Archives

June 2012

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Jun 29

After Joel Sternfeld and Justine Kurland (and possibly others) Lucas Foglia is the latest photographer to explore alternative lifestyles away from the grid, in the woods, being self-reliant. There is considerable romanticism in this idea that you can help cure the ills of the world by withdrawing from all that is bad for the planet and, we must presume, yourself; and therein lies the trap for photographers trying to portray this kind of lifestyle. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with romanticism, since romanticism is related to idealism. But in the arts, romanticism is also the handmaiden of kitsch. (more)
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Jun 28

Peter Puklus’ One and a Half Meter contains images that on the artist’s website for the most part are filed under “Intimacy.” Intimacy might just be too obvious a title, but I might find it preferable over One and a Half Meter, which seems to take the viewer away from what one is really dealing with here. But then again, those one and a half meters around oneself are exactly the zone where intimacy is taking place. Have someone enter that space, and things get comfortable or uncomfortable - depending on whether the other person is intended to be inside or not. (more)
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Jun 27

Rob Haggart has a new post up, addressing the issue of paying for content online. Rob writes “The arguments can be divided into two oversimplified camps. Those who think market forces should be left to decide the fate of artists and their income […] And, those who think people should behave ethically or be forced to behave that way”. In the photo world, he places David Campbell’s argument into the former category, and mine into the latter. I wanted to write about the topic more anyway, so I might as well use this opportunity. (more)
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Jun 27

Via LPV Magazine’s Twitter feed comes the link to an article describing the massive role PR has come to play in the art world. All of this easily applies for photography. Over the past few years, we have witnessed an explosion of PR, in part triggered by so-called social media, but also by sites like Kickstarter, where many campaigns result in a flurry of PR emails. It’s a bit like the nuclear arms race where each side is trying to out-PR everybody else. Needless to say, the overall effect is simply that everybody’s is just getting more PR.
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Jun 27

The term “comfort women” is one of those ugly euphemisms used to hide the nasty reality behind it: During World War 2, Japan employed “very large numbers of forced labourers to work in its wartime mines and factories. In the Japanese case, a particularly dark aspect of this coercion was the forcible recruitment of women who were held in so-called ‘comfort stations’ and subjected to rape and other forms of sexual abuse at the hands of the Japanese military.” (source) So we’re talking about forced prostitution, sexual slavery here. This topic has remained hugely contentious, in particular since the Japanese government has been more than hesitant to deal with this part of the country’s past (this phrases it rather mildly). Photographer Ahn Sehong has portrayed some of these women who are still alive in Layer by Layer. Earlier this year, Nikon, the Japanese camera maker, announced it was going to cancel an exhibition of the work in Tokyo. This created a stir in the photo community; you might have seen, for example, Duckrabbit’s post. The Tokyo District Court has now ordered Nikon to open the exhibition (source), and you can find a report by someone who went to see it at the inimitable Microcord blog.
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Jun 26

“The face,” Cicero (106-43 B.C.) is supposed to have said, “is a picture of the mind as the eyes are its interpreter” (“Ut imago est animi voltus sic indices oculi”), and we know this as “the eyes are the window to the soul.” Scientists, oddly, seem to agree. And this is all fine, except that we have a problem here. What about the blind? Ordinarily, I don’t take those kinds of expressions for more than what they are. In particular, I try to avoid them in my writing, fighting my own hopeless war against cliché (in all likelihood a much paler version of the original one). But I saw this particular photography, a portrait of Frederick Lennart Bentley, taken by Martin Roemers and part of his The Eyes of War (which I reviewed here), and that’s the first thing that came to my mind (which, apparently and much to my consternation, is quite content with cliché). Find the full piece here.
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Jun 26

“This is Luke, he was in a car crash 2 days before I took this picture. I wasn’t going to photograph him with his top off originally but he wanted to show off his tattoos which read ‘Live Life, Love Life’. There is also a tattoo of the pearly gates on his right arm.” - Jack Latham about Luke, from A Pink Flamingo
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Jun 25

In the July 12, 2012 issue of The New York Review of Books, there is an article by Zadie Smith entitled “North West London Blues.” In it, the author mentions a small independent book shop, run by a woman named Helen. Helen, we learn, is “an essential local person,” with the “essentialness” defined as follows “Giving the people what they didn’t know they wanted.” Isn’t that a fantastic description of what a good curator should do? It also is the perfect antidote for Eli Pariser’s “Filter Bubble,” the observation that the internet is making us less smart since it increasingly gives us what we want (more accurately: what we know we want, we know we agree with).
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Jun 25

Hannah Putz’s portfolio mixes fashion assignments with personal work, often, but not always, involving nudes. As you can see from her press page, she has caused quite the stir with her work recently.
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Jun 23

“MediaStorm has introduced a Pay Per Story scheme, asking viewers to pay $1.99 to watch its latest photographic and multimedia productions,” writes Olivier Laurent in an article for the British Journal of Photography. David Campbell published his thoughts on the subject matter here. I find it interesting that people are still pussy-footing around the very simple fact that you cannot run a business on free. Someone has to pick up the tab. (more)
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Jun 22

There are many different ways to tell a story in a photobook (think of “a story” as whatever it is the book wants to convey, regardless of whether there actually is a real story - “Mary had a little lamb” - or whether the aim is to transport the viewer into a particular state of mind). You can, for example, take the viewer by the hand and guide him from A to B to C, maybe like in those drawings for little children where there is a set of dots with numbers on the page, and if the child connects the dots in the correct order, a picture emerges. Or you can, as seems to have rapidly become the current hot trend, throw a bunch of dots onto the pages, to make something emerge if the viewer just looks carefully enough. In the latter case, the dots often happen to be clouds - it is, I would argue, better to think of photographs not as things that have a very clearly outlined meaning, with sharp edges. Make no mistake, one way to tell a story is not better than another one. But as I already indicated with my “trend” comment, there are periods of time when one method is en vogue. I’d be happy to argue that it’s not just about trends, it’s also about photographers learning how photographs can be used to tell stories in book form (the irony here is that the medium photobook seems much more alive right now than the medium it is derived from, photography itself). (more)
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Jun 21

World War 2 might be the last war any Western nation fought that came with a simple, obvious moral certitude. Fighting against Nazi Germany and Japan, both aggressors, amounted to fighting for the ideals that at the end of the war made it into universally agreed principles. You can’t easily say that about the various wars we have seen ever since. World War 2 also deeply transformed Europe, the continent. Europe started to unite into an often ill-defined, yet oddly effective superstructure that now, after the inevitable fall of the Soviet-Union, encompasses almost the entire continent. This might explain our ongoing fascination with World War 2, as the generation that fought the war (or what was left of it afterwards) is slowly and steadily dying. That generation is the only connection left to both the experience of the war and to the world before it. (more)
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Jun 21

I just posted the 600th entry on The Independent Photobook Blog. If you haven’t checked out the site, but are interested in such photobooks, zines, etc. check it out! Since its inception, we’ve posted around 20 independently produced photobooks every month.
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Jun 20

The last thing anyone needs is rehashing the old debate about analog and digital in photography. I never found that discussion so interesting in the first place. I am perfectly comfortable with both analog and digital photography. Cameras are tools, and I’m personally not necessarily interested in talking about tools. That said, this might be too simplistic a description of my view. So let me try that again. Find the full piece here.
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Jun 19

“42º C shows passers-by emerging from the shadows into the light at precisely that orange dividing line where the scorching luminescence of summer splits in two - light and shadow. The streets of Seville, where the two join in battle every afternoon.” - Manolo Espaliú
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Jun 18

This photograph is part of Anne Lamb’s Nudes. They’re nudes alright, and they’re a bit different. There are three parts, I like numbers 2 and 3 quite a bit.
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Jun 17

Very important page with a lot of details about copyright and fair use. For example “Fair use is a right that you employ simply by accessing material, copying it and incorporating it into your project within an appropriate context. You do not need to get anyone’s permission to do that, and you do not even need to let them know that you did it.” (my emphasis) Btw, you will want to keep in mind that the concept of “fair use” used here applies to US copyright. Depending on where you live, your mileage might vary.
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Jun 16

My post Photography After Photography? (A Provocation) resulted in quite a few readers sending in comments. I didn’t expect so many people to agree with me. It seems there is quite a bit of discontent with the medium or at least with the current state of affairs. (more)
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Jun 15

I’m going to start a new feature on this website, providing brief reviews of photobooks. I can’t possibly write long reviews for each and every photobook I receive in the mail. Writing shorter pieces will hopefully allow me to cover more books, while adding a bit of a flexibility to the whole endeavour. Find the first three brief reviews below. (more)
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Jun 15

When I met Robert Knoth in early 2010, he showed me some of the photographs he had taken (I forgot where). He said he wanted to produce a book that would trace the heroin/drug trail from Afghanistan to places in Europe and Africa, rattling off more information than I was able to retain. It sounded like a good idea, but maybe just like a lot of the other stuff I was hearing at Fotofest a bit of a tall tale. But then what was a veteran photojournalist doing in that generic hotel banquet room, trying to get people interested in his work, while competing with all those fine-art people taking, let’s say, photographs of their grandmother’s possessions? After all, here was a photographer who had actually traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan and Somalia and who knows where else, places that one can easily consider as solidly messed up. This must be child’s play, I thought. Showing your photographs to some blogger can’t even be remotely as scary as even the most harmless stuff he ran into in places I wouldn’t go to even if I got paid a lot of money. All that aside, I really did wish him well, because in these twenty minutes Knoth had convinced me that there was a real, complex story here, parts of which I was somewhat familiar with, having read all kinds of stories and books about this and that, without being able to connect the pieces. (more)
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Jun 14

Olivia Arthur’s work from Saudi Arabia - published as Jeddah Diary - opens up a world we really don’t know so much about. See some more images, plus writing, here.
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Jun 13

Greg Krauss’ The Dreamer is a portrait of the photographer’s father.
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Jun 12

Photography liberated painting from the existential burden to depict. With the advent of photography, painting was finally able to move sideways and forward, blossoming in all kinds of directions. Who - or what - is going to do that for photography? Read the full piece here (slightly updated 13 June 2012).
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Jun 12

Michael Friberg’s Domaine Binner presents life on a vineyard in France during the “off season”. (via)
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Jun 11

I was away from my desk for a few days, which resulted in quite a few things piling up, metaphorically speaking, in my mind. As silly as I feel talking about yet another photo scandal, being away, which involved a lot of walking and of traveling, reminded me that often enough, when dealing with a photo scandal we’re losing track of what is at stake - and what is not. I suppose it’s the medium that dictates the message - the internet, with its incessant flood of relevant and mostly irrelevant little snippets of stuff, bombarding us day in, day out (this website, despite the fact that it’s not being updated more than once or possibly twice a day of course being part of the problem). (more; updated below)
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Jun 11

“‘My last name is Blessing. I am A. Blessing.’ He said with a wink and little bow. I had a feeling that Alfred had used this endearing introduction before, and it worked like a charm. I took him for ice cream and he told me about his first big failure in life… buying a gas station.” - from the introduction of Josephine Dvorken’s A. Blessing
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Jun 7

Separate Amenities “explores how the landscape has been constructed within social recreation in the form of so-called ‘separate amenities‚’ created during apartheid in South Africa. Recreational spaces functioned as separate facilities for different racial groups on every level of society, including separate beaches, parks, walkways and swimming pools.” - Vincent Bezuidenhout
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Jun 6

OK. Photography is memory. Photography is a construct, just like our memory. Photography is a great tool to serve our purpose of constructing our memory. We’re our own propagandists who, just like all propagandists, know that what we’re saying is not necessarily true. But what matters is that we make ourselves believe it is true. Or rather we treat our memories just like we treat announcements in advertizing that always come with the asterisk and all the fine print. We know that “certain restrictions apply.” But photography allows us to try to make those restrictions go away, or at least to reduce the amount of exceptions. Read the full piece here.
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Jun 6

Along the Way by Christopher Bennett shows locations along the route of the Lewis & Clark expedition.
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Jun 6

It was one of those rare cultural moments yesterday, disguised as an astronomical event, Venus passing in front of the Sun. If you’ve missed it you’ll have to wait another 200+ years to see it again. What struck me about this moment was (and still is) that for once, the web was not going “viral” about some stupid nonsense, to be laughed or angry about and then forgotten the very next day (like that Kony stuff or some video of a dead helicopter cat). It was something utterly inconsequential in the scheme of things we have agreed to hold dear (which, let’s face it, is the real inconsequential stuff when viewed from the kinds of places we are talking about here). Nobody was outraged, nobody (so far) has written about how the “web 2.0” has transformed something here. Everybody was just looking at something to be had for everybody, almost regardless of where you lived (and if you were unlucky with where you live that was absolutely nobody’s fault), it was beautiful (well, about as beautiful as a tiny black dot in front of the Sun can be), and now it’s over. We all just enjoyed it. I wish there were more events like this. (photograph by NASA)
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Jun 5

Tristan Hutchinson’s Took Strength To Tackle Those Hills is a photographic portraits of a community in southwest Ireland.
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Jun 4

John of Salisbury: “Bernard of Chartres used to say that we are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more than they, and things at a greater distance, not by virtue of any sharpness of sight on our part, or any physical distinction, but because we are carried high and raised up by their giant size.” Brook Jensen: “For artists, history is particularly important — perhaps more so than for the average human experience. You see, history is slightly more alive for us than it is for others because we have, as a part of our ‘now, the artifacts that have been left behind by the artists who preceded us. Their lives may have preceded us, but their artwork is still with us, here, available for each generation to understand and learn from.”
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Jun 4

“Tulsa is a recent a body of work that examines my hometown. Returning from Chicago, I felt just enough on the outside to gain a new perspective of life here. As I looked at Tulsa with a fresh gaze, my aunt began to lose her eyesight, and entered a damaging relationship with a man. I started the project by photographing them, but the tensions at the heart of their world were ones that I sensed elsewhere, and I was inspired to photograph other family members, friends, and strangers.” - Sarah McKemie
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Jun 2

To whom it may concern: Earlier this year, the Cultural Council of The Netherlands advised the Dutch Government to cut financial support to Noorderlicht after 2012. I am writing this letter to you, the members of the Council, to strongly urge you to reverse your previous decision and to continue funding Noorderlicht. Noorderlicht has been an important member of the photographic community for many years, a community that extends beyond regional or national borders. While I can only speak for myself, I sense strong support for Noorderlicht in the community. It is for this reason that I decided to express my own support in this public form, using the very medium that I have been using for the past decade. Over the past years, Noorderlicht has contributed many important projects to our photographic community, including the Noorderlicht Photofestival or the various publications, some of which I am happy to own - and use when teaching students. Add to these exhibitions such as, for example, the recent “Cruel and Unusual,” a group exhibition curated by fellow photography bloggers Pete Brook and Hester Keijser. Noorderlicht was instrumental in turning what originally was a project centered on the United States into a global statement about incarceration and its effects. In addition, Noorderlicht has also been instrumental in building the Netherlands’ status as one of the strongholds of the international photographic community. Cutting the financial support for Noorderlicht will not only be extremely detrimental for the organization, forcing it to close, it will also undercut Dutch photography as a whole. It is for these reasons that I strongly urge you to continue providing financial support to Noorderlicht. Sincerely, Jörg Colberg
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Jun 1

Using the title of this publication, Unknown Quantities, as the jump-off point for all kinds of comments is tempting, especially given the brouhaha over a group of mostly older Magnum members descending on Rochester, NY, to produce more Postcards from America. I’ll try to resist that temptation, to instead focus on what these four young Magnum photographers have published. (more)
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Jun 1

When we think of photography and place, not all places are equal. Some places are culturally or politically loaded in ways that makes approaching them or their depictions tricky (by depiction I here mean any kind of depiction, incl. non-visual ones). I wrote about Appalachia, but you might as well take the American West, or Israel/Palestine. There are different things at play in these places that make dealing with them complex. So how do you go about photography in such places? (more)
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