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Monday, 05 October 2009


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What a coincidence with the WSJ article on Robert Bergman!

I had known of him for a while and his story is indeed similar to that of Gary Stochl's. I've had a copy of "A Kind of Rapture", a collection of Bergman's portraits, for a while. For some reason they were a bit off-putting to me upon initial viewing. I'm not sure I can pinpoint why...something uncomfortable about them. But I've since warmed to them much more. I highly recommend trying to see Berman's street portraits. They're beyond simple visual experiences.

Generally, I think that there are actually many very talented and accomplished photographers outside the "art community", either by neglect or intention.

This post should probably have the "Book" tag Mike. But looks fantastic and an excellent story. I hope to be able to see his work.

Bought it!
However The reason for this comment is that I would rather buy hardcover books. I didn't find any from Stochl at Amazon, but I would be grateful if this criteria was also taken into account for you great reviews. I Personally find it quite irritating when great pictures get bound so cheaply. Another side effect is that softcover books always end up with buckled corners by the time they reach Switzerland.

Thanks for the update on Mr. Bergman, I knew nothing of the man, except that it was apparent on first viewing A Kind Of Rapture that here was a man of exceptional raw talent who took exceptionally beautiful and sensual color portraits of subjects not often regarded in terms of beauty or exception. As simple as technique and technology can get, and yet the results were practically transcendant- and very hard to fit into any current art world niche. I never saw interviews, reviews, or any more of his work anywhere, except in that one book that simply appeared one day and then just as quietly vanished unto the shelves of second hand bookstores.

It would be interesting to learn if he has any new work, although this particular collection of portraiture stands as proud and unique in today's photo art world continuum as it did over ten years ago...

Oy, this post cost me a lot of money. I had to order both these books....



Hmmm well that's my wallet a bit lighter thanks to this post. A story like this deserves to have success, I look forward to thumbing through the book.

He expresses particular surprise that Stochl could have become so skilled outside the confines of formal art education and the support of the art community. (I find this a bit humorous

I was enraptured by Stochl's work from the first time I saw it.

Walker Evans always made a point of making sure students knew how photographers supported their work. The individualism of Stochl's work screams 'I am doing this for me' and that is why I like it. I am of the firm opinion that a formal art education would have made this work considerably less great through enforcing preconceived ideas of what it 'should' look like, and it is also likely that the associated 'support' would not have helped either.

The best work in this vein has always been done by someone with their own means (C-B), or means provided for them on very loose terms (Frank). Both essentially make the photographer a free agent. Stochl is the free agent's free agent.


Is Stochl's work available anywhere on-line? I've googled him, and have only been able to find 2 images (including the cover of the book). Thanks.

I have long thought academic photo departments have been a scourge. One of my best college friends was an absolutely stunning street photographer--witty, surreal,unusual breathtaking. After falling into the clutches of academia he is now a very well paid, still talented art photographer. I like his stuff, and it comes with the seal of approval, but I no longer gasp with surprise and delight. He apologizes for all his early stuff,too.

The posts on these VERY different photographers should be broken out into separate blog entries IMO.

Also, I've said it before re Bob Thall..he's been making smart and beautiful documents/ work for a long time in Chicago...incredible printer.

Give him some props, Mike-Mike.

The New American Village is a solid piece.

Robert Bergman!,,,,, magic stuff, it's like playing pocket billiards

The best photo magazine had an article on Stochl a while back. Despite a lack formal training, seems like he studied the masters nevertheless. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/19/arts/design/19stoc.html

Thanks Ken,

Nice to see Gary getting some coverage here on TOP

Thanks for the introduction to the images of Robert Bergman.

These guys are the real deal.

"...He expresses particular surprise that Stochl could have become so skilled outside the confines of formal art education and the support of the art community..."

There's no denying that Bob Thall's willingness to meet with and subsequently help forward the career of Stochl was a wonderful thing, but that statement of his ridiculously sad and shows little respect for the art (and history) of photography.

"He expresses particular surprise that Stochl could have become so skilled outside the confines of formal art education and the support of the art community."

I've always been a bit skeptical of formal education for artists (as a basis for art, that is). But one WOULD expect somebody like Thall with a major position inside the academic community to have a basically hopeful view of the utility of that community, after all. One would hope for some degree of realism and detachment, but if he thought the academic exercise was not worthwhile, he shouldn't be there!

A very breezy (but fulfilling) article on Wikipedia about Gary Stochl.

This is a link to the specific version, it is so conversational in its personal viewpoint that it will no doubt get edited (or deleted) into pedia-ese in the future.

That Robert Bergman image is absolutely wonderful. It just draws and hold my attention immediately.

Thank you all very much for these stories!

Wow, dreams do come true.

Bergman seems to have transcended "portraiture".


Beautiful stuff. But I just bought the Danny Lyon book, which means this one will have to wait. That's for all the recommendations; it's like auditing a class on great photographers through the years.

Mike, I bought it. Don't forget to also post your Amazon.CA (Canadian) link as I had to hunt for it in your side links so I could buy it through your site as well.

Thanks for this post Ken, and the addendum. Every day I visit TOP and every day I wish there was more written here, more posted. I guess if there were it would dilute the quality though, so maybe the post rate is just right. Whatever. This particular posting and the pictures it leads to is inspired.

"Every day I visit TOP and every day I wish there was more written here, more posted."

Thanks for saying so, Patrick. Part of the problem is that there is only room for so many posts on the main page; new ones at the top of the stack always kick old ones off the bottom of the stack. Since TOP is mainly for followers--people who come to it every day because they like it--rather than for searchers--people arriving adventitiously through search engine searches--and since readership of a post falls off pretty dramatically after it falls off the main page, I've been reluctant to do more than two or three posts a day. It's especially galling (irrationally, I suppose) when a little throwaway link post coincidentally causes a major post we worked really hard on to drop off the page.

Some big sites the success of which I admire post ten or twenty new posts a day, but they get most of their traffic through search engines. If I were to do that, it would simply mean that fewer visitors would see any given post.

It's a balance...and I'm always trying to find the right one. Thanks for the feedback.


Personally, I'm with Patrick. I can't get enough of T.O.P. You could put up a post every half-hour and I'd be thrilled. But then you would have to expand T.O.P. World Headquarters in order to accomodate the additional legions of researchers, writers, proofreaders, editors...

As for Sevket Sahintas, he may very well be a talented photographer, but the selection of images on the CNN website only made me think of this: http://theonlinephotographer.blogspot.com/2006/03/photographing-homeless-banned.html


@ Yuanchung Lee: I know of no online collection of Gary Stochl's images. I was, however, able to find a Chicago Public Radio interview with him from a few years ago, concurrent with his exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center. Sorry, it's a crummy Real Player stream. But it's an interview worth hearing, particularly while you're browsing "On City Streets", even though most of it is filled with descriptive narration rather than Stochl's voice. (He's apparently rather shy and a man of few words.)

Someone asked me privately what camera Stochl uses. (Yeah, I know...) It turns out that I know this! Apparently he's been using only a Leica M3 since he started snapping in the late 1960's!

Separately, I did not intend to criticize Bob Thall. Quite the contrary; he is to be commended for offering his support. (Curiously, I've never met Thall although I'm sure we're occasionally in the same room at various events.) Those who read Thall's introduction will see that he's actually jarred that someone could creatively thrive in a private world without the nourishing emotional support of other creatives. Of course he has a point. But it's also very true that there are many talented artists in various media who persistently pursue their work for its own sake rather for fame, wealth, or social placement.

jumped in and bought the Stochl book and actually remembered to go through the TOP portal this time. I'm anxious to see the work that plucked this curious man out of obscurity.

I just got the book...it's very interesting, quirky, different...the thing that surprised me is that the book itself is so SMALL! It's tiny, like a little model photography book.

I'm not complaining, just sayin'.


Thank you for the post! The story of the man reminds very much reminds me of... me. I am yet to find my David Vestal, though.

And another parallel: Dušan Pálka has been photographing the streets of Prague for 30 years, almost entirely unrecognised until an exhibition and book from Gallery Novy Svet.

Tremendous work.


Great stuff! Street photography can be a bit 'whimsical' - not that there's anything wrong with that - and undervalued. Check out www.in-public.com

I swept through this book last night after the mail santa dropped it on my desk (on recommendation from this post). I loved it. I love how Stochl splits the image with a frame in many of his pictures. In others I love how his strangers seem to be looking at each other but are not really. Very interesting.

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