©Mike Brodie – via “A PERIOD OF JUVENILE PROSPERITY” [The New Yorker]
Recorded two more conversations for the podcast this week. Look for those in the next couple of weeks. We’ve started laying out Issue 6 but there’s text to still be written. I’ve always worked best on deadline, although living in New York it feels like there’s a deadline every day, which can be exhausting. I normally need one day on the weekend to relax and do nothing. This weekend I watched the much hyped House of Cards on Netflix. This isn’t a TV blog so I’ll save you the review, but I do think it’s worth checking out if you’re interested TV. The evolution of TV in the internet age has been interesting to watch the last few years.
But here’s the thing. I’ve really only known photography in the digital age. Same is true for many of us I imagine. So for us, there’s no basis of comparison. Maybe we don’t know what we’ve lost or what could have been. For me, wasting time thinking about that stuff is pointless. I’d rather be daydreaming about the future or out standing on a corner in Queens watching life flow by on a Saturday afternoon.
On to the news.
Links of Note
Given the proliferation of options, how should I document this cat? For some, though certainly not everyone, this question is becoming increasingly difficult to answer. The most obvious answer is “don’t document that cat. Enough already.” I’m with you. I’m concerned about how social media documentation changes experience.
Well, the great wonder of our time is also a disease of our time: the desire to experience things for ourselves. It’s just the thing at the moment, what we don’t want is to be told stuff. We don’t like elites any longer because we’re all like each other. We want to know it ourselves, we want to feel it. It’s partly due to the rise of individualism. But what we get to is what I call the “duchess paradox”, where everyone is now a duchess in society. The real problem with that is that if you’re all duchesses then what’s the point of being a duchess? Everyone’s a celebrity now. Everyone wants to be a celebrity, they want to be treated like celebrities. They want to go to spas, they want to get married in big, posh houses. People will pay for VIP tickets to concerts. It’s extraordinary. Everyone is desperately searching for where it’s at. The point is there is nowhere it’s at – “it” simply just doesn’t exist. It’s the great tragedy for that generation: they just want to experience something.
For my photography, I’ve been studying the work of Duane Michals. He’s famous for these photo sequences, which tell stories in a cinematic way. I bought a few of his books, and I’ve begun to think about sequences of my own that suggest a narrative.
I’m always curious to hear how something was made—though I have no interest in why an artist did something, or what his work means. Like with Jackson Pollock: I’m always interested in what kind of paint and canvas he used, I just don’t want to know what he meant. You’re supposed to expand your mind to fit the art, you’re not supposed to chop the art down to fit your mind.
“I had interned for the New Yorker as a freshman and I thought it was the worst working experience of my life. I just don’t feel comfortable honouring a legacy – that just kills my interest.” She says that over the last few years she’s “become very politically radical, because I’m exposed to people who are changing my ideas. There is an unstructured population of politically sophisticated young people that are in debt, atomised and speak from an important critical position – there is a simmering need to congregate.”
There is so much photography, especially of a ‘seriouss’ [sic!] nature, that ties you up in knots, that seeks to put you into a particular place in the way that you see and understand it. It’s a kind of photographic correctness, where even though you may agree wholeheartedly with what is being said or shown, the resentment at being forced to agree with the sentiments of the work, the inability of the work to offer even a second dimension or alternative perspective makes one want to disagree with it just for the sake of it. It’s Stupid Photography that doesn’t enlighten or engage, but just shuts things up and makes one long for something that is open and free. Photography isn’t always open or free.
The Afronauts, in other words, is about us — we non-Africans — and the stereotypes and prejudices about Africa that we carry around in our heads. It’s about challenging those stereotypes and beliefs, on the sly, with humor, and with a sleight of hand.
Pando Daily reports that “a source close to the company said the shut-down was a result of a disagreement over the direction of the site between Bekman, who wants to keep her focus on 20×200?s community of artists, and her investors.” And the tech news site posted a photo of the vacated 20×200 offices.
There’s nothing wrong with family photographs, and there’s nothing wrong with an insider producing something that is implicitly intended for the appreciation of other insiders. But there’s a potentially sharp discontinuity between that appreciation and the appreciation of outsiders. In the case of depictions of “universal” archetypes, the predictable outcome of crossing this discontinuity is that the archetype devolves to stereotype. The result is not an incomprehensible image, but an all-too-comprehensible one — stereotypes being always the easiest type to judge, read, and dismiss.
Obviously, it would be great to be able to support myself on art alone, but that’s more of a fantasy than an actual model. After reading tons of interviews, it becomes clear that whatever works for other people works because they are who they are, so any attempt to replicate it on my part is just slotting myself into a career that might not be suitable for me personally. Sometimes I question whether it’s a good idea to make my living from photography. Spending so much time on the computer in post drains the energy I would have for editing of my own photos and I’m yet sure how to recover from that, but when all’s said and done, I don’t want to make a living in another field. It’s hard to imagine what I would be technically qualified for except for a series of monotonous low level office jobs. I could attempt to do it with bemused irony, but I’m pretty sure that would make me a very low caste hipster.
The reason that I chose to photograph when people were not aware of the camera was to avoid affecting their behavior. There are moments when people are oblivious of others, or simply don’t want to be mindful of anybody other than themselves. These moments happen between things, such as when we are rushing out to work in the morning, taking out the garbage, coming back from the deli with ready-made food, or maybe just sitting on a stoop daydreaming. Since I started watching people that I didn’t know anything about – name, sentimental relationships, occupation, age, personal history – I have noticed that those moments can be more revealing of their personalities than when they are trying to make a good impression on others. This interesting journey that started with pure curiosity ended with great discovery for me.
“Similarly, MoMA and other museums once drew strict lines between insider and outsider because they were beset by accusations that modern art could be made by disturbed people and untrained artists. Thus “outsider art” had to be left out in the cold, out of fear. Those embattled borders are long gone; the wars were all won. Museums: I say it’s time for you to set aside these old chauvinisms. There are no more excuses. You’re on the wrong side of history. Your definitions of art are reductive and insular where they need to be inclusive and expansive. You’ve hit a wall. Change — or wither with your prejudices and die a slow death.”
- “7 Ways to Build A Sustainable Art Career This Year” [Hyperallergic]
- I Feel it Would be Wrong Not to Stop and Take Note of this Photo from Aleppo [BagNewsNotes]
- Why Founding Photographer William Henry Fox Talbot Would Have Grokked Photoshop [Jonathon Keats]
- Mythical power: Understanding photojournalism in the Vietnam War [David Campbell]
- Google Street Scene, Movie Moments Captured in Google Street View [Laughing Squid]
- The Sam Abell Library: 40 Years of Life and Still Life [LightBox]
- F-Stop Magazine Issue 57
- Interview: Doug DuBois, Part I [fototazo]