The Digest – September 9th, 2012


©Lise Sarfati – via ‘On the Margins of Hollywood [The New Yorker]

As I reviewed the articles from this week I thought I was having deja vu. Instagram again? All the mediocre images on the web? Controversy over an award? At what point does the conversation evolve? I suppose I might not be helping matters by linking to all these articles. I’ll think about it and get back to you. For now, here’s what caught my eye.

I share most of these links on Twitter and Tumblr, so follow along if you like!

“the new golden age of photography”

BJP published an article early in the week titled “The New Economics of Photojournalism: The rise of Instagram.” It was filled with the usual anecdotes about how professionals and photojournalists are using it to “build their brand” and connect with a wider audience. I’m going to highlight some of the concerns though, which were articulated by Ed Kashi.

“What concerns me is that this is yet another channel for creating and disseminating photography that does not bring in income. At least not yet,” says Kashi. “I gather ‘building your brand’ is all the rage and while I acknowledge the importance of that, it’s not why I create nor do I see a direct correlation to making a living and developing this field into the digital era where creators’ work is respected, compensated and properly appreciated.”

Kashi wonders whether Instagram is yet another fad that “further feeds the devaluation of our craft and continues to contribute to the destruction of this field as a viable way to make a living”.

Well, I don’t see how it devalues the craft. That’s just non-sense but it certainly might contribute to the further erosion of photojournalism as a viable way to make money. My question would be, does this perhaps signal that the business model was never all that sound? I think it’s fine to be concerned but what would be better is if new ideas were developed.

James Estrin of LENS blog asked the central question I think we all need to consider.

The proliferation of a commonplace — or vernacular — photography is a much more profound change. The question is not so much whether this is a good thing for society (or a bad thing for photographers). It is happening, a billion times a day, and there is no going back.

The question is: How does the photographic community harness this explosion of visual energy to expand its audience? This is what needs to be focused on.

I think Joerg is probably fed up with all of this talk. I agree with his sentiment.

This is the new golden age of photography: Billions of people take photographs and share them. Billions of people are interested in at least parts of what the photographic community is interested in. Let’s make good use of that!

I find it odd that anyone would have a problem with people sharing their experience through photographs. I don’t know if this increasing interest will lead to a larger audience for serious photography. That seems to be wishful thinking. What I think photographers need to realize is that the days of  ”feeling special” are over, to paraphrase a friend. Once the bruised egos heal, then we can get on with things and focus on what matters. The photography, the issues and the stories.


©Shelby Lee Adams

Links of Note

There’s a fabulous article on ‘Walk your camera’ by Shelby Lee Adams, a photographer I deeply admire.

I’m not a documentarian per se. My work is autobiographical, people-oriented, personal and subjective, with humanistic and artistic concerns. I’ve never said I was a documentary photographer. I’m careful not to. When I teach workshops at the International Center of Photography, among other places across the country, I teach environmental portrait photography and lighting. Still I’m often written about as a documentary photographer and that approach itself has fortunately changed to be more open, individualized, and creatively more all-encompassing. Those changes in photography have happened during my career.”

Lucy McKeon wrote about the “Radical Chic” of political photography in the Paris Review, which I suppose kind of ties into all the Instgram stuff I shared above. Whatever.

Now, as hundreds of iPhones capture an arrest at an OWS protest in the name of justice, no one can doubt that some of these images can and will also be singled out at some point in the name of the aesthetic. But does the time-lag involved in moving from the streets to the museum (or to the hip blogosphere) work against their reciprocity? When the marginal becomes the fashionable, does a genre like street photography lose its street cred? The financial crisis of the 1930s helped provoke the hard-nosed solidarity of the Photo League, both its politics and its aesthetics, whereas our own crisis is shadowed by skepticism on both fronts.”

A nice interview with Karen Halverson on 2 way lens. 

Editing one’s work is challenging. I think it helps to let the work sit for a while until after the first fervent rush. Edit out anything you doubt, but revisit the rejects once in a while. Maybe you missed something. Let “accidents” inform you. Maybe they’ll lead you in a new direction. On the other hand, you may find your first loves don’t hold up with time.

Claire Bishop wrote about the ‘digital divide’ on artforum. I think a few people might find the following excerpt objectionable, which is exactly why I’m sharing it!

Faced with the infinite resources of the Internet, selection has emerged as a key operation: We build new files from existing components, rather than creating from scratch. Artists whose work revolves around choosing objects for display (Bove, Johnson) or who reuse previous art (O?owska with Stryje?ska, Simon Starling with Henry Moore, Ryan Gander with Mondrian) are foregrounding the importance of selection strategies, even when the outcome is decisively analog. Questions of originality and authorship are no longer the point; instead, the emphasis is on a meaningful recontextualization of existing artifacts

The talented Ryan Pfluger offers up some sage advice that I wholeheartedly agree with.

The reason I say this is because it’s often asked of myself & my peers – “what kind of camera/equipment do you use?” or “how do I get to work for so & so magazine” – those are not the questions you should be asking. You should be asking yourself whether you have the commitment and drive to constantly be making work for yourself, whether people are commissioning/buying your work or not. In the end that’s what will make you successful. Creating because you love to create…and not for any other reason.

BJP wrote about the death of ONCE Magazine. The following quote makes sense to me!

The way the magazine was presented worked really well on the iPad, but it limits your audience. Don’t get me wrong, I think the iPad can be good, but as far as making money on it, it’s a bit limiting. And, as far as journalism goes, if you’re reporting an issue that only people with a $500-device can read, you can’t help feeling you aren’t doing it justice.

Dan Abbe shared a quote from Sunjung Kim & Suki Kim that should give you something to think about. Maybe you agree, maybe you don’t!

In this era of images, there is nothing beyond the production and consumption of images. Photography is, of course, at the core of these processes. However, the traditional method of producing images that consisted of wandering passionately in search of subjects and shooting photos of them, no longer guarantees the meaning of photographic images as it once did. The explosion of digital images challenges the basic assumptions of photography that have been its support for the last one hundred and fifty years. The myth of direct representation, whether of a dramatic moment or a beautiful scene, has started to collapse and is finally coming to an end.


©Klara Källström and Thobias Fäldt via Photographing Another Side of Assange, and the Things He Touched [American Photo]

Etc.,