convenience and the challenge it offers to find endless worlds within a small amount of space. However, the series doesn’t document my neighborhood but rather abstracted places and scenes within my mind.  As in a dream, they are both familiar and disorientating, photographed at night with a flash or against a black background to abstract them from their natural environments, freeing them from both time and place.


Thank you to Nathalie Herschdorfer for selecting two images from this series for her Guest Room.


Spreads from Book 2 of What Doesn’t Kill You Will Likely Try Again

Expanding the spread

Jan 21, 2019 - Paula McCartney

I started making photo books in graduate school and now half of my practice is making books. I appreciate that books aren’t limited to time or location like exhibitions and viewers can have an intimate experience with the work. They have the potential to reach large audiences and can be experienced over and over again. There is nothing I like more than to sequence a group of images and then make a book dummy.  As with watching an image appear in the developer tray in the darkroom, the moment when photographs combine with the design of a book is magic.


In my last published book, A Field Guide to Snow and Ice (Silas Finch, 2014), the book pages are three different widths and so the images overlap throughout the book to echo the idea of seeing the familiar forms of winter in many different substances.  This structure got me curious about other ways a traditional two-page book spread could be expanded.  My new book, What Doesn’t Kill You Will Likely Try Again, Book 2, contains black geometric forms bound into the middle of each spread that first blocks the illuminated area of the subject pictured. Once turned it mirrors the light revealed on the opposite page.


I’ve also begun collecting books that do this and here are my favorites:


Jan Kempenaers, I’m not tailgating, I’m drafting

Chloe Sells, Swamp

Letha Wilson’s books: Landmarks, Between a Rock, Sand Shifts

Bryan Graf, Debris of the days

Mariela Sancari, Moises


Books are objects that invite the viewer to sit down and experience a photographer’s ideas at a chosen pace.  While these alterations to the traditional spread look dynamic, and the books are fun to page through, they also slow down the viewer (which I appreciate) as they move through the book.  I spend more time considering both the form and content of these books. These are the books that I pull off the shelf to view again and again through the years.  In this age of being all too often tied to a screen, the extra tactile and physical interactions these books allow becomes very satisfying.

Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness; Barbara Bosworth, The Heavens; Mimi Plumb, Landfall; Carmen Winant, My Birth

Where are the women?

Jan 20, 2019 - Paula McCartney


I teach photography at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and again this semester, the majority of my students are women.  The 2018 book, How We See, Photobooks by Womenpublished by 10×10 Photobooks begins with an alarming statistic-photobooks by women account for 16.2% of publishers titles. Yikes.


Even scarier, a week after reading this, I pulled a group of books for reference for my photobook class’ first assignment and I realized only 3 out of 10 books in the stack were by women.  The well-known books that easily came to mind were mostly by male photographers. I continued to search the shelves until I found equally strong examples by women photographers to add to the stack, ending up with 7 books by men and 7 by women.


I’ve been fortunate to have my work published as have many of the men andwomen I went to grad school with. However, Photo-eye bookstore (United States) published a list of 78 photographer’s favorite book of 2018. Of the books listed (and thus promoted) only 17 were by women.  It takes awareness and effort to equally represent women because the unfortunate reality is that their work just isn’t published as often as men. So in the spirit of effort (it took me an hour to research this short list), here are some books by women published in 2018 that don’t appear on Photo-eye’s list:


Hannah Starkey, Photographs 1997 – 2017

Penelope Umbrico, Out Of Order: Bad Display III 

Anna Ostoya & Ben Lerner, The Polish Rider

Rosalind Fox Solomon, Liberty Theater

Vanessa Winship, And Time Folds

Jo Ann Walters & Emma Kemp, Blue Pool Cecelia

Alexandra Catiere, Behind the Glass

Pixy Liao Experimental Relationship Vol. 1.

Sophie Calle, Parce Que

Tanyth Berkeley, The Walking Women

Magali Duzant, Light Blue Desire

Anna Atkins, ‘Sun Gardens: Cyanotypes by Anna Atkins’

Brenda Ann Kenneally, ‘Upstate Girls’

Tara Wray Too Tired for Sunshine

Bieke Depoorter, As It May Be

book spreads from Soft Place to Land by Paula McCartney & Jason Vaughn


Jan 19, 2019 - Paula McCartney

I wanted to make more books, experiment more, make work that doesn’t take years to finish…all of this led me to begin collaborating with another photographer. How I see the world communicates with how another person sees it.


I met Jason Vaughn at a book fair two years ago and soon after we began a photo correspondence. I mailed him an image and he responded with an image that related in some way (color, composition, subject, etc.).  We saw how long the conversation could keep going without becoming predictable or too obscure, and when it did, we started over-began a new chapter.  We are now in our third chapter.  We both love getting mail, but the real benefit of this exercise for me has been the opportunity to practice a new way of looking.  To not only think of my own work, my interests, my aesthetic, but to push and expand the conversation making room for another person.


Book spreads from Sparkle and Fade by Paula McCartney & Jason Vaughn


Working with another artist also offers the opportunity to be responsible, to keep things moving in the same way that exhibition or publication deadlines do.  It is nice to know that someone is waiting for what I’m making. We are still doing the photo conversation but have expanded it to making books together.  The end goal is to make something that will go out into the world, but right now we are making smaller books where about a dozen photographs by each of us are interspersed throughout the sequence and in dialog with each other.  We’ve also begun to add photographs to a single found book, so that our work not only speaks to each other’s, but our photographs engage with the pre-existing content of the book.  The books feel like practice: seeing, editing, and sequencing. They give me permission to play – experimenting with images and making short books that I wouldn’t be making if I was working on my own – finishing work within a month’s time.


Please also check out Jason Vaughn and Brad Zeller’s recently published collaboration, Driftless, (TBW books, 2018).

From the series Thoughts on Form

The light in my life

Jan 17, 2019 - Paula McCartney

I wanted the light to be the revelation.  It has to do with what we value.  I want people to treasure light.”  —James Turrell


In the past year few years, I’ve been working on being present, being in the moment.  I’m not a patient person, I don’t like to sit still. So I appreciate things that make me slow down.  One thing that has allowed me to slow down in the past few years is watching the light that moves through my studio.  On sunny days light floods into the room and intersects with the architecture projecting geometric forms along my walls.


One summer I mapped out the light with tape as it moved across the wall. Months later, sitting at my desk I watched the winter light intersect with these tape lines as it progressed over the wall.  There were moments when the new light briefly kissed a tape line, making a momentary connection. At other times it embraced the existing lines.  The moments were brief, lasting 30 seconds at most.  Long enough to make just several photographs.  Some days, I found myself noticing an interaction that was about to occur and would pause and wait for it to happen. Patience was rewarded with moments of connection and balance, uncommon within the daily routine of life.A connection that was meaningless but also sublime.  The tape is still on my wall two years later.  It is the first thing I see as I walk up the stairs to my studio. It’s a reminder to experiment, to try new things, to play.


These moments are recorded in Book 2 of my new book project, What Doesn’t Kill You Will Likely Try AgainIn Book 4 of the project, I took control (it always goes back to taking control) and directed small lights onto small clay forms.  The light functions to both illuminate the subject and to expand the form with the multiple shadows it casts.  One form becomes three, the shadows commanding as much presence as the object itself.


From Book 4 of What Doesn’t Kill You Will Likely Try Again


I’ve also been experimenting making larger ceramic forms to photograph. These forms are illuminated with sunlight and stand in dialog with the shadows they cast-two players on a small stage.  They are designed to have the same hard geometric edges as the areas of light projected by my windows and are inspired by the minimal, sublime sculptures of Brancusi as well as his personal photographs of the sculptures.


From the series Thoughts on Form


Photography is obviously dependent on light. But for many years I only made photographs outside on overcast days.  When I was out photographing and the sun broke through the clouds, I cursed the sky. Now I am using light (both sunlight and direct artificial light) as the subject or to activate the subject