Uncle Charlie was my favorite uncle. He’s my godfather. My grandfather was a grade-A hood, hustling, pimping women, abusive. My mother got out, but Uncle Charlie never did. My mother made sure I had an education. I went to art school. In 1981, I started realizing that my uncle was an interesting person to take pictures of, and it became my family album. Charlie is fifty-one years old now and his life is a mess. He blames his kids, he blames his ex-wife, he blames my mother—he thinks he is the ultimate victim. I know enough about his life to know how he got there, but emotionally I can’t cut him any slack. I know it’s because he had an abusive childhood, but that doesn’t give you the right to fuck up your kids. Still, you know, I feel for him. He’ll always be my Uncle Charlie.” – Marc Ansin, CENTER AWARDS: Curator’s Choice Awards 1st Place [LENSCRATCH]
It was nice to finally share Issue 6. Thanks to everyone that contributed, especially designer Wayne Bremser. We made a few last minute changes while he was on the road so we had to go back and forth a few times to get things straight, but we ended up getting it right I think. A big thanks to Blake Andrews and Mark Peter Drolet as well.
We’re offering subscriptions again this year, including a digital option, which is basically a tip jar. The money we raise will go primarily to paying writers, designers and editors. I’m also going to start commissioning a few features here and there. Look out for the first collaboration in Issue 7.
At the end of the year I’m going to raffle off three photobooks to those that subscribe. I have a few books in mind, but what I’ll probably do is head to Dashwood and see what I can dig up.
The podcast is rolling along and also taking up more of my LPV time. It’s been challenging to listen to myself as a host. Downright painful at times, but I’m learning. It’s been great getting some tips from friends obsessed with podcasts. It’s an interesting medium. What I appreciate most is that you have to invest some time to listen to them. It’s not like on the web where you can quickly browse an article.
I have three more to edit so I think I’m going to aim to release them bi-weekly on Fridays.
Jeff Jacobson Interview on PDN
Very powerful interview (Part 1, Part II). I need to find a copy of Melting Point which Hin Chua recommended to me a few years ago. Most importantly though, I wish Jeff well in his battle with cancer. I can’t wait to get my hands on The Last Roll. Here are a few quotes I enjoyed:
I never know what I’m doing until I’m many years into a project. I always follow the pictures. The pictures tell me what I’m doing.
Because work that comes out of the documentary/photojournalism world is rooted in time and space, and work that comes out of the art world is often rooted in an idea that comes out of the photographer’s ego, and I’m less interested in that. There are certain photographers that are always exceptions to the rule, where they set stuff up and I think it’s wonderful, but not many. You know, I’ve almost never seen anything come out of the Yale School of Photography that remotely interests me. I just find it vacuous. I don’t think it’s very intelligent. I’m sorry.
But then that question of where do you stand becomes a much broader philosophical question. Where do you stand politically with your work? Where do you stand economically with your photography? Where do you stand in your life vis a vis photography? It’s a structure to help students very physically understand how to get to a picture. And a photograph is just a set of graphics. And I say, for the moment, forget about content, forget about subject matter, we’re just going to talk about photography in a graphic sense. Because when you boil it down, it’s a set of graphics on a piece of paper, or projected on a wall or on a computer screen, whatever. It’s not the world; it’s an abstraction of the world. But people don’t learn that. They think subject matter, subject matter, subject matter, and they never understand.
I set out to do my own pictures, and fuck ‘em if they didn’t like it. And they didn’t like it, and they kicked my ass right out on the street. On a certain level I’m very thankful for Magnum because they really helped me understand that you can’t make pictures for anyone else but yourself. You’ve really got to follow your own beat.
Links of Note
Every photograph of another person is, in weaker hands, an opportunity to humiliate the subject’s image. That has nothing to do with how the photograph was captured, or whether consent was given. When bad motivation exists, it only reveals the photographer. It never reveals anything about the subject, because it is only ever the subject’s image. I know nothing about the couple pictured above. The small miracle of photography is, in Mary Ellen Mark’s hands, images with very little context can generate compassion.
I’m wondering if even street photography can be trusted to tell us anything beyond what is in the photographer’s own heart at the moment—I wonder if it is in fact the most deceptive of all genres, for the very reason that it posits a certain objectivity, not rehearsed and posed but candid and full of accidents, an imprint of a reality that is out there for anyone and everyone to witness together. I wonder if, regardless of the literal elements of the scene, the tone an image takes on and expresses is due to the photographer’s own moods, his own prejudices, enthusiasms, “abortive sorrows and short-winded elations.” And then I wonder if this is in fact any less reliable than the notion that the images can say something objectively true about their over-arching subject (for instance, America) when that subject is itself so complex, many-sided, and open to a seemingly endless range of interpretations.
There’s people that say: “It’s not fair. You have all that stuff.” I wasn’t born with it. It was a horrible process to get to this. It took me my whole life. If you’re new at this — and by “new at it,” I mean 15 years in, or even 20 — you’re just starting to get traction. Young musicians believe they should be able to throw a band together and be famous, and anything that’s in their way is unfair and evil. What are you, in your 20s, you picked up a guitar? Give it a minute.
I see this as a delicate balance – how to make the work personal in some ways, influenced and affected by one’s vision, without being narcissistic. I tell my students making conceptual artwork all the time: nobody cares about you – that is not inherently interesting. The work has to transcend the subject, whatever the subject is. It sounds harsh, I know, but there is so much work out there, one has to set oneself apart.
I think that when I see a good photograph I recognize it. When I was teaching at the art academy, however, I knew students who ran around with their digital cameras. They’d fill their memory cards with pictures, and they then had a problem deciding which image was good, which one was bad. I don’t know whether that was because they never learned how to make such a decision or whether they conceptually refused to make a decision. But for them it is a big problem to deal with the flood if images and to make decisions.
When Hurricane Sandy hit, photographers and Instagrammers alike made pilgrimages to the disaster zone. Like many of these photographers, Briner headed straight for the storm, focusing on Brighton Beach and Coney Island, two of the neighborhoods that were hit hardest. What has made Timothy stand out, is that he not only photographed the architectural devastation, but spent significant periods of time with residents of these neighborhoods. While his own neighborhood in Ditmas Park was not hit as severely, it gave Briner a kinship to those living a few neighborhoods deeper into the storms path, and a responsibility to tell their stories. – Jon Feinstein
I like the fact that I still don’t know what I’m doing. Honestly. I’ll go through whole phases of months where I haven’t got a clue. I regularly lose complete confidence in what I’m doing. In some ways, the nicest bit about the creative thing – the nicest bit about recording and writing is this sort of weird limbo in between scratching away, scratching away, nothing really happening, nothing really happening, and then something wants to be built and starts to get built. You just have to let it happen. And then it gets to the end and you look at it a few months later and go, “Huh, how did that happen?” It’s sort of a weird amnesia.
But for me date is even more important than name. With all art this is true, but especially with photography. Because time is integral to the form. Every photo is locked into a specific moment. If I show you a photo and tell you it was made last year you will understand it in a certain way. If I then say that it was actually made 50 years ago, your interpretation may change radically.
Let this be a lesson, young folks. You need not have any curiosity, anything to say, or even much photographic ability (and you certainly needn’t be competent at processing): just have a gimmick, something that seems novel and can be explained in one paragraph for Wired or Buzzfeed. [Bonus points if your gimmick involves a lot of neat-sounding technology that captivates/confuses baby boomers.] People who “like photography” actually like reading stories about how photos are made more than they “like” photos. So give them a novel story, that’s all you need.
While I don’t think that these issues are new, I do believe that these new models and trends in photography – particularly in distribution – have reduced our medium. They have had a homogenizing effect, limiting participation and putting a premium on access to the limited number of faces at the gates of entry and to publishing and exhibiting. These trends have eliminated views from photographers not able to surpass the equipment gap, get an MFA, survive post-graduation, and pay for networking. They have had the result of a more simplified collective vision: less can make work, a narrower range of work is distributed, and I think an argument could be made that it also affects HOW work is made. If the stakes are high, less adventurous work will be made to ensure some degree of reception to it once the necessary payments have been made for access to the right eyes.
Very simply, a great book is something where the quality of the work and the quality of the ideas are sufficiently intelligent to be specifically applied to a book form. My biggest problem with most photography books is that they’re simply catalogues of images. They don’t necessarily need to exist as a book; in most cases it is vanity for the projects to end in a book. To me, the greatest books are the ones in which the relationship between the ideas, the images and the form are brought together to become a work in itself. When it becomes a distinct element of the artist’s practice. When the book is the piece.
Bottom of the Page
- Interview/Bobby Doherty [Wandering Bears]
- Mike Brodie, A Period of Juvenile Prosperity @Milo [DLK Collection]
- Limited Edition Photographs [The Online Photographer]
- The Ethics of Street Photography [Joerg Colberg]
- Jonathan Blaustein Reviews Tony Fouhse [A Photo Editor]
- SuperMassiveBlackHole [Issue 13]
- RIVERTOWN: A CONVERSATION WITH SEAN STEWART [The Great Leap Sideways]
- Elegy to the Polaroid SX-70 William Miller [The Morning News]
- 2013 Guggenheim Fellows in Photography [DLK Collection]
- How photographers joined the self-publishing revolution [The Guardian]
- Patti Smith Advice to the young [Louisiana Channel]
Legendary anti-war photographer and author of Viet Nam Inc, Philip Jones Griffiths, gives the interview of a lifetime only 48 hours before he died in at his home in London on March 19, 2008. With a voice impassioned by courage and enriched by his legacy of love for people and for taking real pictures of real people, Philip imparts his final words of wisdom on the subject of photography and sexuality.
Rare interviews with iconic photographers and people who loved him bring the most eloquent and clear headed anti-war photographer back to life. This movie is an hommage to being real in a time when documentary photography has fallen off the pedestal. This is the way and these are the words that matter. – Donna Ferrato, ‘The Magnificent One: Philip Jones Griffiths’