I was in New Orleans last weekend for PhotoNola. It was a blast. It was great to meet people like Aline Smithson and Jonathan Blaustein in person after knowing them for so many years online. I saw some excellent work and all the photographers were very high minded, and dedicated to their work. And then of course there were the folks from the New Orleans Photo Alliance. They did an amazing job making the weekend run smoothly, and maybe more importantly, they really understand hospitality! It was my first time in New Orleans, so I was under the trance of a new city, but I didn’t mind. I just went with the flow. I’ll have more on PhotoNola later in the week.
So, what did I miss? Let’s take a look.
With so much talk about photography being over or dead, we might as well admit that it is, have a jazz funeral, and continue enjoying the medium, now more than ever. I think this is what Olivia Locher is doing with Another Day on Earth, fearlessly unafraid to produce pictures that either conform to or subvert standard conventions. Photography is dead – long live photography!
The shortlist for the 2013 Deutsche Börse Photography Prize was announced. Congrats to Cristina De Middel. I’ve heard good things about the book, but have not seen it myself.
De Middel was selected for her debut photobook The Afronauts, which looks at Zambia’s space programme launched in the 1960s. “In The Afronauts, De Middel creates a subjective version of the story, engaging with myths and truths,” say the judges. “The book is comprised of a series of constructed colour photographs, sequenced alongside drawings and reproductions of letters, resulting in a fictional portrait of a national dream.” In its December edition, BJP selected De Middel’s The Afronauts as the best debut photobook of 2012.
The Lens Culture International Exposure Awards 2012 were announced: The winners in the portfolio category were Matilde Gattoni, Annalisa Brambilla and Kyoko Hamada.
The inaugural Rudin Prize for Emerging Photographers goes to Buenos Aires–born, LA-based artist Analia Saban.
The result is a list of Best Books that contains between 150-200 titles — not exactly a tidy top 10. But we don’t see this as a problem; we aren’t seeking consensus or a ranking. For us, Best Books is about discoveries. When generating our list of contributors, while some are annual fixtures, we strive for a diversity that will shed light on corners of the photoworld that we may miss. We assemble the list knowing that a certain amount of luck determines what a person happens to see, purchase or seek out during the course of the year. Because of this, it’s important to note that a book selected by only one person may be no less great than a book selected by numerous people — its fewer appearances may simply be an issue of access or chance. Knowing this, we also ask our contributors to write a sentence or two about each title on their list, making each photographer, curator, publisher or bookseller’s list full of personal insight into what makes each book remarkable.
The snark is already flying about these lists. I’m not really going to waste too much time on them. For me, the best books of the year are the books I’m fortunate enough to own. Even browsing through a book at the store is no replacement for owning it. I have to live with photobooks in order to articulate how I feel about them. The challenge for me is in acquiring the books! So many that I want, and so little $$$ for all of them.
Links of Note
Some strong opinions about viewing photography online from Lauren Henkin:
I see this voracious online consumption as very dangerous to our medium. So much so that I’ve given serious thought to taking all of my work offline. My interest in photography is in creating objects. I do not believe that the life of a photograph begins at conception (capture), but at birth (the print). I find this push for accepting what we see on the screen as the art itself a threat not only to my years of work trying to become a competent printmaker, but also in reaching a point where the prints I produced could provide enough of a living so that I could focus solely on creating work. But even larger than that, I worry about it further segregating photography from broader recognition as an art form, especially if we accept that merely subject and composition are enough to make it art. It isn’t.
Most of the people that I know value prints and books over their digital representations. I try not to think in dualistic terms though. The web and print work together, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. There doesn’t need to be any unnecessary antagonism toward one or the other. The millennials I know and follow also seem to value physical objects more than digital, so I don’t know that much will change. I wouldn’t count on digital consumption slowing down any time soon though.
Some strong opinions about photoshop from Rodney Smith:
And lastly, now comes Photoshop, which is changing photography from an interchange with life into a studio experience in one form or another. If you don’t like the background, change it. If you don’t like the expression, change it. Change everything. Change the colors, the light, the clothes, etc., until photography is on its merry mechanical way of being a form of illustration. So photographers have slowly lost control under the guise of getting more. They have slowly given up the great gift of a meaningful and spiritual interchange with this glorious world, for consistency, ease, control, and most importantly a fear of failure.
This could also be a manifesto for many photographers.
It’s weird. I feel like there are more zines now than ever. I thought blogs would kill them out too, but guess what? Your grandma has a blog and a Twitter, but she don’t make zines. The zine has a beginning and an end. When you are done with it, you can throw it away. That’s the power of the zine.
Art can be both a choice and a compulsion; activism can be both a choice and a compulsion. Sometimes they coincide, sometimes they don’t. I don’t believe activism is an obligation for anyone, but being an engaged citizen is just good sense based on self-interest. I applaud and admire those who use their art to foster awareness and change; but a sense of responsibility to make a certain kind of work that explicitly addresses particular issues is not a charge I would lay on anyone, and I certainly don’t want it laid on me.
‘Eyeist Looks To Disrupt The Traditional Portfolio Review‘ according to Rob Haggart:
I don’t gain anything from sending people there except I hope to correct what I think has become a horrible trend in photography: photo contests. Not all are bad, but I’ve judged a few recently and several things are quite alarming. The amount of people entering is staggering and a significant chunk of entries are mediocre to not-good-at-all compared to the “ringers” who enter and clean house. Which means people are spending lots of money on photography contests and getting nothing out of it. No feedback, just throwing the money into someone’s pocket. And, really what I believe most people are seeking is feedback in some way.
Part 3 of Colberg’s ‘How to tell a story with pictures’:
If you think of photographs as dots, as those little factlets, you’ll have to immediately start playing your game connecting them, thinking about how to get from the first one to the next one etc. If you think of photographs as clouds, as entities that create certain experiences, things are a little different. You can think about connecting them, but you can also think about letting them just be. Letting them be is maybe similar to throwing a bunch of stones into a lake and to then watch the circular waves create a complex pattern on the water’s surface.
Mike Johnston wants you to ‘Get It Done While You Can‘:
Work hard while you can. Get things done. Because someday someone is going to say to you, “You want us to match an inkjet print? Wow, I haven’t even heard that word in five years,” or, “Sir, no one works with files from the old Bayer array cameras any more.” Or you’ll get transferred to Bongo Bongo in the South Pacific and the company has a no cameras rule because the native women don’t wear tops. Or Filbert the master printer will win Lotto and enthusiastically devote his life to cocaine. I don’t know. I don’t know what it will be—all I know is that whatever is, isn’t forever. The windows that open, close. When things are on song, sing. Please take my advice.
No amount of technology will turn a mediocre photographer into a great one. Nor, in conceptual terms, will it transform a bad idea into a good one. For that you would still need to possess a rare set of creative gifts that are still to do with seeing, with deep looking.
W.M. Hunt on ‘How to Get Your Work in Front of a Collector‘:
The fuller a photographer’s practice is, meaning commercial, editorial, exhibition, publication, etc. the better the work will be. This imagined separation of church and state is blind. Get the money. Don’t whore yourself out, but make stuff happen. Also this kind of artist is a better editor without self-indulgence. They work coherently, they challenge themselves, and they keep moving. If I am asked if I would like to see someone’s personal work or their commercial work, I would rather see the latter because it’s hard to be your own client.
When I see an image that intrigues me for some reason, my first response is to photograph it. Since I still use film, it’s often weeks later when I first look at the contact sheet. Maybe it’s the poet in me, but more and more I’m beginning to realize that this waiting period is more important than I ever realized. It’s hard to explain, but something happens to this image in my mind’s eye while I’m waiting for its unidentical twin — the image on the piece of film I photographed — to be developed. The image floats for a few weeks in the back of my mind, and all the while it’s being bathed in all kind of associations — conscious and unconscious. So I guess you could say that two very different kinds of development are going on during this rich, fertile waiting period, and both play a role in my final intuitive editing process.
‘Saying Goodbye to Now: How Do iPhone Photos Impact Our Experience?‘ by Thomas Beller in the New Yorker:
It has occurred to me that this picture-taking might in some ways be an excuse to touch and pet and hold the iPhone itself, which has a weirdly calming effect on people, as though it were an amulet or maybe a small living animal. I am guilty of all the smartphone sins—in essence, staring at the phone when you should be staring at life. It’s possible that the act of taking a picture has such appeal because it manages to do several opposing things at once—I am allowed to pet the phone, to let the phone flatter me with its news, to let the phone mediate reality for me, and also to see what is going on around me and bear witness to a moment in my children’s lives, even if I am seeing it on-screen. To mitigate this, I often shoot blind, like firing a gun at the hip while I look directly at the action.
David Galjaard, advice for those interested in self-publishing their work:
Don’t make a deadline. Never start with your deadline, because you’re probably not going to make it. Give yourself the time. Also, it’s very important to put your project away for a couple of months, if you can. When you’re working so intensely on a project, you will inevitably have tunnel vision, and the best way to get out of the tunnel is just to put it aside for a month, maybe two, and then look at it again.
I work much more like a forensic photographer in a certain way, collecting evidence. I’ve started to take more still lifes, like a police photographer, collecting evidence as a witness. I’ve started to borrow a different strategy than that of the classic photojournalist. The work is much more factual and much less about good photography. I don’t care that much anymore about “good photography.” I’m gathering evidence for history, so that we remember.
EARNING A LIVING is not a god-given right in photography. You are not owed a living wage for taking pictures. It’s a hard graft and not everyone makes it. You are however entitled in this day and age to get a job doing something else and STILL take pictures about what matters to you. You can still publish and tell your stories, maybe even more effectively.
If I came to New York City and started horsing around and getting in long aesthetic discussions with professors of art, or hanging out with artists at the Cedar Bar? It would have been incredibly distracting.
Tony Fouhse on obsessions:
I view obsessions much like I view instincts, the good and the bad are all mixed up in there…there being our nervous systems. But without them, instincts and obsessions, and without the courage to follow them, both the good and the bad, you just end up being.
I have always told my students that it is equally important to meet fellow photographers at these events, and not to solely focus on meeting with people that they think might change one’s career. Sometimes at photo events, photographers can be a bit myopic and self-focused, trying to tug on the sleeve of important reviewers. They don’t realize that those who don’t make it all about themselves, benefit the most–and often times, it will be a peer that makes something happen in their career. More has come to me, and to my career, from my relationships with other photographers than from anywhere else–the evidence of this statement seems profoundly evident after my recent travels–just looking at this fall, almost every invitation came from a relationship with a photographer.
Jeff Atherton is very much alive, thankfully. That man is a genius, and most of the stuff he taught us went right over our heads. It was complex philosophical stuff about the history of art, composition, color theory. For example, it wasn’t just about that bullshit rule of thirds that they teach you at the better wedding-photography schools I’m sure. I really owe him so much for imparting these theories that have now become like valuable artistic instincts that I use every day I shoot. I’ve always been meaning to get the books he used to read from, so I could explicitly relearn what he taught. Unfortunately, he was laid off a few years ago. I don’t think Art Center is the same without these two.
- Has Photoshop Made Us Cynical? [Fast Company]
- Young Magnum: The hotshots ready to take their place in history [The Independent]
- The Best Photography Blog Posts of 2012 [PhotoShelter]
- Photography: cloud sourced learning.[duckrabbit]
- Would You Have Taken the Post Subway Photo?: Pulitzer-Winning Photographers Respond [Gawker]
- Remembering Bonni Benrubi, Curator of Images [NYTimes]