The Digest – February 12th, 2012

I had coffee with a friend earlier this week and we briefly chatted about The Digest. He said it’ll be nice to have as an archive. I never thought of it that way, and I haven’t gone back to previous installments yet, but perhaps as the year roles along it’ll be nice to see what was on my mind earlier in the year. I believe Jorg Colberg commented a few weeks ago that while The Digest is a nice resource, it isn’t an archive. And that’s true. I don’t know what the solution is for a comprehensive archive. I know there are several articles that I’ve found in the past that I wish I could reference easily.

I’ve started using Pinterest to bookmark photographers websites and photobooks, as well as some interviews and articles. Maybe it’ll end up being my archive.


©Enrico Natalivia Blake Andrews

Forgotten Photographers

Blake Andrews has a new series on his blog called ‘Lost and Found’ where he features older photographers whose work isn’t widely known….well, at least on the internet or what have you.  Here’s a post on Enrico Natali:

I’m not sure why his work is resurfacing at this moment, but the fact that it’s happening now en masse just as I stumble on him in a bookstore is kind of fun. It makes me wonder how that book wound up there. Maybe someone planted hundreds of copies in stores around the country. If true, a beautiful strategy. But unlikely.

remerge follows a similar path, asking: “So why do some photographers “last” and others fade away? Why do some people show up, burn bright and then snap out of sight?”

On Saul Leiter:

I went to a presentation by Leiter at ICP a couple of years ago. It must have been in conjunction with the publication of Steidl’s Saul Leiter: Early Color. I remember he talked about how back in the 1940s and 1950s he got work, was able to pay the bills. But at some point, the work dropped off and by and large people pretty much forgot about him. And then, some 40 or 50 years later, “discovered” by Howard Greenberg of the Greenberg Gallery in New York, he was all the sudden the belle of the ball again and , according to Leiter, he was getting phone calls from friends he forgot he even knew. So what happened in all those intervening years? I have no idea, it is a mystery, or maybe it isnt…here’s an interesting quote from the man which might be illuminating:

“In order to build a career and to be successful, one has to be determined. One has to be ambitious. I much prefer to drink coffee, listen to music and to paint when I feel like it.”


©J. Scribavia oitzarisme

Photography Fiction

The internet is full of images and we all seem to be fascinated by it to some degree. The way we can easily source photographs, mix and match them, shift and strip context, who is the author?, does it even matter? What is is fact, what is fiction? From ‘still search’ comes this excerpt: 

….the fact that images are now much more readily available and circulate unimpeded, without regard for their source of origin—this is the real revolution that has led to the mass production and use of photographic images that one readily perceives as “fiction” and not as the “pencil of nature”. The indexical nature of photography plays as little a role here as its relationship to reality via a logic of representation. This is the true revolution in thinking that has taken place not in the realm of theory but of practice and that determines an image’s relationship to reality. In discussing “photographic realism” one should take a look at the practices that are and will be associated with photography.

And then in Wired, a great interview with Paul Shambroom:

As far as I can tell this is the future of image making. It may not be the only future. I say — not so much to my students but to my colleagues — ignore this at your own peril. It’s not interesting because it’s a new technology, it’s interesting because it is really changing the way the world consumes and considers, lives and swims in imagery.

One of the things I love about teaching is to put things in front of students they might not necessarily have thought of yet. I’m doing a digital photography class but I’m making it as much about digital culture.

I had them pull the last five digits of their student IDs (which are random) and had them look up where the zip code was in the U.S. They had to investigate that place purely through online imagery. Google Street View, Flickr, poking around Facebook, looking at the websites of businesses in the area. They were really puzzled, like, “What does this have to do with photography?”

[Regarding others' photos] it seems to me like a sea change has begun. Maybe Sultan and Mandel fired the first shots 40 years ago. And they weren’t even the first people to say, “Aren’t other people’s pictures interesting?” Think of Andy Warhol and John Baldessari.

I found this particularly interesting: “but I’m making it as much about digital culture.” What’s happening online with photography is not just a change in the way we distribute and consume photographs, it’s a change in the culture of photography. I think many people struggle with understanding digital culture. I know how do and I’m basically online all day. The way I perceive digital culture is much different than today’s photography students. Needless to say, things change fast on the internet, and younger generations are becoming incredibly savvy when it comes to digital culture. I fully suspect we’ll see a kick ass photography blog from a 12 year old in the near future (if it doesn’t already exist!)

Speaking of digital culture, RIP Cyberflaneur:

Besides, isn’t it obvious that consuming great art alone is qualitatively different from consuming it socially? And why this fear of solitude in the first place? It’s hard to imagine packs of flâneurs roaming the streets of Paris as if auditioning for another sequel to “The Hangover.” But for Mr. Zuckerberg, as he acknowledged on “Charlie Rose,” “it feels better to be more connected to all these people. You have a richer life.”

IT’S this idea that the individual experience is somehow inferior to the collective that underpins Facebook’s recent embrace of “frictionless sharing,” the idea that, from now on, we have to worry only about things we don’t want to share; everything else will be shared automatically. To that end, Facebook is encouraging its partners to build applications that automatically share everything we do: articles we read, music we listen to, videos we watch. It goes without saying that frictionless sharing also makes it easier for Facebook to sell us to advertisers, and for advertisers to sell their wares back to us.


©Gregory Halpern

Halpern’s A

I wrote my thoughts on Halpern’s book a few weeks ago. The Great Leap Sideways published a nice essay on it this week:

The overlapping map illustrations at the beginning of the book give us more information than we can decipher, and leave us wondering where we are and where the pictures are in all of this – wondering whether where is the measure of greatest significance in terms of these images, whether it isn’t between us and outside of any four mapped segments. A’s is a particularly diffuse and peripatetic where – it’s American but it has been metastasising. It’s in the earth and the leaves and the wind and the crevices and the trees and the underbrush and the railings and the sodden ground and the scorched earth and the budget and the irradiated skies and the glitter, the profusions of sudden colour, the reflections, the pooling shadow, the briefness, the intensity, the millennial pace of change, the separateness, the togetherness, the whole bruised confection of it all; it’s in the stubbornness, the unbending persistence, the clear-eyed gaze, the fragility of focus, the coarseness of the textures, the “incomprehensible syllable of wind”. It’s anywhere, and it’s now.

And the show at Clamp Art received a good review from DLK Collection:

What Halpern has documented in these cities (Baltimore, Cincinnati, Omaha, and Detroit) is the beginning of the end, where wildness is creeping back into the realms of civilization. Faces are quietly defiant or meekly averted, wearing a mix of haggard, bloodied, and exhausted glances. Houses smoulder with lingering fire, or crumble from decay and rot regardless of makeshift supports. Trees take on an almost sinister quality, triumphing over human pruning to win in the end. And feral cats and aggressive raccoons prowl the streets with an unabashed lack of fear; a peacock runs loose and blackbirds smother a tree in the eerie twilight. In these pictures, Halpern takes the broad economic challenges of these regions and turns them into smaller life and death struggles, a resilient battle between relentlessly persevering and giving in to the invading desolation. The inhabitants are reduced to scavengers, scratching out an existence against the raw tide of ruin.


©Shane Grayvia Street Reverb

Links of Note

Photographer Lise Sarfati: ‘I choose people for their energy and aura’ – video

via The Guardian

If This Is It @ Present Gallery

A Carl Gunhouse essay for a recent group show catalog:

Straightforward photography has been accepted as mainstream art. The medium has reached a point painting had in the early 70’s when it was declared dead. Contemporary photography is now at a place where much of what can be done with the medium has been done, and it no longer has to struggle to define itself. It can just exist, creating a big tent where heavily conceptual and completely abstract work can stand side by side with straight picture taking.

Paul Graham: ‘The Present’

A short article in FT about Graham’s new “street photography” book:

So why not use film? “Obviously it’s a question I’ve asked myself. But a lot of film, I find, is neutered by the tyranny of narrative, by having to have a storyline. And this way of working allows you to escape that. To me this is much more an accurate reflection of the way life comes at us, unbidden, and without perfect little narratives.”

Balance Out of Life

“Koyaanisqatsi (1982) at 1552% speed.”

Balance Out of Life from Wyatt Hodgson on Vimeo.

Interview: Greg Girard

A nice interview in fototazo:

I’m pretty straightforward if I want to photograph someone or some place. Using a camera on a tripod sort of gives away what you’re up to anyway. I basically expect to have a tough time at the beginning and just hope it gets easier as time goes by, as people get used to me or bored with me.

Why Being Sleepy and Drunk Are Great for Creativity

via Wired

The stupor of alcohol, like the haze of the early morning, makes it harder for us to ignore those unlikely thoughts and remote associations that are such important elements of the imagination. So the next time you are in need of insight, avoid caffeine and concentration. Don’t chain yourself to your desk. Instead, set the alarm a few minutes early and wallow in your groggy thoughts. And if that doesn’t work, chug a beer.

Snappy Snaps

via Frieze

An excerpt from the introduction to the forthcoming treatise on photography by curator, philosopher, paparazzo, hedge-fund manager, mercenary and art critic Jean-Philippe Obu-Stevenson: Snappy Snaps: Irrigating the Re-Un-De-Framed Conceptual Contextual Medium Mediation of the Imaged Photographic Picture

HOW ART WORKS? – a serious movie about problems and solutions.

  • Blake

    I’m glad you linked to Pete’s Shambroom article. I think that was the most insightful online thing I read last week, and very relevant to current photo conditions. I was frankly surprised it didn’t generate more reaction or commentary. Only one comment on the Wired site which can sometimes get hundreds. I tried to start an FPN conversation about it but it fizzled. They’d rather discuss the Pieta. Oh well, maybe I’ll have to generate my own reaction…