1969 (age 48–49)|
|Residence||West Danby, New York|
Temple University (MFA) |
Yale University (BA)
|Known for||Photography, writing|
The Amnesia Pavilions |
In Most Tides an Island
Nicholas Muellner (born 1969) is an American photographer, writer and curator. He is best known for his photobooks The Amnesia Pavilions and In Most Tides an Island. The Amnesia Pavilions was named one of Time magazine's best photobooks of 2011, and In Most Tides an Island was shortlisted for the Paris Photo–Aperture Foundation's PhotoBook of the Year award in 2017. His works often combine images with text; treat themes related to repressed intimacy and human connection; and contain elements of autobiography, abstraction, photojournalism, and fiction. Many are set in the former Soviet Union and take gay men as their visual subjects.
Early life and education
–Muellner, describing his 1990 trip to the Soviet Union in The Amnesia Pavilions
Muellner was born in Washington, D.C., in 1969. He received his BA in comparative literature from Yale University and his MFA in photography from Tyler School of Art, Temple University. Muellner speaks Russian, and during his undergraduate studies in 1990, he received a student travel grant to visit the Soviet Union and photograph his rail journey from Moscow to Khabarovsk. While in Ulan-Ude, he befriended and fell in love with a young man named Aleksei Tsvetkov; they eventually lost touch. His 2009 return to Russia in search of Tsvetkov would later shape The Amnesia Pavilions.
In 2000, Muellner collaborated with programmer and artist Richard Harrod on The Evolution of Closed Systems and Other Propagandas. The project was an interactive version of Pong adapted to include quotations from Mao Zedong, tips for effective salesmanship, and commentary by Muellner and Harrod on intimacy and personal relationships. It was designed as a metaphor for human–state interaction.
Since 2002, Muellner has been a professor of media arts, sciences, and studies at the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College. He published a book titled The Photograph Commands Indifference in 2009.
From The Amnesia Pavilions to In Most Tides an Island
In 2011, Muellner published The Amnesia Pavilions, a photobook chronicling his 1990 and 1992 trips to present-day Russia and his return to Ulan-Ude to look for Tsvetkov in 2009. Time magazine named it one of the best photobooks of 2011. The same year, Muellner adapted The Amnesia Pavilions to a multimedia format for Triple Canopy.
In 2013, he created a photographic body of work called The Nautiloid Heart, which was exhibited at Noshowspace in London and at the CEPA Gallery in Buffalo, New York. While in the Caribbean photographing for The Nautiloid Heart, Muellner began to correspond with closeted gay men in Russia and Ukraine, including several in Crimea, shortly before the Russian annexation of that region. In an interview with Aperture magazine, Muellner explained how this gave rise to the concept that would become In Most Tides an Island:
Muellner traveled to Russia and Ukraine to interview and photograph the men, and he published their stories in In Most Tides an Island in 2017. The book reports on the isolation, secrecy, and repression that shape the men's lives. It juxtaposes this content with images from The Nautiloid Heart, which are repurposed here as a narrative about a woman alone on a Caribbean island. Muellner connects the two worlds with the theme of solitude, and the work also includes commentary on the internet as a means of indulgence and temporary escape from loneliness. In Most Tides an Island was shortlisted for the Paris Photo–Aperture Foundation's 2017 PhotoBook of the Year award.
Talks and exhibitions
Muellner has had solo exhibitions in the US, the UK, and Russia. Among other locations, his work has been shown at ClampArt and at the Stark Gallery in New York City, as well as at Locks Gallery and at Project Room in Philadelphia. He has given readings at MoMA PS1, the Carnegie Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography.
Muellner cites James Agee and Walker Evans' Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, as well as the work of Ralph Gibson and Ralph Eugene Meatyard, as inspiration for his use of image–text relationships to tell stories. One of his earliest influences to this end was Duane Michals, whose books he said "seduced [him] not only with their mystical-whimsical narratives of word-image interplay, but with their spiritually gauzed-over homoeroticism."
Muellner's photographic style is influenced by 1950s New York street photography, 19th-century landscape paintings, and 1990s German conceptual photography. When he was 19, he discovered Nan Goldin's The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. Of this body of photographs, he said, "Looking compulsively at [it] ... electrified me. I was so gripped by that expression of erotic, frank, immediate visual intimacy. But I also learned, eventually, that I was nothing like that. My version of the personal, of processing intimacy, includes the awareness of doubts, paradoxes, and distancing effects."
- Muellner, Nicholas (2017). In Most Tides an Island. London: SPBH Editions. ISBN 978-1999814427.
- Keene, John; Muellner, Nicholas (2016). Grind. Ithaca: ITI Press. ISBN 978-0996735124.
- Muellner, Nicholas (2011). The Amnesia Pavilions. Ithaca: A-Jump Books. ISBN 978-0977765584.
- Muellner, Nicholas (2009). The Photograph Commands Indifference. Ithaca: A-Jump Books. ISBN 978-0977765539.
- Crane, Cathy; Muellner, Nicholas, eds. (2008). (1968). Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN 978-1847186416.
- Muellner, Nicholas (2005). Moscow Plastic Arts. Arcadia University Art Gallery. ISBN 978-0976215400.
- Pulver, Andrew (February 16, 2011). "Photographer Nicholas Muellner's best shot". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Archived from the original on February 25, 2018. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
- "Artist Talk and Signing: Nicholas Muellner". The Photographers' Gallery. The Photographers' Gallery (Enterprises) Limited. November 5, 2017. Archived from the original on February 25, 2018. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
- "Moscow Plastic Arts". Arcadia University Art Gallery. November 10, 2006. Archived from the original on November 8, 2012. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
- TIME Photo Department (December 29, 2011). "TIME's Best of 2011: The Photobooks We Loved". Time. Time Warner. Slides 43–44. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
- Smyth, Diane (November 10, 2017). "The 2017 Paris Photo–Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Award winners". British Journal of Photography. 1854 Media. Archived from the original on December 28, 2017. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
- Bell, Adam (July 18, 2017). "All That Paradise Allows". Aperture. Dana Triwush. Archived from the original on July 24, 2017. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
- "Interview: Nicholas Muellner on the newest book from SPBH Editions". SPBH Editions. Self Publish, Be Happy. Archived from the original on March 3, 2018. Retrieved March 3, 2018.
- Kurland, Justine. "PhotoBook Lust: Justine Kurland on Nicholas Muellner, The Amnesia Pavilions". Aperture. Dana Triwush. Archived from the original on July 19, 2017. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
- Muellner, Nicholas (2011). "Amnesia Pavilions". Triple Canopy. Canopy Canopy Canopy, Inc. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
- "Nicholas Muellner". Ithaca College. Archived from the original on December 16, 2017. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
- Bittanti, Matteo (September 24, 2011). "Game Art: Richard Harrod & Nick Muellner's 'The Evolution of Closed Systems and Other Propagandas' (2000)". Gamescenes. Archived from the original on November 8, 2017.
- "Nicholas Muellner: The Nautiloid Heart". cepagallery.org. CEPA Gallery. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
- "Nicholas Muellner, The Nautiloid Heart". noshowspace.com. Noshowspace. Archived from the original on January 10, 2014. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
- Abel-Hirsch, Hannah. "Nicholas Muellner, In Most Tides an Island". 1000 Words Photography Magazine. 1000 Words Photography Ltd. Archived from the original on August 13, 2017. Retrieved February 26, 2018.