¡Ándele!: Mexico in Plossu
January 30 – May 24, 2015

Following a four-month appreciation of Kentucky, Blue Roots and Uncommon Wealth: The Photographs of Carey Gough and Guy Mendes, Iris BookCafe and Gallery’s curator William Messer focuses further south, to Mexico, with ¡Ándele!: Mexico in Plossu.

In 1965-66, French photographer Bernard Plossu took his first trip to Mexico as a 20 year-old to meet his maternal grandparents. He lived and travelled with a group of young Americans, then continued alone, eventually becoming part of a British expedition into the jungles of Chiapas, near the Guatemalan border, where his encounters with the native Lacandon people affected him deeply. His photographs from that initial visit were published in a small, notebook-like volume as Le Voyage Mexicain (The Mexican Trip) by French publisher Claude Nori’s Contrejour in 1979, establishing him as a kind of Kerouacian, On the Road figure, identified with the expressive freedom and pleasure of youth and travel, and acquiring for him an almost cult-like status among the young generation which he has never really lost.

Mexico continued to lure him back, three more times in the next 15 years. “We used to say ‘Como Mexica, no hay dos’” he recalls (There’s no other like Mexico). The photographs he made during all four trips have been edited into a large book ¡Vamonos! Bernard Plossu in Mexico, published last year by Aperture. The 30 black and white silver gelatin prints in the exhibition at Iris were printed and personally selected by the photographer (he also made color photographs, printed in the Fresson process, not included in the Iris exhibition). For over 50 years he has used a single 35-mm camera with a 50-mm lens and one black and white film, Kodak Tri-X.

Bernard Plossu is perhaps the most celebrated living photographer in France. He has published more than 20 books, including Le Voyage Mexicain: L’integral, 1956–1966 (1979), African Desert (1987), Forget Me Not (2002), Bernard Plossu’s New Mexico (2006), Europa (2011) and ¡Vamonos!  Bernard Plossu in Mexico (2014) and his photographs have been exhibited extensively internationally, including at the National Museum of Modern Art, Paris; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, Valencia, Spain; Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, France and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. In 2008 he was the recipient of the CRAF International Award of Photography.

Born in Vietnam in 1945, Plossu grew up, studied and still lives in France, although he has also lived and travelled in many other parts of the planet including – besides Mexico – the U.S. Southwest, Portugal, India, Niger and the Aeolian Islands. His father took him on his first trip, to the Sahara, when he was 13, which he photographed with a Kodak Brownie his father bought him. “The Sahara… opened my eyes—the different scenery, people, smells… I began to experiment.” From the ages of 16 to 19 he skipped school a lot and instead spent time at the cinematheque in Paris, where he learned about the camera’s images from Bresson, Buñuel, Dreyer, Mizoguchi. His mom had a single photography book, black and white pictures of Paris by Izis (Israëlis Bidermanas). His godfather’s wife was a painter who gave him art books for his birthday, on  Klee, Mondrian, Kandinsky – and he painted for a time (“not good; they were copies of Mondrian””). And he made 8-mm and super 8 short films. “I was just filming the streets of Paris and my girlfriend. She was my Monica Vitti, my Anna Karina—the actresses of nouvelle vague [the French New Wave]. But when I look at them now—the extracts from the films—they’re good. I made a little book called 8 Super 8, published by Yale… It shows how my stills from my movie camera are just like my photographs.” Together these were the visual influences he took with him to Mexico.

Plossu’s almost casual style veers away from the more studied approach of an earlier French photographer noted for his wide travels and the ethos of the “decisive moment”, Henri Cartier-Bresson. “I’m much more interested in the mood of the photographs than in the composition of the photographs…  I’m more interested in the non-decisive: the little nothings that may not be very important, apparently, but that are important, in life and in seeing with the camera.” Yet Plossu’s composition is integral to his subject and subject matter, infused by the mood of the moment. They have that seminal countercultural spirit later enshrined in the title of the Ram Das’ Be Here Now. Now, 50 years later, they still do it.

¡Andele! is a predominantly Mexican colloquialism meaning many things: Come on, Move along, Wow!, Really?, Go for it! and more. It was selected as the exhibition’s title to compliment to the ¡Vamonos! (Let’s go!) book from which its photographs are drawn. The rest of the Iris title reminds that not only was the photographer in Mexico but Mexico got into the photographer. The Iris exhibition is the work’s second and only other U.S. presentation (the first was at Eaton Fine Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida just prior to coming to Cincinnati). In 1981, Messer curated a retrospective exhibition of Bernard Plossu’s photographs at Yr Oriel Ffotograffeg, the gallery he directed in Cardiff, Wales, and, in 2013, the Cincinnati Art Museum’s new photography curator Brian Shollis worked on the book ¡Vamonos! Bernard Plossu in Mexico at Aperture in New York. Messer will give a curator’s talk about Plossu’s work April 15. ¡Ándele!: Mexico in Plossu opens on Final Friday, January 30, 2015 and runs through May 24.

For further information contact William Messer at wfm@fuse.net or (513) 221-FOTO, or Julie Fay at (513) 260-3686

Second Sunday Crits: March 15, 2 – 5 PM  Iris curator William Messer leads an open group review in which photographers share their work in discussion with one another. A second open crit will be held on the third Sunday in May, also 2-5 PM.
Curators’ Talk: Sunday, April 12, 2 PM Iris curator William Messer discusses the exhibition.


Blue Roots and Uncommon Wealth: The Kentucky Photographs of Carey Gough and Guy Mendes
Friday, October 3, 2014 – Sunday, January 25, 2015

Guy Mendes’ photographs are landscapes and portraits, often of authors and musicians, gathered from his life in Kentucky from the 1970s to the present. Carey Gough photographs the sites of Kentucky’s rich heritage of old time and bluegrass music. Blue Roots and Uncommon Wealth: The Kentucky Photographs of Carey Gough and Guy Mendes is a visual homage to the Bluegrass State, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, by two generations of artists.

Guy Mendes arrived at the University of Kentucky from his native New Orleans in 1966, intending to become a journalist. An anti-war rally speech by Wendell Berry led to a friendship with Berry and visits to Ralph Eugene Meatyeard’s Eyeglasses of Kentucky shop and gallery, where he also saw photographs by Emmett Gowin and Bill Burke, and became a student and photographic companion of Meatyard’s. For 40 years he has worked as a writer, director and producer for Kentucky Educational Television, winning several Emmy awards. Along the way he has become one of Kentucky’s best known and respected photographers, drawn to the remarkable people of his state and its compelling landscapes.

Originally from Kentucky, for the past 12 years Carey Gough has called Shropshire, England home, where she co-managed an arts cafe and studied photography, receiving her MFA in Documentary Photography from the University of Wales, Newport. She frequently returned to Kentucky to visit family and friends and photograph the region her heart truly loves and just now has moved back. Her photographs of the sites of old time and bluegrass music are as much evocations as documentations, laced with an emigrant’s longing, rooted in a still present past (a title she has often used for this project is “A Music So Subtle and Vast”, from a poem of Wendell Berry’s). She credits Guy Mendes as “ the man who started this project; he gave me a book when I was 17 that got me interested in the areas from which Kentucky music came” and considers him a teacher and mentor.

Friday, October 3, 7 – 10 PM, opening event at Mr. Pitiful’s, 1323 Main Street, OTR: improvisational cello performance by Ben Sollee with Guy Mendes’ projected photographs plus videos by Carey Gough with musical performance by The Tillers.

Sunday, October 5, 2 PM, Carey Gough’s Artist’s Talk at Iris
Sunday, October 19, 2 PM, Guy Mendes’ Artist’s Talk  (and brief musical performance by Jay Bolotin) at Iris

Also see Iris’ installations of Mark Cohen’s Grim Street photographs outside in the parking area of the Carl Solway Gallery and Harvey Osterhoudt’s  photographs in the third floor Aisle Gallery space, both at 424 Findlay Street, Cincinnati.

Blue Roots and Uncommon Wealth concert, Friday, October 3, 7-10 PM @ Mr. Pitiful’s, OTR

Iris BookCafe and Gallery will kick-off the FotoFocus biennial month of photography with a concert projecting images by the photographers from Iris’ exhibition Blue Roots and Uncommon Wealth: The Kentucky Photographs of Carey Gough and Guy Mendes and music performed by musicians they’ve selected. Carey Gough will show videos of historic sites of Kentucky music accompanying a performance by The Tillers, and cellist Ben Sollee with create improvisational pieces responding to the photographs of Lexington photographer Guy Mendes. Mr. Pitiful’s is three doors south of Iris at 1323 Main Street, OTR. For more information contact Iris at 513.381.2665.

also by Iris:
Mark Cohen: Grim Street, Friday, September 19 – December 20

Presented in the Carl Solway Gallery parking area by Iris BookCafe and Gallery for FotoFocus. Mark Cohen has received international recognition for his radical street photographs, made in his home town of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, collectively published in 2004 as Grim Street. His work was first exhibited by Nathan Lyons in the group exhibition Vision and Expression at the George Eastman House in 1969, then by John Szarkowski as a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1973. In 1980 his work also was included in the Museum of Modern Art exhibition Mirrors and Windows: American Photography Since 1960.  Cohen was only the third photographer to be given a solo exhibition by the legendary Leo Castelli Gallery. Cohen’s photographs are held in the collections of more than 30 museums worldwide and he has received two prestigious Guggenheim Fellowships. This Iris exhibition is organized by Iris’ curator William Messer; the twelve black and white prints on vinyl coated canvas were originally created for staging on a cyclone fence at SteelStacks in Bethlehem, PA in 2012 for the InVision Photo Festival, at which Messer encountered Cohen and invited him to exhibit at Iris. A similar installation is occurring concurrently on the front of the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam. For more information contact the Carl Solway Gallery,  424 Findlay Street, Cincinnati, 45214, phone 513.621.0069. The exhibition is accessible during gallery hours, M-F 9-5, Sat. 12-5.

Harvey Osterhoudt: Subject Matter, Friday, September 19 – Friday October 31

Presented by Iris BookCafe and Gallery at Aisle Gallery for FotoFocus. Harvey Osterhoudt makes black and white photographs of what he considers “unpretentious stuff –trees, houses, fences—in unimportant places – a backyard, a street corner, a hillside – in short, nothing newsworthy or likely to attract tourists.” A recipient of the Photographers Fellowship Fund award from the Center for Photography at Woodstock, the award’s juror, Howard Greenberg, called the work “not only well seen, but subtle and intelligent… challenging but ultimately rewarding, such pictures demonstrate another aspect of the photographic language.” It is a language Osterhoudt speaks eloquently in these photographs which, as he notes, don’t in fact have a subject, only subject matter. Osterhoudt received his Master of Fine Arts from Indiana University. He has exhibited in solo as well as two person shows throughout the country, as well as being included numerous invitational and juried group shows; his work is held in several museum and private collections including the Museum of Modern Art, NYC and the Musée Réattu, Arles, France. Aisle is located on the third floor of the Carl Solway Gallery building, 424 Findlay Street, Cincinnati 45214. The exhibition is viewable by appointment Monday-Friday, 9 – 4:30; phone 513-241-3403.


Michael Wilson, for Musicmakers from These Parts, May 30 – September 28, 2014

It is oft repeated that Michael Wilson was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1959 and never moved away. He discovered and studied the fine art of photography on full scholarship at the new Northern Kentucky University in the late 1970s, self-published his first book of photographs in 1984 (Heads Bowed, Eyes Closed, No One Looking Around, presented as an exhibition at Iris in 2009), married in 1985 and took another plunge to become a photographer full-time in 1987. Wilson’s love of music has led to his establishing a national reputation for photographing musicians and contributing personal photographs to their albums: the list is a veritable who’s who of American music, including Chet Atkins, Adrian Belew, The Black Keys, David Byrne, The Chieftains, Ry Cooder, Steve Earl, Philip Glass, Bill Frisell, Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt, Joe Henry, B.B. King, Patti Labelle, Lyle Lovett, The Muffs, Aaron Neville, Randy Newman, Over-the-Rhine, John Prine, Steve Reich, The Replacements, The Tillers, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Allen Toussaint, Loudon Wainwright III, Doc Watson, Wilco and Wussy (to name a few). Many of the recipients of Wilson’ creativity have been local musicians; it is these photographs upon which this exhibition is focused.

Michael Wilson will give an Artist’s Talk on Sunday, June 22 at 2 PM.

Michael Wilson, for Musicmakers from These Parts is organized by Iris’ curator, William Messer, who also leads the Second Sunday Crits, an open group critique in which photographers freely share their work and responses, to be scheduled on demand. Watch too for scheduled live performances by area musicians at Iris during the run of the exhibition.

Off the Walls (in the Courtyard) concerts, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday evenings the last week of September.

Iris BookCafe and Gallery’s curator William Messer has invited several of the musicians pictured in Michael Wilson’s exhibition For Musicmakers from These Parts to perform in Iris’ courtyard during the closing week of the exhibition. The courtyard concerts include ADM (Adam Petersen), Wednesday evening, September 24 at 6 PM; Daniel Martin Moore (perhaps with Dan Dorff, Jr.), Final Friday, September 26 at 7 PM; and a special unpublicized concert by someone(s) the closing day, Sunday, September 28 at 5 PM. At Iris BookCafe & Gallery, 1331 Main Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202. More info at 513.381.2665 (or contact W. Messer at 513.221.FOTO).



T, Cafe BlaBla, Rotterdam, 1985
T, Cafe BlaBla, Rotterdam, 1985

William Messer: Some Women, Some Stories
January 6 – April 27, 2014

Some Women, Some Stories, the exhibition currently on view at Iris BookCafe and Gallery, presents photographs and writings by Iris’ curator William Messer. The photographs span a 40 year period from 1969 to 2008, while the texts have been added more recently. Messer began creating photographic image/text pieces in 1972 but abandoned the practice in 1975, not to again began writing with his photographs until after 2000. He considers the writings “illuminations” for the photographs rather than the photographs being illustrations of the writing.

Some Women, Some Stories is drawn from a larger body of photo/text pieces Messer was considering for a book, before a 2012 house fire resulted in the loss of much photographic work (his own, collections of others’, ongoing projects and his photographic library). The photographs and text were in plastic sleeves in a binder (in a plastic bag, in a canvas bag) and survived the fire, heat, smoke and water with minimal damage. The occasion of exhibiting his own work at Iris is the result of none of the photographers in the Iris pipeline having work ready to install and his not being able to extend the previous exhibition. “It was either my work or bare walls, and I thought Iris, a BookCafe and Gallery, where people have become accustomed to reading photographs as well as books, could be the right place for these image/text pieces,” Messer remarked. “The diaristic work can be situated somewhere among Duane Michaels’ early photo/text work begun in 1974, Gaylord Herron’s remarkable 1975 book Vagabond, and Sophie Calle’s entire oeuvre beginning in 1979.”

Additionally, Messer has decided to revive the Second Sunday Crits, at least once during his exhibition; these are free, open discussion forums led by Messer in which photographers share their work and responses with each other, continuing for as long as participants wish. The next Second Sunday Crits begins Sunday, February 9, at 2 PM.

William Messer is a photographer, critic, curator and educator who has lived and worked in the U.S. and Europe. His curated exhibitions have been presented by nearly 100 venues in over 40 countries, while hIs own photography and writing has been exhibited and published in more than a dozen countries and collected by significant cultural institutions including the Art Institute of Chicago, Bibliothéque Nationale de la France, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston as well as the Cincinnati Art Museum. He has been editor or contributing editor for more than half-a-dozen publications and co-author of three books. In the 1970s and early 1980s Messer was recognized as the leading authority on contemporary British then European photography. HIs direction of Yr Oriel Ffotograffeg (The Photographic Gallery) in Cardiff, Wales and regular writing for the British Journal of Photography and other international publications have characterized him as “a critic with open eyes” (Robert Adams)  “a curator of extraordinary foresight” (Joan Fontcuberta) and  “a legend in my country” (Martin Harrison) who “revolutionized photography curating in Britain” (Jem Southam).

A traumatic brain injury in the mid-1980s resulted in the termination of his career in Europe and brought Messer back to his native Cincinnati to recover. By the decade’s end he was again involved in photography as the curatorial coordinator of Images Center for Photography and associate editor of its publication Images Ink (whose editor, Julie Fay, founded and owns Iris BookCafe and Gallery). HIs exhibitions at Images were deemed “unique in the mid-west” and “museum quality” by Cincinnati Enquirer art critic Owen Findsen. Messer also acts as a juror and portfolio reviewer for competitions, schools, conferences and festivals around the world – most recently for les Rencontres d’Arles in France; Kolga Photo in Tbilisi, Georgia and the National Conference of the Society for Photogaphic Education this March – and has taught classes and workshops at numerous colleges and festivals, including, locally, Northern Kentucky University (History of Photography) and the University of Cincinnati (Graduate Fine Arts Seminar, Photography). Twice elected to the international board of the International Art Critics’ Association (AICA), he also founded AICA’s Commission on Censorship and Freedom of Expression. The Messer Photography Prize has been instituted at Cincinnati Country Day School at which, 51 years ago, Messer was the student founder of the school’s art department. He has been curating the exhibitions at Iris since its establishment in the fall of 2008.

With this exhibition, Iris revives its program of Second Sunday Crits, an open group forum in which photographers freely share their work and responses, led by Iris curator William Messer.

    • Artist’s Talk
      Sunday, February 16, 2pm
    • Second Sunday Crits with William Messer
      February 9, 2014, 2-5pm


John Ganis: Consuming the American Landscape
August 30, 2013 – January 5, 2014

John Ganis: Consuming the American Landscape its new exhibition of color photographs by the renown Detroit-based photographer. Consuming the American Landscape was published as a book in 2003 by Dewi Lewis in English and Edition Braus in a German edition (where it was awarded a Stuttgart Photo Books Prize), signed copies of which are available for sale at Iris.

For two decades Ganis travelled the continental United States photographing what he terms the “over-developed/under-respected lands” of America, making images which “mediate between the idyllic and the apocalyptic” (as Robert Sobiezak writes in the book’s introduction), without comfortably settling into either.

Photographs by John Ganis have been exhibited in dozens of museums and university galleries across the country, in Canada and Europe and are included in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, The Center for Creative Photography, The New York Public Library, The Detroit Institute of Arts, The Toledo Museum of Art and The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (to name just a half-dozen). His photographs have been published in Aperture Magazine, Camera Austria International, Photographie and Photo Technik International, included the Houston FotoFest exhibition and catalog Earth as well as the international catalogs Shrinking Cities and Imaging a Shattering Earth and their accompanying exhibitions, and currently are addressed in curator and critic Lucy Lippard’s touring lecture “The Altered Landscape.”

John Ganis is currently a Professor at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit where he has taught photography since 1980. He holds a BA from Ohio Wesleyan University and an M.F.A. in Photography from the University of Arizona. He currently is working on a series entitled “The Endangered Coast” exploring the potential and actual effects of climate change on various coastal regions endangered by rising seas and increasingly violent storms.

John Ganis’ color photographs from Consuming the American Landscape will be on view at Iris BookCafe and Gallery from August 30, 2013 through the end of the year.

Mr. Ganis will come to Cincinnati to give an Artist’s Talk, Sunday, October 20, 2 PM.

Iris also will present a talk by Sierra Club Miami Group chair Sam McKinley on Sunday, October 27, 2 PM.

  • Artist’s Talk
    Sunday, October 20, 2 PM
  • Special talk by Sierra Club Miami Group chair Sam McKinley
    Sunday, October 27, 2 PM


Elaine Ling’s MONGOLIA

February 25 – May 24, 2013

Born in Hong Kong and living in Canada since the age of nine, Elaine Ling is a highly respected photographer, classical cellist and a medical doctor whose practice has taken her across Canada’s North to work among First Nations’ peoples as well as to global locales from Abu Dhabi to Nepal. Attracted by adventure and the visual artifacts of ancient cultures, Ling has backpacked her view camera to remote regions of North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa to make photographs.Those in her Iris exhibition are from Mongolia, arranged in three sections: nomadic people and their animals; interiors of their ger homes; and the Ghobi landscape with its mysterious stone sculptures.This work was published as Mongolia: Land of the Deer Stone (Lodimar Press, 2009), copies of which will be available at Iris. Ling’s photographs are widely exhibited and published and are in the permanent collections of museums and private collections in a dozen countries. The exhibition continues through May 24, 2013.

Elaine Ling’s Mongolia is curated by Iris’ curator William Messer. who also leads the Second Sunday Crits at Iris, an open groujp critique in which photographers freely share their work and responses, to be scheduled on demand.

    • Exhibit Reception and Artist Talk
      Sunday, April 7, 2pm




Rituals and Enactments: The Self-Portraits of Anne Arden McDonald
October 15, 2012 – January 18, 2013

From the ages of 15 through 30, Anne Arden McDonald would inhabit abandoned buildings or empty landscapes to make photographic self-portraits. She describes these initially private performances for her camera as “part ritual, part dance and part daydream,” attempts to reconcile the existential dilemma of inhabiting a physical body containing a mind which dreams beyond it. She has created images which serve as visual metaphors for the human condition, revealing vulnerability amid strength, tension and balance. McDonald was born in London, raised in Atlanta and now resides in Brooklyn, where she teaches at the Parsons School of Design. Her photographic work is exhibited, published and collected by major institutions worldwide.

    • Exhibit Reception and Artist Talk
      Tuesday October 16, 7pm-10pm
    • Second Sunday Crits with William Messer
      December 9, 2-5pm

Iris’ curator leads an open group critique in which photographers freely share their work and responses. Messer is an internationally exhibited and published photographer and critic who conducts photography critiques and reviews at schools, workshops, conferences and festivals worldwide.