I didn't intend to make a recurring theme of photographers' birthdays, but I just keep finding out about more and more of them. When there is a coincedence, a meaningful one in this case, it makes it all the more interesting. Lois Conner and Eugene Atget (not to mention Abraham Lincoln) were all born on February 12th, in 1951, 1857 and 1809, respectively. There is no denying the influence of the French master in Conner's work. She uses a Chinese version of a late 19th-century banquet camera to create a 7x17 inch negative of the changing landscape of China, and has been doing so since the Eighties. (A banquet camera was used to photograph, yes, banquets - the annual meeting of the Masonic Lodge No. 223 or the Funeral Directors' Association Annual Gala Dinner; you get the idea.) The images, originally inspired by a show of Chinese Scholar's Rocks, are of lotus plants, unusual rock formations, architecture, and construction, lots of construction. For years, she made contact platinum prints right in her own apartment, and her tiny brown glass bottles of chemicals sat on top of her bureau, like ladies' perfumes and cologne. Today, she mostly makes enlargements with an inkjet printer on high quality matte paper, which creates a similar effect, as the ink soaks into the paper not unlike the chemistry in a hand-coated platinum print. Recent work, including the new photograph of a wall with stenciled local contractor ads depicted here, is on view now through March 5th in London at Rossi Rossi: http://www.rossirossi.com/
Atget made albumen prints, not platinum, but the effect on Conner's work is recognizable. Perhaps she is the "Atget of China." If you missed last year's ICP show, "Atget: Archivist of Paris", take a look at the website: http://www.icp.org/museum/exhibitions/atget-archivist-paris There is also a nice birthday homage to him here: http://www.photography-news.com/2011/02/in-photos-remembering-french.html
So, Happy Belated Birthday, Lois and Eugene!