The Digest – August 26th, 2012

©Martine Franck – via ‘Martine Franck: 1938 – 2012′ [Time LightBox]

I wrote a ‘post’ this week but didn’t publish it. When I re-read it I wondered to myself if I’d be interested in it as a reader. Quickly, I realized the answer was no. The problem as I see it is a struggle between opinion and insight. Opinion is pretty easy. We all have them. Most of the time I feel opinion is nothing more than an emotional outburst. You read something, and you have a feeling you need to express. Problem is that most of the time you don’t really say anything that couldn’t be summed up in a sentence. Maybe I’m a bit jaded but I just don’t really care about most people’s opinions! What I’m more interested in are stories and insights. So, what makes up an insight? Well, that’s tough. It might be one of those cases where you know it when you read it. I think a good example would be Mike Johnstone of The Online Photographer. Sure, he expresses his opinion but typically within it there’s always a nugget of insight that makes you look at an issue differently.

I’m starting to realize that perhaps one of the reasons I’m not writing much on LPV is that I don’t have many insights at the moment. I need to read and look at more. Sure, I have opinions but most of the time they can be summed up in a Tweet. But even then, I generally don’t bother. Was this an insightful introduction to The Digest for the week? I’m not sure, but I won’t waste any more of your time and just get to the stories.

More on the LUCEO Shake Up

The Raw File ran a story that included a quote from me about the Luceo shake up I mentioned last week.

Bryan Formhals, who runs LPV magazine and is the social media manager at B&H, said he can understand that people need to move on but also questions if the picture is not as rosy as LUCEO has painted it through their very active social media channels. After the announcement he wondered on his blog if the changes at LUCEO might also be “the first sign of serious cracks in the new collective model.”

“My real hunch is that financially it wasn’t panning out,” he says. “Nobody wants to come out and say that ‘I’m having a hard time’ but I’m guessing that they struggled more than they are letting on. I think it’s better to be transparent and come out and say these kinds of things because it might help people who have chosen a similar path.”

I had a moment of slight hesitation about that quote because I have a tremendous amount of respect for LUCEO, and speculating is dangerous. But I still stand by my hunch. The thing about social media is that we all tend to accentuate the positive and make it seem like everything in our lives are going great. This is understandable. Who wants to read depressing shit? We have enough of that coming from the media.

But I think things are desperately hard for photojournalists right now. I’m not sure how exactly they’re going to find a sustainable model. Certainly there will be success stories but not many. There are going to be an awful lot of talented people that simply won’t be able to earn a living from their work.

©Samuel Finlak – via Conscientious

Instagram at the Murder Scene

I told you we couldn’t go a week without talking about Instagram! Michael Shaw has a good post about the role the app played in the shooting at the Empire State Building on Friday.

I don’t think the question of whether the pictures were proper or not, or whether they should have been taken or not really have much relevance though, these reactions largely missing the point of (or the “Insta-” in) Instagram. Instagram is not much about meditation or agenda when it comes to an image, propriety also having more to do with some larger contemplation over whether to record, and then to display. The Instagram experience (more certainly so in yesterday’s circumstances, at least) is, well, much more of a snap, an impulse action. In this case, especially if you read the comments of the user’s themselves, the platform an extension of their own eyes, they were largely just witnessing and reacting (or, more likely, vice-versa).

This is the norm now. People are going to document, and I think that’s good. We’re not going to be able to hide ourselves from it either. You can complain about citizen journalism but it’s here for good. What I find more fascinating is how quickly the mainstream media jumped on the Instagram photos. That’s where things could get very complicated because in the rush to be first I think there’s also a chance you could end up wrong. Poynter has a good article about ‘How news websites handled graphic images of Empire State Building shooting.’

‘opportunities in photoland’

Congrats to the Critical Mass finalists! If you didn’t make the cut, don’t worry. Or I hope you don’t worry. This is what my aborted post was about. I started writing it in reaction to Joerg’s latest criticism of social media.

I’m sure many people will object to me comparing opportunities in photoland with the lottery. But maybe thinking of them as a lottery every once in a while is not such a bad idea. After all, what nobody mentions is the fact that often luck plays an enormous role in getting something. And the comparison with the lottery at least makes it somewhat more obvious why increasing your social-media involvement – instead of focusing more on your photography – might not be the best idea. You don’t win the lottery because you deserve to. In contrast, in photoland, opportunities might come your way if your photography shines. Working on your photography will help make it shine. Spending your time on self-promotion or social media won’t.

There are so many photography projects and books being produced these days that it’s impossible to keep track of all of them. There are certainly more opportunities to share your work with an audience on the web, no matter how large or small, but very few projects will be made into books by reputable publishers or collected by collectors. So, what about the rest? Where do they fit into the grand scheme of things?

I’m not sure exactly, but I do think many of these projects have value outside of the fine art, collector market. What I suppose bothers me is the focus we seem to place on the work that gets valorized. This is nothing new and generally I don’t get too worked up about it, but it’s kind of annoying, right? One of the nice things about blogs and indie magazines is they often champion work that falls outside the margins. Even if they only bring the work to a small, niche audience, I think it’s important.

I’m also really interested in how we value documentary photography, because of it’s journalistic and historical value. Not to mention the value the work brings to those being documented. It’s a big, complex world. I’m thankful we have so many photographers going out and documenting it in their own way. Soldier on you rejects!

©Harold Feinstein – via Panopticon Gallery

Links of Note

Collector Peter Cohen Makes the Case for Amateur Photography’s Place in Art History:’

Amateurs haven’t contributed very much to advancing painting and sculpture,” Cohen notes, “but they promoted photography, experimented with it, and sometimes went on to become professionals. Amateurs continue to make a huge contribution to the photographic world, and he [Galassi] wanted a few hundred pictures to represent that.

‘Landscape Photography: New Visions, Part 4:’

Can we draw a meaningful distinction between the natural and the artificial in an era of climate intervention and microbial engineering? The categorical line between the stuff of nature and the stuff of people has always been blurry; as the poet Gary Snyder observes, “There has been no wilderness without some kind of human presence for several hundred thousand years.” [1] And yet we seem to have entered a genuinely new period in our relationship with the planet and in our power to affect the processes of natural systems. Some contend that we have even entered a new geologic era, the Anthropocene. How do we come to terms with this new reality? Do we let go of the idea of nature entirely? Do we incorporate our interventions into a new definition oTf what is natural — the “next nature” posited by futurist Bruce Sterling and others?

Today no survey of landscape photography can ignore the changing definition of nature in the early 21st century. The work presented here expands the idea of what is natural — and what can be considered beautiful about natural landscapes — to include the effects of technological transformations and other human interventions, impositions and traces.

‘The psychology behind the appeal of original artwork:’

So when we cherish an original piece of art, it seems we do so partly because we value, not just the end product, but the originality of the performance that created it. Moreover, we believe that the work has a special quality about it because it came from the very hand of a particular artist. Copies and forgeries, no matter how close to the original, fall down on both these counts. “We hope that the research here will engender interest on the broad topic of art within psychology,” the researchers said, “as well as more specific questions regarding the role of authenticity in judgments of value.

Jennifer Schwartz Hearts the Wallace Foundation:

Demand is not keeping up with supply, and if not corrected, will create a huge imbalance where there is an abundance of art but no audience for it. Or as they so eloquently conclude, “arts policymakers have focused so successfully on stimulating production that they may be contributing to an imbalance between supply and demand that hobbles the entire sector”.


“Mitch Epstein photographing cherry trees in Central Park, April 2011 for his current project. With assistant Lee Satkowski. Video by Ryan Spencer. Copyright Black River Productions, Ltd. /”