Archives

September 2012

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Sep 30

In an earlier article, I argued that it’s essential for photographers to carefully take the presentation of their work online into consideration. Instead of keeping things mostly theoretical, I thought I’d follow up with an article discussing examples. There probably will be considerable disagreement about what is the best presentation of photography on the web, but the following list might serve as a starting point for more discussions. Of course, the list is not supposed to be representative or complete in any kind of sense. Find the full piece here.
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Sep 30

For those who are able to at least read French, Rémi Coignet just published a wonderful conversation with Dutch photobook designers Sybren Kuiper, Jeroen Kummer and Arthur Herrman (for everybody else, there’s Google Translate, which does a pretty good job actually).
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Sep 29

There’s the idea that the internet offers photographers a unique chance to reach new audiences, and that’s certainly true. Photographers are being told that they have to make use of the internet to spread their work in all kinds of way, using “social media,” for example. Again, this is not a bad idea per se. However, in most of these discussions the focus essentially is on the consumer, the person who will see the photography. And that’s where things actually get a bit more complex. I now think that the sole focus on the consumer is actually harmful for many photographers who work in the area of fine-art photography. (more)
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Sep 27

Photography is great for what used to be its original purpose for a long time, to essentially say “this is that.” You take a photograph of something, put it in the center of the frame, and then this is that. There already is that small step people make, namely to assume that a photograph of something is the same as the thing itself. All of that has worked wonderfully well for many years, and it still does, at least to some extent. Photojournalists, in particular, have relied on the “this is that” mechanism for such a long time that they didn’t realize that you can play this kind of game only for so long, until people stop looking. You see, people aren’t stupid, and they also need to protect themselves. I think it’s fair to say that the time for the this-is-that game is up in photojournalism now (while the business model is imploding itself), so there are all kinds of attempts to re-play that game, by trying to make it look cool (using Instagram, for example). That’s not going to work.
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Sep 26

Augustin Rebetez’s website skillfully mixes photographs, video, and animated gifs (the above image is merely a static view of part of it) - and if you don’t like what you see then, well, you can move stuff around.
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Sep 26

Carolina Miranda has written a very thoughtful response to my article about photos of dead people in the news, which you should read. This might surprise people, but I actually do think that Miranda and I agree about the principle. But we do seem to differ on our idea how to approach this. I am with Miranda in that seeing a more realistic picture of life in the news - instead of the sanitized version we get - might be a good idea. But I do think we also need to consider the news we have - and not the news we’d want. For the news we have, I stand by what I wrote: here, photographs of the dead really for the most part serve the purpose of titillation, of “getting eye balls.” In particular, as Miranda points out, the idea of “the other” has returned to our media in an interesting form: It’s OK to show dead foreigners and brutal dead soldiers, but none of our own (I’m planning to write about this in more detail in a future post). For the news we want, obviously including a much larger dose of reality would be ideal - but this does not stop at only photographs of the dead.
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Sep 25

Bryan Graf is a member of the yet-to-be-named new movement in photography that treats the medium to a large extent as self-referential. For me, this is both great (btw it really helps push this sort of photography in an art world that for the most part only gets photography if it very obviously looks like art and if the artists juggle the necessary jargon) and a bit of a problem at the same time: What does this ultimately tell me? I’m sure I’ll find out eventually. (updated from 2009 post)
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Sep 24

For Draped, Eva Stenram works with vintage imagery, obscuring the pin-up models after the fact.
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Sep 23

I don’t know how often I’ve written a follow-up post to something I published earlier in the day. But after writing Can the web deal with complex photography?, reading Blake Andrews’ thoughts on Tumblr, and after stepping away from my computer to tend to my vegetable garden, I suppose it’s time to come back to something I said in the past in similar form. As Blake notes, Tumblr is great for all kinds of things, and people are using it very creatively. Tumblr is also a great example of how the medium has instantly created people who use it in a very specific way. Unless you follow a Tumblr via its rss feed (which is something I do for some, mostly for random reasons), for example, its content will be, well, tumbled up in all kinds of ways, by being interspersed with all the other Tumblrs you follow or by people reblogging content. This makes for an exciting format, but it also destroys pretty much most of its usefulness as a serial medium - serial in the sense of someone wanting to relate a previous post very specifically to the one that follows it. (more)
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Sep 23

There’s something interesting going on right now. Maybe it’s just me being too analytical with the world (always possible), but still: On the one hand, photography on the internet currently is being dominated by sites that either promote simple, single ideas (Twitter) or that showcase mostly single images (Tumblr). On the other hand, the photobook is not only more popular than ever, it is also becoming ever more complex, with some of the most widely acclaimed ones being those where a complex narrative is created out of dozens of photographs. How do you reconcile those two facts? Of course, you could just ignore them, knowing that in five years, say, the internet will yet again look very different (anyone remember Flickr?). But for some time, the development online seems to have focused more and more on isolated photographs, isolated photographs that increasingly are ill- or not attributed at all (a development that makes me shudder, both as a photographer and as an editor), isolated photographs that are being “liked” (I know, who cares, but let’s mention it for the sake of completeness) and reblogged. (more; updated below)
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Sep 22

“Young women everywhere - famous and non-famous - are increasingly becoming victims of voyeurism in our internet age” - Kira Cochrane
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Sep 22

This past week, bloggers have explored “photographers who have demonstrated an openness to use new ideas in photography, who have taken chances with their photography and have shown an unwillingness to play it safe.” As could be expected, the proposed artists were as diverse as the nominators themselves, essentially demonstrating that just into the 21st Century, photography is alive and very, very well. Find the list of nominators (in mostly alphabetical order) and artists below.
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Sep 21

Redheaded Peckerwood by Christian Patterson has rightly been hailed as advancing the way storytelling is dealt with in a fine-art photobook context. It might well have become the benchmark photobook for aspiring artists (in my various photobook classes, it is regularly mentioned by students). The concept of the book is very ambitious, advancing photography as a whole by mixing up different genres and making them relate to each other (instead of performing a baby step in one particular genre). For more details see my review of the book.
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Sep 20

Baghdad Calling by Geert van Kesteren showcases what a good photojournalistic photobook can achieve and how the medium “photobook” has moved way beyond the simple gallery-show-on-paper format that was so prevalent not that long ago. The book also shows how photojournalism can adjust to the conditions of the 21st Century, without either severely restricting its own power and credibility (for example by “embedding” with the same military it is supposed to report on) or chasing after popular photographic trends in a feeble attempt to remain relevant (using “Instagram,” for example). For details c.f. my review of the book.
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Sep 20

For the 10×10 Japanese Photobooks Reading Room at ICP, ten experts were asked to select (you guessed it) ten Japanese photobooks (actually, it’s two times ten experts, see the details). Marc Feustel published his selection, with nice photographs and some details about his choices - not to be missed! More listings: Ferdinand Brueggemann, Marco Bohr, Laurence Vecten, Rémi Coignet, Lilian Froger, Yoko Sawada, Peter Evans (details), Dan Abbe/Andrew Thorn, Atsushi Fujiwara, Ivan Vartanian, Yasunori Hoki, Tomoka Aya, Christopher Phillips + Deirdre Donohue, Kunihiro Takahashi, Akio Nagasawa.
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Sep 19

For me, Erik Kessels has most consistently investigated the power and potential of vernacular photography, probing beneath the surface, often finding surprising results - or even just demonstrating what we are actually dealing with.
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Sep 18

Katy Grannan’s portraiture is not only amongst the very best and challenging to be found today, it is also constantly evolving in surprising directions - always forward, always towards something that undermines expectations. Find a variety of images here.
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Sep 17

For me, the most obvious artist who has consistently demonstrated an openness to use new ideas in photography, who has taken chances with photography and has shown an unwillingness to play it safe is Thomas Ruff. Having worked with all kinds of photographs/images - his own, licensed one, appropriated ones, artificially created one - Ruff’s thinking is far ahead of that of most of contemporary photography. I might not always like each new series, but Ruff’s fearless exploration of the medium photography - of how images can be made - is very, very impressive. Find a selection of his work here.
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Sep 17

Earlier this year, Colin Pantall and I sent out the following email to a group of bloggers: “To celebrate new ideas in photography, we are asking people to nominate up to five photographers who have demonstrated an openness to use new ideas in photography, who have taken chances with their photography and have shown an unwillingness to play it safe. These three categories can be interpreted in any way. We ask that people put their nominations up on their photography blogs starting Monday, September 17th, with a short text and a key image (from 100 words up to however long you think ‘short’ can be) as a nice way to kickstart the Autumn: a collective effort of the photography blog community.” It is not unlikely that the list of people Colin and I invited is woefully incomplete. If you have a blog and want to chime in, please do so - the more people participate, the merrier! On this site, the contributions to the project are going to be listed under (the admittedly somewhat hyperbolic) “Towards the 21st Century” (but then again isn’t so much photography still solidly stuck in the 1970s?), and I will present three photographers and, to expand things a little bit, two photobooks, one each every day. At the end of this week, I’ll try to collect each of the responses and produce one big post with all the various contributions.
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Sep 16

I like photography so much that I’ve spent a considerable fraction of the past ten years looking at it, and thinking and writing about it. I can’t get enough of it. I could - and actually do on most days - look at photographs all day long. That said, there are some things that I’d like to see a bit less. Let me give you an example. These days, it is hard not to come across the idea that photography is ” the great democratic medium” (Susie Linfield), if not “the most democratic medium” (Google it, the terms pops up left and right). I object to this idea for a variety of reason. First of all, it’s a lazy cliché. There might be some truth in clichés, but nevertheless one is well-advised to stay away from them. The main problem with this cliché is that it is a dangerous one: If you were to argue that it’s not true doesn’t that make you anti-democratic? In other words, the idea that photography is “the most democratic medium” is a rhetorical cudgel as well: A good way to shut down a debate before it’s even happening. (more)
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Sep 14

“Is it possible,” asks Ben Krewinkel, “to document the life of an undocumented person who has been lived [sic!] in the Netherlands since 2001, without creating a manifesto that links its authors to certain political views?” Is it really necessary, this reviewer might ask back, to avoid taking a political stance? What is gained from that? But those are questions leading into a different direction. Let’s instead stick with A Possible Life. Conversations with Gualbert, the book that has resulted from the collaboration between Krewinkel and a man identified as Gualbert (not the real name). Illegal immigration of course is a hot topic all over the world. It constitutes a real issue - as much as a rather crude political tool used by the political right to whip up ugly sentiments. Americans will be as familiar with it as Europeans - in different ways, of course, than the people from the countries we love to refer to as “developing”. (more)
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Sep 13

Somebody once explained to me that writers who seem to be suffering from intellectual rabies (think Ann Coulter or Glenn Beck) live in a world that makes perfect sense to them. For someone on the outside the assumptions and beliefs that everything is based on appear to be almost completely insane. Inside that world, however, things make perfect sense. Of course, such cases are just extreme examples of how we all operate. But seeing this at work fascinates me. In the world of photography, I consider Nobuyoshi Araki to be such a case. Araki is the Mark E. Smith of photography: Both have released so many books (or albums in Smith’s case) that inevitably each article about them cites a mere guess. In Araki’s case, the latest numbers I’ve come across are 425 and 450. What is more, both have carefully cultivated an extremely unusual personality that is at odds with large parts of the world and that might or might not be authentic. (more)
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Sep 12

On September 11, 2012, the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three of his staff were killed. There is a slideshow going along the report, the last photograph of which shows, to quote its caption, “a man, reportedly unconscious, identified as Mr. Stevens.” The US State Department asked the news organization to remove the photograph, which, perhaps as could have been expected, it denied, “citing the news value of the Agence France-Presse photograph.” (note the specificity of the source: it’s an “Agence France-Presse photograph”) (more)
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Sep 12

This is pretty great: “These are panoramic photographs of Kansas towns beginning with Ada and ending with Bunker Hill. The Kansas Film Commission created the photos to promote Kansas locations to film companies.”
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Sep 12

This is a photograph from David Barnes’ Are Friends Electric? - an ongoing project, begun in 1999.
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Sep 12

There’s an in-depth post at BagNews about how the photographs James Nachtwey shot on 9/11/2011 started looking quite different eleven years later. The cultural critic in me finds it very interesting how the 2011 versions actually resemble production stills from Hollywood movies. The photos are overly digitally processed. You’ll never see the world that sharp, with such contrast, and with such an overall blue tint - except when you go to the movies (or watch similar shows on TV). Maybe what we are seeing here is not just some digital post-processing completely out of control, but also the result of seeing almost each and every event on the big screen, re-imagined in some Hollywood form: Our thought of “It almost did not look real” is turned into a reality: It literally does not look real any longer.
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Sep 11

“In my work as a psychotherapist I have come to appreciate the importance of the space between the therapist and the other person, where the dynamics of the therapy relationship come into play. As a photographer I try to explore a similar space co-created in my encounters with the people, or things, that I photograph. This is a space where tension builds up, curiosity evolves and a certain kind of experiential understanding may be reached.” - Andreas Tsonidis about The Space between
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Sep 10

I’m excited to announce the Conscientious Portfolio Competition 2012, the fourth of its kind. As before, the winner(s) will have their work featured here on this website, in the form of an extended conversation/interview. Two guest judges, Robert Lyons (director of the Hartford Art School Limited-Residency Photography MFA Program) and Michel Mallard (one of the masterminds behind the International Photography Festival in Hyères), are joining me to pick the winner(s) - and there’s a twist. Find all the details below. I will introduce Robert and Michel in more detail in a separate post.
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Sep 10

“At the centre of my creative practice is a HYBRID CAMERA: a digital camera with a Victorian lens, which carries with it a past. Using this hybrid camera my subjects are “consumed”, piece by piece during a period of sometimes up to one hour. This act of photographic consumption can feel awkward and penetrating. Some people have likened the experience to being examined or scanned. But there is a positive side to being taken apart: subjects have the potential to be seen whole again. Therefore the final part of my process is digitally piecing the photographic parts back together, presenting them as a familiar yet unfamiliar whole.” - Gary McLeod (via)
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Sep 8

Great post by James Estrin about the changes in photography we’re witnessing right now: “The question is: How does the photographic community harness this explosion of visual energy to expand its audience? This is what needs to be focused on.” The answer must not be to whine about how you might have a camera, but that doesn’t make you a photographer - or whatever other comments I’ve seen way too often in the photographic community, belittling “amateurs” in ways that are often beyond condescending. This is the new golden age of photography: Billions of people take photographs and share them. Billions of people are interested in at least parts of what the photographic community is interested in. Let’s make good use of that!
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Sep 7

“The woods,” Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm wrote, “stand for a place where human custom and civilization have not yet found an abode.” This is not from the folk/fairy tales they collected, but from the muss less well-known German dictionary they compiled. It’s not hard to see the amount of mystery, if not outright myth, that is being projected onto (or maybe into) the woods, the Wald. Germans have long had a long and deep fascination for the forest. Thus it would only seem natural (Germans might prefer the word “logical”) that a photographer would venture to photograph in the woods. As you can easily guess from the title, this is what you get in Michael Lange’s Wald. (more)
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Sep 6

I had been aware of Donald Weber’s Interrogations for quite a while. But given what I had seen about it online I had developed absolutely no interest in looking at the book. The work - and the ensuing debates - just felt too obvious, too much along the lines of what one could expect. A few days ago, at a bookshop in Amsterdam a friend urged me to look at it anyway. Imagine the very pleasant surprise when the work turned out to have much more depth than I had expected - after having seen the mostly sensationalist brouhaha online. As a matter of fact, flipping through the book (before buying it) I thought that the images I had seen online were for the most part the weaker ones (of course, they were the more sensationalistic ones, too). Plus, I don’t think I had seen there actually is a prologue in the book (see the photographs of selected spreads).
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Sep 5

I still don’t know what the type of photography on display at Alex Kisilevich’s website is called. There is quite a few of this type of work around these days - photography centered on photography, I suppose, with sculptural and/or conceptual elements thrown in.
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Sep 4

Aino Kannisto uses herself as a model, to create photographs in which the protagonist is the narrator of a short story, the person who helps convey an emotion. (via)
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Sep 3

I’m intrigued by Catherine Hyland’s The Dust Bowl (unfortunately, there are only two photographs) - a strange moonscape.
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