Photography museums, galleries, and blogs


General Photography

It is probably fair to say that blogs have become an established way to talk about photography. There are blogs published by photographers, writers, curators, critics, book publishers, newspapers, and photography agencies. The most notable omission appear to be photography museums and galleries. I’ve always thought that a blog would be an ideal tool for a museum/gallery to not only generate interest in their shows, but to keep the buzz going while the shows are up.

(Updated below)

If you think about it, photography museums and galleries are in a unique position: They typically have a large stock of images - a lot of them stored away and sometimes rarely seen on display, and they often manage to get the most cutting edge and/or the biggest names in photography for a show. So in principle, coming up with material for a blog would probably be straightforward for them.

For example, if you do a show that features the work of photographer star XY, you get the curator to sit down with XY, and have her or him talk about the work and about whatever else might be interesting. You film the whole thing, cut up the resulting film into digestible smaller pieces (maybe five to ten minutes each), and then you post those pieces, along with some images, in a series of posts, maybe one a week. That way each week, there would be something very cool for all the fans of XY to see on the museum’s/gallery’s blog.

Or provided the photographer is up for it, you could have the public ask questions about the work, with answers posted every week for a while. Or you could ask the photographer to pick four or five of her or his favourite images and film her or him talking about them: There you have four or five blog posts. The possibilities are endless, everything can be done with relatively little effort, since setting up and maintaining a blog is very simple.

Instead, I see more and more blogs being used like you would use a regular newsletter campaign - instead of sending out letters (or maybe in addition to that), people send out emails and then also post everything on their blogs. Many blogs have become mere PR machines. That’s fine if that’s what you want, but given that you can embed multimedia on your blogs, it’s ignoring the potential of the tool at your disposal.

In general, I don’t think blogs have been used in a way that lives up to their full potential (and that includes this blog, of course). I’m saying this because a “blog” is a description or a name of a tool and not a description of what you can do with it. You can tailor a blog to whatever you want to do: If you look at the various photography blogs, while they all run on more or less the same software, in reality they’re all a bit different - different in ways that reflects the people behind them.

And that’s where I see the strength of blogging: Blogging does not only provide a medium for people to publish their unique offering, it also provides a medium that allows the bloggers to establish their own way of offering it. It will be interesting to see how photography blogging is going to develop.

Just to give a few examples, Andrew started making movies - interviews and studio visits. DLK Collection and 5B4 are now publishing regular exhibition and book reviews. American Suburb X has been re-publishing photography writing. When will we see galleries or a museum with a blog? As far as I can tell, the only gallery-related blog is James Danziger’s.

There seems to be a general feeling that blogging has quieted down a little. I don’t think this means that we’re done with blogging now (and onto something else - sorry, Twitterites, someone will have to produce the contents that you can then link to). I think what it means is that after the explosion of blogging we witnessed a few years ago we’re now going to see blogs expanding the material they are offering. I’m really looking forward to that.

Update: I got a bunch of emails after I posted this, but unfortunately, they all seemed to confirm what I was writing above, namely that most museums and galleries don’t see to understand what blogs could do for them. For the most part, it was mere PR. But there were some exceptions. Have a look at this post from the National Media Museum blog (the museum is located in the UK). Now, that’s what I’m talking about! I also forgot to mention that the Tate Modern (also UK) seems to create special web contents for exhibitions (I remember seeing something Gilbert and George related a while back). The website is a mess, though, and I can’t find anything right now.