The Digest – February 26, 2012

©Sergey Chilikovvia Conscientious

It seemed like one of those weeks where the internet was driving photographers crazy. I’ve been trying to avoid engaging in too many discussions about social media because I’d rather be talking about photography but it’s very difficult, especially considering my day job requires me to think about social media eight hours a day. And yet, here I am talking about social media in The Digest. Curse you social media! Curse you!

Pinterest Hysteria

I’m not really sure why there’s so much hysteria about Pinterest, especially when it comes to copyright. Tumblr and ffffound basically operate in a very similar way but there doesn’t seem to be the same level of paranoia around them as there is around Pinterest. I don’t see any real difference except people seem to think Pinterest is going to sell their photographs because of their poorly written terms of service. My take is that photographers should relax, be happy people are sharing their work, and use Pinterest only if it fits a need. For me, it’s a great way to keep track of photographer’s websites and photobooks. But, I’m using it for a different purpose so here are a few links that address some of the concerns over Pinterest.

 Too Much Social Media

But wait, this isn’t really just about Pinterest is it? It’s about our obsession with social media and its importance to our photography practice & career, right? Jorg took to the keyboard to pen his recent thoughts on social media craziness.

Social-networking theory aside: Shouldn’t we be taking pictures? Isn’t photography about photographs and not about promoting the crap out of photographs?

My point here is not that photographers should ignore social networking (even though that works very well for quite a few people – you just don’t hear about them that much, even though you certainly see their books and shows). But you need to find the point where you realize that good enough is good enough. If you want to obsess over something, it’s probably not the number of your “followers,” it’s the quality of your photographs. And it’s the quality of what you have to offer on social networks.

I’d hope most serious photographers realize that social media won’t perform miracles for them and that the most important thing they can do is produce great photographs, but it’s always good to be reminded I suppose.

What I’ve been thinking about is the role blogs and magazines play in social media hype. We often write about it and then distribute it through our social media channels where we tend to chat and debate about it. Wouldn’t we be better off just using the social media tools and not spending time writing about and discussing them?

I think there are some interesting issues that should be discussed, for example how blogs and social media can provide platforms for more interactive, audience engaged storytelling, or how social media and crowdfunding can help photographers pursue their projects. But too often what happens is we get caught up in the hype and get distracted away from the core issues. Sure, copyright is important but honestly, these social networks aren’t in the game of collecting and selling your content. They’re in the game of collecting and selling their users as an aggregate. The biggest way you can impact these social networks is to completely ignore them.

I’ve written a couple articles in the past that address social media fatigue/obsessiveness/paranoia that you might find worth reading. Coincidentally they are two of the most shared articles I’ve ever written!

Alright, fuck all this social media stuff, let’s talk about photography!

©Eugene Atget

Editor Mike Davis

I don’t remember when I discovered Mike Davis’ blog but I generally enjoy his perspective on creative issues. This week he wrote two excellent posts.

First he asks ‘How do you learn from photojournalism contests?’

Listen long enough and you get a sense of where that judge is coming from. We all prefer a certain range of photography. Figuring out what type of photography a judge prefers is the first step to learning from listening to them. Understanding how to talk about photography is a critical skill. And again, there’s a huge difference between simply disagreeing with what is said and learning from how it’s said.

And then he asks ‘Does story telling lose in multimedia?’ So many questions editor Mike Davis, so many questions!

Why does most multimedia suck? It’s as if God wrote on stone tablets that all pieces called multimedia must follow a three-commandment formula: 1. Though shalt approach subject matter that mostly happened in the past. 2. Thou shalt point a video/audio producing machine at a person looking at said machine and ask them questions, as the primary story telling medium. (You may separate said audio from said video with papal dispensation.) 3. Thou shalt make video of something in the present tense that may or may not have anything to do with that past event and then overlay that video cleverly with the interview audio to suggest a connection between the two, without being too misleading.

Juergen Teller

Juergen Teller: Exposed on

I don’t have much to say about Teller’s work because I don’t follow fashion photography too closely but I found this short video interesting. I guess I’m a sucker for photographers talking about their compulsion for creating images. Also, this review in the always excellent DLK Collection is worth reading.

If, however, we take Teller out of his fashion sand box and ask his photographs to stand in comparison with the larger context of contemporary photography/art, which is already full of hell raisers and rule breakers by the way, I wonder about whether at least some of his pictures start to lose their juxtapositional punch. This show includes a number of  forgettable dirt road landscapes and quiet views of pastoral scenes. These images have no verve, no edge, no rebellion, and the mix of beauty and ugliness in the landscape has been done better by many others before; taken off the walls of this show, even a photography expert would have little chance of identifying them as made by Teller.

Links of Note

©Melanie Whillhide

‘Melanie Willhide’s Tribute to a Burglar’

Willhide dedicates “To Adrian Rodriguez, with Love” to the individual who broke into her home and stole various things. Her computer was recovered by the police, but the hard drive had been wiped clean. Willhide attempted to recover the erased data but found her digital photographs corrupted. Lemons! Rather than delete the images, Willhide considered these corrupted files a collaboration with her machine. She refined them and made additional ones inspired by the mess. Lemonade! – James Pomerantz, PhotoBooth

‘Lucas Foglia’s Natural Order: A conversation with Daniel Shea’

I think any photograph that is didactic, that tells you what to think, is paradoxically easy to forget. Good photographs rest on an ambiguity that makes you want to keep looking at them to figure them out. And I agree, tourists drive across a landscape, stop at a lookout point, take a picture and leave. The lookout points are obvious, predictable and beautiful. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but it is a vantage point that I’m not interested in. I am interested when the landscape or the smoke stack is contextualized by everyday life. – Flak Photo

‘The Invisible’

Photography plays with us a game of “I see something you don’t see,” and we have no chance of winning. But nevertheless we can program photographs, calculate their appearance, reduce the density of visual data, so that we ultimately only see what is relevant. - Bernd Stiegler, Still Searching

‘Aranda: A Critical Assessment’

These stripes echo the four yellow stripes of the Yemeni flag. What’s that you say? The Yemeni flag has no yellow stripes? Tell the truth now, you had to look that up. You had no idea what the Yemeni flag looked like. That’s because Westerners are ignorant scum. We can never understand other cultures. – Blake Andrews

©Lise Sarfati

INTERVIEW: “Interview of Lise Sarfati by François Adragna” (2012)

In 2003, when I travelled across the United States to create The New Life, I decided to return to Los Angeles to photograph the women I passed by on the boulevard. It was unconscious, just a desire. But the idea took several years to grow and take on a precise form. Although they were photographed in the Hollywood landscape, I wanted the series to give the impression that these women felt at home there, like they were in their bedrooms, lost in thought. – Lise Sarfati, ASX

‘Eugene Atget at MOMA: A review of “Documents Pour Artistes’

An excellent review from Tim Connor, another blog you should have on your radar.

Perhaps Atget’s unchanging way of working – and his refusal to crop pictures during the print-out process — helps explains his faultless compositions. Abbot’s observation that “he knew exactly where to put the camera,” though deceptively simple, says a lot after all. But nothing really — short of speculating about some sort of instinctive genius – explains Atget’s unerring ability to balance shapes, tones and, indeed, meaning in perfect momentary equipoise. His visual arrangements are never fussy. They are simply there, perfect in their worldly imperfection, proclaiming no bias or aesthetic theory. They feel as though they come more from Atget’s body than his mind. - Tim Connor


Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters Trailer

  • Evil

    funny story here, if you are talking career in terms of generating income then once you have skill and necessary equipment – the only focus must be on promotion, because photography is probably the least lucrative business these days, while on the most competitive ones. An average handyman or book keeper would not need promotion at all for income. And i don’t know how to take career out of context of income, so i completely disagree. Besides, the stuff that floats around on tumblr or any other image / visual media sharing sites is way dominant quality wise to any projects found here. Reasons are simple, the user pool is exponentially larger on any popular (keyword here… :) social network – just like exposure. I bet most traffic here is “photographers”