The Digest – January 13th, 2013

©Shomei Tomatsu – 1930-2012 [American Photo Mag]

Apparently we’re in the middle of a flu epidemic, so I probably shouldn’t complain about a week long struggle with the rhinovirus. The problem with a stupid cold is that it zaps just enough energy out of you to assure you lose a couple days of productivity. That’s basically what has delayed the launch of the podcast. I’m probably going to launch it later tonight.

It was an interesting week. I found myself Googling ‘Garageband’ far more than I ever thought I would. But now that I have struggled with it once, it should start to go smoother from here on out. Although, I’m not sure I’ll ever get accustom to listening to my stupid voice over and over again. I’ll have to get over it I suppose. It should be a fun ride.

Given my grogginess this week it’s possible I wasn’t as attentive as normal when it comes to the ‘news.’ Every week I try to sharpen my editing knife to make sure The Digest is as relevant as possible.

©Mikael Kennedy – ‘New Polaroid book HOUSATONIC now available for pre-order here

2012 Trends & Questions from DLK Collection

DLK Collection is one of the few must reads for me. They seem to have an ambitious plan for 2013 that I find refreshing. They’re going to try to push the conversation in interesting directions. I think it’s going to work.

First, we need to end the debate about whether digital appropriation is or is not photography or even artistic in some way. It is. Full stop. Move on. Second, we need to broaden the definitions of what we mean when we use the word appropriation, mostly because our problem is only going to get exponentially worse with continued digitization of everything in sight. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I think there is an important difference to be clarified between appropriation that is driven by undermining the image’s original context and appropriation that is purely digital raw material for a new downstream artistic effort; one is predicated on friction while the other is essentially frictionless.

A Tumblr response from Joerg Colberg: 

I think I get where DLK are coming from, but I don’t think having semantic arguments about appropriation is going to give us much insight – other than our own inability to comprehend the consequences of appropriation in a digital culture

I’m sure we’ll be talking about this one for awhile. We’re entering a phase where nearly everyone is becoming more sophisticated about the way imagery is used in our digital culture. Photography permeates everything. Snapchat is one of the hottest apps right now. We are obsessed with not only looking at images, but producing them.

DLK ended the article final takeaway: 

Overall, I think my key takeaway from 2012 is that the trends are now being driven from edges of the medium back into the center, and the only way to see the new patterns is to get right out to the boundary lines and peer over the edges. While there will always be time for appreciating the greatness of our masters, we are witnessing a time where the entire landscape of photography is in chaotic flux. I for one plan to get out to more off the beaten path galleries this coming year to make sure I don’t miss the action.

This is why I find the web exciting. It’s a place to explore, and connect with people that might share your sensibility. We get too caught up in debates about how photographs look online (mostly they look like shit.) The beauty of the web for me is in the way it connects like minded people. We tend to organically find each other these days. It might start with a Tweet, progress to an hour on a Tumblr, then Facebook friends. Next thing you know it’s seven years later and you’re meeting each other at an opening in Omaha. Something like that.

Essentially, LPV is my exploration of these connections. For me, that’s far more interesting than trying to determine what’s hot in photography.

Brandon Thibodeaux – via [LENSCRATCH]

Links of Note


Photography is not about winners or losers, or about reality and fantasy, but something broader, richer, democratic, radiant. A plenitude, like the world it represents, and a screen for projections, like the mind that sees. Pulsing, patterning, appearing and disappearing again, things seen to remind us of forces unseen.

Jim Johnson with some strong criticism of Magnum’s Rochester Project, specifically Paolo Pellegrin’s essay in die Zeit: 

Coming to Rochester, for instance, the Magnum folk might have viewed local filmmaker Carvin Eison’s feature July ’64 about the racial and political-economic circumstances prevailing in the city at mid-centuryand the explosive consequences those circumstances generated. They might have read urban sociologists like Bill Wilson or Doug Massey (to pick only two luminaries) about the complex underlying processes that generate urban disasters like Rochester – think industrial collapse, high crime rates, crushingly bad public education, concentrated poverty, and so forth overseen by political and economic elites who seem (at best) interested in containing or papering over rather than remedying those conditions. I have noted these things here repeatedly in the past. They might have consulted with photographers like Brenda Ann Kenneally orGreg Halpern who are from or currently live in urban upstate New York. And they might’ve done some or all of that together so that they had some sort of shared background, however partial or incomplete. Perhaps the Magnum photographers did some or all of this. Pellegrin’s essay – despite the skillfully crafted images – provides no evidence that they did. If this is part of an “archive” of Rochester, as the Magnum folks suggest, they seem to have missed the history and context and underlying dynamics almost completely.

©Thomas Michael Alleman – ‘Dancing in The Dragon’s Jaws: Photographs of Gay San Francisco, 1985-1988[LENSCRATCH]

Complex published a list of “25 Photographers to Watch in 2013:”

It only becomes more apparent as time goes on that photography can no longer be defined by the stringent trappings with which it was once traditionally associated. While by no means complete, this list features some of the most interesting artists working partially, primarily, or entirely in this ever-evolving and elastic medium as we come into 2013.

Remember what I said above about chasing what’s hot? I like many of the photographers on the list….but I also think that ‘straight’ documentary photography is as vibrant and interesting as ever, especially when it comes to photobooks.

Related, Harvey Benge has some thoughts on the death of documentary: 

To me the real issue here is not the “truth” of the photograph, after all what is truth? Have photographs ever been truly true? Certainly not objective in their take on the world. After all what is in the frame and what meaning that carries is all to do with where the camera was pointed. In fact it’s as much to do with what has been left out of the image as has been left in. Context is everything. In effect the manipulation starts when the picture is framed up before it even gets into photoshop. What we photographers should be thinking about is not so much Truth but Authenticity. Is the work truthful to its origins and has a sincerity of intention? In dealing with the world, is the work faithful to the maker’s internal ideas and rather than just external?

Christopher Anerson on “tendencies in the photography now:”

You always recognize little swings in current modalities or fashions. I see a lot of young photographers now coming to show me their personal projects of their families or their personal life, kind of a personal documentary which I think has a much to do with the disappearance of the traditional markets. To put it in easier way, as there are not enough of assignments, people are staying home and photographing their families (laughs). In my generation, the conversation about the division between documentary and art photography became meaningless. The photojournalism before was somehow objective and based on facts. Now, we do know that photography lies, we know that it is not objective. Now it’s more about the truth and not the facts, and those two things are not the same. I don’t believe in existence of facts or objectivity but I do believe in truth and in truth in subjectivity. These perceptions have changed not only among the photographers but in the public also. It changes the approaches. There was a period in the evolution of photography when we looked at the picture and it had a certain value just because of the difficulty of making the picture. Technical difficulties – cameras that were a little bit awkward to operate with, exposing film correctly etc., but now with the digital, none of that matters anymore – low light or exposure is no longer a problem and we become visually so sophisticated that it is boring. My generation and generations after me, young generations, are less and less interested in fact of perfect compositions and action of making a perfect image; they are more interested in just a raw emotionality of it. That’s how I see now and that’s where older generations have hard time. Photography becomes more simple and more direct. Since everybody has a cell phone with a camera and they are taking pictures, everyone has become a photographer. Some are using this snapshot quality in good photography partly because it is language of today that everyone understands. And it’s hard for a person who is not a photographer to relate to this complex photography.

Thank you Mr. Anderson.

©João Rocha – KJILAT [LightBox]