Pictures of Pictures

Art is an undervalued endeavor -- it does not create algorithms to invest money, invent pharmaceuticals, or generally further business interests in any way. And so, when the young and ambitious set their sights on the humanities, parents get nervous and friends shake their heads, and the young and ambitious learn to eat ramen and wear black. Street cred is a necessity, but so are clothes that hold up to paint, chemicals, and infrequent laundering. It's pretty glamorous, the life of an artist is.

Photograph by Tracey Moffatt, via Emmas Designblogg

I have spent 15+ years slaving over a hot darkroom sink, many more poring over art books, and several years teaching, but I still can't get enough of the photographs that set me on the path to poverty in the first place. Once afflicted, there is no cure for what ails you, save to embrace the disease.

Photograph by Andres Serrano, via NYT

And as much as I enjoy just browsing images on the net, it warms my cold, dirty black heart even more to see some of my favorite artists in the homes of the rich and famous. Thank jeebus somebody can make a living off their work, because who else could inspire the young and ambitious to sacrifice wealth, hygiene, and nutrition, in the name of art?

Vik Muniz, Bernd and Hilla Becher, and Christopher Bucklow, via David Netto

Photos by Mark Shaw via Nate Berkus

Images by Rineke Dijkstra via Fox Mahem

Work by Adam Fuss via David Duncan Livingston

Image by Candida Hofer via Richard Powers

Image by William Eggleston in the home of Krysten Ritter

Photos by Thomas Struth and Andreas Gursky via Michael Richman

Photo by Thomas Struth (on the right) via Met Home

Photo by Gilbert and George via OWI

Works by John Coplans (left bottom) and Loretta Lux in the home of Vicente Wolf

Photos by Steven Klein in the home of Nacho Figueras

I got a little obsessed while doing, ahem, "research" for this post, so I hope you won't be terribly disappointed if I hit you with a two-fer. Back on Monday with another roundup of not quite so epic proportions. In the meantime, I'm entertaining out of town guests, but Karly will be here to regale you with her always acerbic wit.

Have a great week!

Feelin' Fussy

I'm on pins and needles, people. Have bitten my nails into the quick. Stomach in knots big enough to anchor a billionaire's yacht. Election Day is almost here, but instead of pumping up the volume on CNN and turning my living room into campaign headquarters, I think it may be best for me to focus on something else right now, to go to my happy place. Yes, it's I Spy Art Day here at Design Crisis, where I bring you a roundup of interior design's latest muse. Today's special is the always interesting photographer, Adam Fuss.

adam fuss

Adam Fuss is one of those old school dudes that I can identify with. Instead of embracing the novelty of digital wizardry, Fuss goes back to basics by frequently ditching the camera altogether and dealing with the light sensitive properties of photographic paper itself. In the home of Pieter Estersohn, seen in New York Social Diary, this photogram of Estersohn's son Elio hangs as a super realistic, one of a kind baby portrait. Instead of capturing a representation of the baby, Adam Fuss captures the shadow of the baby crawling over the paper, and in a sense, he captures the baby itself (but not literally, because that would be illegal).

While Estersohn was lucky enough to have a portrait made for him, most of the pictures floating around the designosphere are of Fuss' black and white photograms of smoke.

fuss smoke

Donald and Phillip's amazing art filled home in San Francisco features this small Fuss photogram (courtesy of More Ways to Waste Time).

Generally, Fuss' pieces tend to be large in scale, so that they become a viewing experience where one is enveloped in the image, as seen in this gorgeous Paris apartment.

two for the road

To stand in front of one of Fuss' photograms of smoke is to stand in a whirling maelstrom of eddies and currents. Sounds like my stomach. So much for happy distractions!

smoke and mirrors

All of Fuss' work is intensely aesthetic, seductive in both its delicacy and first generation sharpness. The print over the fireplace makes a lovely addition to this Smoke and Mirrors themed room designed by Steven Volpe featured in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Earlier works involved hanging bare bulbs on a string and allowing them to move, exposing the paper in a pattern of spirals, as seen in this home of Charles Allen, featured in Architectural Digest.

adam fuss

Fuss' black and white works may be particularly popular in the design world because they behave so minimally on the wall, as seen in this apartment featured on Habitually Chic.

adam fuss

It's like very elegant (and expensive) white noise. But I have followed Fuss' work for years, and he certainly didn't start out as a decorator's favorite. Many of his earlier works recalled death and decay, and a very studied interest in photography's unique ability to capture the "what has been," as philosopher Roland Barthes said.

adam fuss

These beautiful plants were pressed onto paper, exposed with light, and captured with a permanence that a real pressed flower can never emulate. It's the intersection of mortality and immortality, and it gets back to the basics of what photography initially set out to do: to preserve a slice of time.

adam fuss

This exact configuration of smoke only existed for the split second that it was illuminated by light. And then it was gone.

adam fuss

The images in his My Ghost series reference the impermanence of time and, consequentially, of life. A child could fit into this christening dress for a matter of weeks, perhaps, before she/he outgrew it. As the Greek philiosopher Heraclitus said, "Panta Rhei." Everything changes. You cannot step into the same river twice.

adam fuss

And raindrops will never fall in this same pattern again.

Recently, Fuss has begun experimenting with other forms of image making, taking up the Daguerreotype (at which time he became my hero, since I used to make them, too) as another way to create one of a kind images. The Daguerreotype was the Victorian's medium of choice, and its clarity was shocking to them (and still is - the sharpness of digital isn't even close).


The Victorians famously used Daguerreotypes to record (in addition to more conventional portraits) images of their deceased children, posed as if sleeping. Perhaps they were creating an alternate universe where the child might have lived. Or perhaps the images acted as reminders that nothing lasts forever. Fuss has a similar predilection for Memento Mori and its imperative to seize the day.

Once again changing his method of production, Fuss photographed butterfly chrysalis and enlarged them to six feet tall for his latest series.


As iconic symbols of transformation and metamorphosis, they are compelling both in their stasis and potential energy.

adam fuss

Fuss' photographs act as talismans, reminders of the past and its contrast to the present. And so they are also avatars of change. Nothing can stay the same.

Nor should it.


(Art images courtesy of the artist and Fraenkel Gallery, Art Lies, Artnet, and Photography Now.)