©Dominic Nahr – via ‘TIME’s Best Photojournalism of 2012′
I leave work at 1pm on Friday’s so the Newton Elementary school shooting story was just breaking at I was finishing up my work. The horrible facts were starting to emerge but there was still too much misinformation to really know what was going on. When it became clear that the majority of the victims were very young children I was filled with a horrible dread. What could I do though? Instead of going home and following the news I decided to head to MOMA and look at art. Escaping reality seemed like a good idea for the afternoon. I took in the ‘New Photography 2012′ exhibition (review later) and looked at Munch’s Scream as tourists snapped photos. A MOMA membership is definitely worth the money.
When I returned home I caught up on Twitter and Facebook and the news, absorbing what I could. The cynical side of my brain said that all this attention on guns and violence was the typical first wave of reflection that we see after these type of events. I thought it would soon fade, but as I sit here today I’m not so sure it will this time. I think as a culture we’re fed up with this senseless violence. But what can we do really? I mean, signing a petition for the Obama administration to “Immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress,” is a nice symbolic action but that’s about it (I could be wrong though.)
I had a few friends that I think justifiably mentioned that US drones have been killing innocent people in Pakistan and Afganistan for years with little attention. It all relates in my mind. Parents allow their kids to play violent video games without any real understanding of how that shapes their view of violence. Then again, who am I to talk? Some of my favorite TV shows are crime procedurals. In fact, this weekend I watched a few episodes of Criminal Minds which is all about hunting down psychotic killers. I can’t help but think my seemingly innocent escapism is in some way part of the problem. Perhaps if the United States invested more money into mental health care (and health care in general) than into manufacturing weapons we might be better off as a society. The article that’s spreading around today is from a mother whose dealing with a mentally ill son, prone to violent outbursts. It’s worth your time.
Yes, I think we need to think about how all of these issues relate, because they do, and I think we know it, but would rather escape than think about it.
Onto the photography news.
Links of Note
Tom Griggs says ‘Originality Is a Conservative Argument’:
What I am saying is the experience of the image is what’s important, the interaction around the image, the collective investigation between images between different people and over generations of photographers, the connection photography can make between us. The collective project is more important than the individual – and photography is something that we have created together, not any individual alone. Photography is the qualities of the photograph in the context of other photographs and in its cultural context. People forget this in our ever-increasing world of ever more contests, Grand Prix, winners and losers, reviews, and success through who you know.
Josh MacPhee from The Baffler wrote a brilliant, eye opening article about Kickstarter. Here are a few quotes.
Kickstarting a project demands that we transform ourselves from artists into marketers. Are these two selves compatible? We are forced to streamline our heterogeneous senses of self, the complicated pushes and pulls that make up our personalities, for the sake of attracting investors. The edges are rounded, our rowdier aspects brought into line. In order to be successful, our drive to self-promotion has to outstrip all other drives. Our goal—our imperative—is to harden ourselves and our projects into cohesive, likable, and salable commodities. We wake up as brands, joyously exulting in these flattened, logo-like versions of ourselves.
Throughout history, the people doing the toil have struggled to control the means of production, and have often succeeded on a small scale. What is being bought and sold is now changing, as is the nature of work—how we do it, where we do it, and how we are compensated for it. We need to recognize platforms like Kickstarter not only as tools to raise money, but as tools that harness new forms of our labor power. Which means we need to learn how to organize around these forms.
Before (anti)social media and those digital cameras found in the hands of all those people who have no business calling themselves photographers, finding an image of my yacht was something of a voyage itself. When photographs were paper they had a soul, a life, and a death; the paper degraded, the colors faded, the edges bent in reminder that life itself isn’t meant to last in digital perfection, but die scattered and unused in a damp basement. As I look out at the sea, I think we aren’t surfing the web, but drowning in it.
That was satire. I hate that I need to say that. Here’s another piece of satire, this time from Blake Andrews. He’s offering a 3-Day Photographic Workshop on Photographing The Destitute.
The destitute. Downtrodden. Street beggars. Homeless. Whatever appellation is applied, these colorful urban characters have long been a favorite subject of street shooters. Photographers have taken a a variety of approaches from formal portraiture to quick grab-n-go captures to contemporary Google Street View surveillance, all in a relatively frictionless and liberating environment.
I cannot explain every image that I have taken. If I tried to, it would be a sham and boring; it would come across as trivial. That’s not the intention. Each photograph is felt, but there isn’t just one reason for releasing the shutter—there are several reasons, even with a single exposure. The act of photographing is a physiological and concrete response but there is definitely some awareness present. When I take snapshots, I am always guided by feeling, so even in that moment when I’m taking a photograph it is impossible to explain the reason for the exposure. Something might, for example, seem erotic to me. That in itself is a gradation that contains a multiplicity of elements.
That process of alteration is one of the things I love about photography. In essence, through the process of recomposing the work, the photograph is revitalized as something that is contemporary— now. This can be done countless times with any image. In a way, this is like saying that within each image, there is a multitude of possibilities. A single photograph contains different images.
Meanwhile, the role of the professional spot-news photographer won’t merely change. It’ll just about end. People in that business should be looking for new ways to make a living. As I wrote in my book Mediactive several years ago, a cameras-everywhere world makes it much more likely that an “amateur” will get the most newsworthy images. But because tabloid-style media will always have an audience, probably a big one, new kinds of content marketplaces are sure to emerge, giving non-pros a way to sell and license the most newsworthy material. Look for bidding wars will erupt for items that are sufficiently interesting or ugly or titillating.
But can the gap between fine art photography and the rest of the fine art market ever be fully closed? Arthur Goldberg, a major US collector of contemporary photography for the last 40 years, said that it was up to history to decide if there should be equality between the two when he spoke at the Artelligence conference in New York a few months back. However, he thought that buying photography was a real opportunity to own great art at a lower price. “Great art is great art,” he said “whatever the medium.
Once the hook was in with Instagram’s filters in 2010, the true value of the network become immediately apparent to anyone willing to look: Instagram turned everyone into a photographer. The filters gave people like me courage to make that jump. It didn’t matter if our pictures were shitty and made only slightly less shitty by the filters. All that mattered was we were all now taking pictures. A lot of them. And we became interested in other peoples’ pictures. And that mattered because for the first time, there was a social network that could communicate across all languages. Instagram became a visual language at scale.
Debora Schwedhelm received the most votes, earning her the PhotoNOLA Review Prize, which includes a solo exhibition at the New Orleans Photo Alliance Gallery during the eighth annual PhotoNOLA, a cash award of $1000, and a marketing consultation with Mary Virginia Swanson. 2ndPlace winner, Brandon Thibodeaux, and 3rd Place winner, Sandi Haber Fifield, are recognized with image galleries on the PhotoNOLA website.
In collaboration with publisher Kehrer Verlag in Germany, we are pleased to be publishing the work of Mila Teshaieva. Her Critical Mass series “Promising Waters” looks at the realities of people living along the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan, Kasakhstan and Turkmenistan – countries establishing themselves as independent nations post-Soviet rule. Possessing vast oil and gas resources, the new, yet-to-be-defined identity of these countries clashes with the traditional – and Mila documents this clash with images of communities stuck in isolation and altered landscapes.
- OFFERINGS TO THE VISUAL WORLD by Don Hudson [VICE]
- How fake images change our memory and behaviour [BBC]
- In a BuzzFed, Gawkerized World, Photos of Naked Celebs and Barnyard Animals Are Interchangeable [Ad Age]
- Books of the Year: John MacLean’s New Colour Guide [American Photo]
- Economics, not digital, is what’s killing off analog film [Digital Trends]
- Harold Feinstein: Photography from New York to South Korea [CNN]
- Flickr stages mobile photography comeback with re-engineered iPhone app [BJP]
- Felix Salmon: The Contemporary Art Bubble [Reuters]
- A Former Goldman Heavy-Hitter Rediscovered His 20s After Finding Gorgeous Photos In His Attic [Business Insider]
- Best Photos of 2012: Compilation by Monroe Gallery
©Robert Frank – Blue Sky Gallery