Conscientious in 2012


General Photography


If there’s one thing I learned it is that it’s impossible to predict which articles on this site will be widely read and which ones won’t. In particular, there is no correlation between the articles I like the most and the ones that end up being popular. At times, I find that slightly hard to deal with, even though I am usually very good at reminding myself that such is life. With that in mind I decided to look back and to highlight my own personal favourite articles this past year (regardless of how widely read they were).

With Photography and Desire I tried to express some of the things that I felt (and still feel) aren’t widely understood about photography, and especially the motivations behind it. It didn’t feel like a finished piece - I should re-visit it, possibly re-write it, so I tried to amend it with Photography and Trust. And a logical consequence, of sorts, was then discussed in Meditations on Photographs: A woman sits for a final photograph with her dying mother: “Let’s face it, all photography is futile. That is part of its very essence.” And that is why we keep taking more and more and more…

In mid-February, I wrote about The Problem with Western Press Photo, which got a lot of attention. Needless to say, things won’t change, and why would they? The media are run as a business, and photography in the news is part of that business. Any “controversy” is guaranteed to bring “eyeballs,” and one could argue that often enough, news photography is a feel-good exercise: We don’t want to see the news, we want to see something that we can relate to, something that, while containing nuggets of news, gives us a warm and fuzzy feeling. This is what I then discussed in Meditations on Photographs: Sleeping Soldier (Steve Kim, Korengal Valley, Afghanistan) by Tim Hetherington.

Photography is supposed to be over or dead, but what’s really over is photography at museums: A few thoughts on Cindy Sherman at MoMA (and a rant about photography at museums in general).

One of the topics that will never go away is the proper depiction of a place. There is no such thing - this will not keep us from writing articles about it, though. Here’s mine: Photography and Place.

In early summer, I asked about Photography After Photography, about the artists that were driving the medium forward. This triggered a lot of debates, but frankly, while photography isn’t over or dead, it seems caught in a weird stasis. I doubled down on my earlier article with Photography After Photography (Further Down the Rabbit Hole).

We’re still caught in a sheer endless loop of writing about Instagram. With Instagram now used in the (US) news media, I talked about the crucial role of context in One size does not fit all: Context matters greatly, explaining why I don’t think Instagram has a proper place in a news context. In Hipstamatic and a question for news organizations I asked: “Dear news organizations (New York Times, Time, Newsweek, et al.), is publishing such heavily manipulated images compatible with your journalistic ethics, standards, and integrity? If, yes why? If no, why not? In particular, if yes why is such heavy-handed manipulation allowed, but when someone heavily Photoshops an image (let’s say to boost the contrast in massive ways) that’s not allowed?” The number of responses I received: Zero.

With all that talk about “projects” I figured I’d talk about The Single Photograph.

Maybe my favourite article this year was Review (of sorts): Interrogations by Donald Weber (in actuality an investigation of the shoot-the-messenger syndrome), in which I used Weber’s book as an excuse to deeply dive into various issues around photography. If any post likely suffered from “tl;dr” it was this one. I’ll admit, though, that I have been increasingly wondering whether long-form writing about photography has a place online. This website will move towards longer-form content very soon, so we’ll see…

In How to possibly approach writing about photography, I wrote (yet again): “I believe that good writing asks for judgment: Have an opinion already! Make sure there actually is something at stake!”

It would be somewhat interesting to investigate whether the explosion of photography on the internet, on sites like Facebook etc., does not show that many of the ideas of postmodernism are if not flawed then at least only partly useful. To be honest, I find discussions about Roland Barthes and any of the other usual suspects more than just a bit tedious, so I ignored them completely in The Artist, the (possibly) Genius.

Lastly, one of the articles most dear to me, something I probably need to get back to, to re-write it and expand it, is Meditations on Photographs: Josef Nowak by an unknown photographer.