The Digest – March 17th, 2012

©Leroy Woodson – ‘Bellbottoms, Smog and Afros: Documerica Searches for the Seventies’ [Time Light Box]

People sometimes ask how I find all the stuff I share. My typical response is that it finds me. And one of the primary ways that information comes to me is through RSS and Google Reader. Well, this week Google decided to kill Reader, which is a bummer, but also a very stark reminder that these web companies can and will shut down free services when they want. Finding a replacement for Reader won’t be a problem but for the last fews days I’ve been wondering if I should just axe RSS from my process all together. I think that’s probably where I’m over indulging on information anyway. I tend to prefer Twitter and Tumblr these days because they are filtered for the most part, plus most publishers these days will have a presence on both platforms. Also, if something is really worth looking at, normally it’ll be shared by multiple sources.

It’s all very exhausting which is why I took a week off from The Digest. Sometimes I feel like I’m on an information assembly line, another set of hands helping to crank out “content.” For FREE too! Well, let’s not get into that debate. I’m happy people are discussing it though and my sense is that we’re very much in the beginning of a revaluation period over compensation for creatives on the web (everywhere).

I’m still not sure how often I’ll publish The Digest. I think twice a month might be about right though.

©Garry Winogrand – “An American Epic” [Time Light Box]

Garry Winogrand at SFMOMA

I think most of you know the story. I enjoyed this piece on the BBC by Stephen McLaren. 

The considered opinion on Winogrand’s posthumous archive was, “nothing much to see here”.

Finding it hard to believe that his mentor’s creative powers had deserted him so abruptly, Rubinfien decided that he would have to look deeper and more inquisitively into the archive.

To gain a new appreciation of what Winogrand was shooting in California and Texas, a team of specialists including Rubinfien and assistant curator Erin O’Toole have spent the past few years sorting through and appraising the massive stockpile of films stored at the Center for Creative Photography of the University of Arizona, Tucson.

As you enter the section of the exhibition devoted to those later years, it quickly becomes apparent you are looking at pictures of a different order to the ones which brought him recognition in the 1960s.

Gone are the punchy chaotic street scenes chock-full of oddball characters, animals and apparently haphazard framing. Instead we see more solitary and introspective characters, the mood is typically foreboding and in the pictures from Los Angeles, no-one seems to be living the Californian dream which had the Beach Boys harmonising.

“The late Los Angeles work is one of the great discoveries of this show,” said Rubinfien. “We were told, and we believed, that he dissolved in the last 12 years and trailed off and ended up nowhere.

“But he didn’t end up nowhere – he ended up in the middle of a very dark poetry full of its own kind of pathos and we’ve managed to give that a shape and a character and its here in the show.”

Mark Murrmann talked to Ted Pushnisky about his days with Winogrand in LA. Another good read. 

MJ: So do you feel like anything rubbed off on you?

TP: Perhaps a work ethic. Not anything in the way of teaching a way of seeing. I feel like I developed that myself. But Garry worked hard. He got up and started shooting. I get up and maybe read the newspaper. He shot an awful lot. It made me think, maybe I’m missing out if I’m not shooting.

Blake Andrews’ thoughts: 

I think Winogrand’s attraction to photographing people was psychological. He liked to play with figures as compositional figures, but more importantly he liked to get inside their heads. Many of his photos are like X-Ray mindreadings. They burrow right into the thoughts of the characters. It’s not easy to make photos like that without bogging down in sentimentality, without the thoughts becoming the primary subject. I see a lot of portraits nowadays concerned with that penetration, but they often leave the rest of life behind. Winogrand somehow combined X-Rays with surface level reality in a way that I think is rare. I know I can’t do it.

Nick Shere’s notes from a talk by Tod Papageorge:

GW on food: “No one murders eggs, and almost no one will murder fried chicken.”

GW resp. to a question re: how many pictures it takes to get a great one: “Art is not a matter of industrial efficiency.”

How much of GW’s work “resides in the power of the physical gesture.”

In Bresson, “the form is always working on being canonical,” while GW’s gestures break away from the canonical.

GW: “All great work is the result of great labor.”

TP compares GW’s teaching style to Socrates

“A faultless unity of mind and feeling.”

TP: “Forced to ask almost word by word, ‘what do you mean by that.’”

Re: chimps: Winogrand shoved TP out of the way because he was “ravenous” for that photo.

The Modern Art Notes podcast spoke with Leo Rubinfien. There are probably more articles that I missed. If you know more, send them my way.

©Doug Dubois – via [Time Light Box]

Links of Note

 Charlotte Cotton in the latest issue of Aperture: 

We are not only a civilization of amateur photographers; we are amateur curators, editors, and publishers. Some of the new amateurs are pretty noble—like the citizen journalists who put in serious hours of work and comprehend so thoroughly the intelligent capacities of our pervasive image-led technologies. And just as this pro/am (professional/amateur) school of journalism seems to be a counterpoint to the ever-decreasing realm of independent news media, we at least have to think through the groundswell of pro/am photographic artists who self-publish, collectivize, and find their audiences themselves, knowing full well that the professional infrastructure for art photography is never going to accommodate them during their productive lifetimes.

Jonathan Blaustein:

I’ve learned that “conceptual” can be a bad word in the Photo World. Just last month, I was encouraged by a museum director not to even breath the term, if I wanted to have my work considered by the institution. Many times now, I’ve heard people confidently state that they don’t like any “conceptual” work at all. No matter what. Why is that? I’d speculate that “conceptual” is code for the type of off-putting, intellectually narcissistic clap-trap that people see in Art Fairs run by condescending gallerinas who relish the opportunity to ignore. The exclusivity of the Art World makes almost everyone feel like a peon, and work that smacks of the “Art” vibe can bear the brunt of the understandable resentment. Especially as so many “concepts” described in art-speaky press releases are nowhere to be found in the objects themselves.

Will Michels, Co-Curator of War/Photography

For me, a photograph is a photograph. I don’t care who took it. It’s not about journalism to me. It’s about amazing pictures. It’s about good compositions, good storytelling; the photographer being at the right place at the right time, and the choices that he or she made to get there. I think journalism is one of the most overlooked genres of photography because it’s just pigeonholed as journalism, and not amazing compositions.

©Adam Kremer‘A studio visit with Charlie Engman’ [All of this is Rocket Science]

Tom Sachs on Ed Ruscha

Ed had the right combination of deadpan with a chili-pepper portion of creativity,” he said. “It was 1 percent of the idea. Take ‘Every Building on the Sunset Strip.’ He didn’t shoot La Cienega. It all boils down to choosing that right thing: that sense of style and magic and cool, that unknown 1 percent. You can’t learn that.

Carl Gunhouse on Trevor Paglen @ Metro Pictures

With the quality of photography in Chelsea at an all time low, man, Trevor Paglen just kills it. I am standing before you now and saying Paglen is the greatest photographer of our generation. Fuck Roe Ethridge, fuck Alec Soth, fuck… Ok, just them, and maybe fuck is a little too harsh, but man, those guys have to step it up, because Paglen just slaughtered them with his show at Metro Pictures.

Robert Hariman on ‘Photography’s Theory of Action:’ 

Photography is a medium that documents people acting and being acted upon. The action itself often can be taken for granted while attention rightly turns to its motives or effects. But action itself is a profound form of being in the world. It may not be limited to human beings, but it defines them nonetheless. Understanding action remains an unfinished task for philosophy, but it also might benefit from paying more attention to photography.

Ishu Patel on Henri Cartier-Bresson: 

“Over the years he had simplified the technical part of photography to suit his unobtrusive shooting style and still create a technically perfect photograph. For instance, he judged the light by eye, although he carried a small light meter in his pants pocket. Since he mostly shot in shaded areas he set his F stop at 5.6 or 8 and shutter speed at 1/60th to 1/125th of a second, so he could quickly pay attention to his subject matter. He made it clear that, “technique is not so important to me, but people and their activities are”. He said, “Think about the photograph before and after, but not during. The secret is to take your time but also to be very quick”. In other words there was to be no cropping of the image later, no dodging or other tricks used in printing. The image captured on film had to stand on its own merits.”

 Anya Jasbar: Reflections on found photographs and Melissa Catanese’s “Dive Dark Dream Slow:”

“Looking at vernacular/snapshot/domestic/found (here the list of terms is constantly expanding) photography, we fantasize about the narrative gap that those images produce. Nancy Martha West, in another essay from Now is Then, directs her attention to the role of found photographs and to our desire to “write a ‘discovery narrative’ for snapshots.” One of the questions that she proposes, one of the most important for our discussion, is “So why is it that we are not content to let found photographs remain silent” if they are, as Weston Naef stated, pure visual and liberated from textuality? Our need to fictionalize the world is unavoidable. The process of fictionalizing never ends; in a permanent movement, it takes power from the search for representation produced by the natural process of imagination, and it manifests itself in all our codified languages, whether verbal or visual.”

©Walker Pickering‘Canteen Magazine’s Naked Judging Winner’ [LENSCRATCH]

Brad Troemel

“Viewing a newsfeed or dashboard today requires a permanent sense of disinterest on the part of the viewer—to give any one update or image too much attention jeopardizes your ability to understand the news feed as a dynamic whole unfolding in real time. Artists like Lil B or Jogging flip this viewing mode into a mode of production, creating an excess of work that any one viewer probably doesn’t have time to view in its entirety. I call this mode of production athletic aesthetics, because its practitioners don’t present final products so much as they exercise creativity in an ongoing broadcast format.”

And Brad Troemel, The Accidental Audience:

“The accidental audience’s attitude toward what it sees is deeply predicated on the neoliberal vision of cultural migration, but its willingness to strip images of their status as property is so aggressive that it deserves a term of its own: image anarchism. Whereas image fundamentalists and image neoliberals disagree over how art becomes property, image anarchists behave as though intellectual property is not property at all. While the image neoliberal still believes in the owner as the steward of globally migratory artworks, the image anarchist reflects a generational indifference toward intellectual property, regarding it as a bureaucratically regulated construct. This indifference stems from file sharing and extends to de-authored, decontextualized Tumblr posts. Image anarchism is the path that leads art to exist outside the context of art.”

Garry Sernovitz, writing in n+1 magazine in his essay “Edge and the Art Collector” (via greatleapsideways): 

“Mandatory newness—and oceans of commentary on it—is an old problem. It’s now coming into its second century. After the March to Abstraction came the March of Ideas, when art became, in Harold Rosenberg’s words, “a species of centaur—half art materials, half words.” Yet the art world is still thriving, the papers report. The money is still flowing. The parties still glitter. New artists are declared important and great. And sometimes, they are. But how hard it must be now for an artist when it seems that not only has every material form and format imaginable been tried to express Truth and Beauty but every idea has now also found material form. I watch in awe as artists rise to face that challenge, and even more so when they succeed. But sometimes I feel like I’m witnessing the strain. All artists respond to their inner life and the outer world and other art in some mix. These basic ingredients have not changed. But too often, after leaving a contemporary art exhibition, having hungrily wanted a powerful aesthetic experience, I wonder why I was left cold. It could be that I am not versed enough in the ideas of the centaurs to see the intellectual beauty. It could be, I remind myself, that most art in most times is just so-so; there never was an age of the ubiquitous masterpiece. But it also feels, sometimes, as if an edge has become the only ante to be exhibited at all. As if the edge has become the whole point.”

Orlando Reade says “Your Camera is Not a Toy:”

“The images of unsmiling children, looking back at the strange man who has entered into the private space of their fragile and critical object relations, should remind us that the moralising gaze of the camera is not a disinterested thing. We might work harder to remember whose interests these cameras serve. What the photographer ultimately found (and was perhaps looking for all along) was a mirror on his own experience: telling the Times journalist, “It was nice to go back to my childhood somehow.” This is a sad vision of adulthood where you have to point a camera at a child if all you really want to do is play with them.”

©Fette Sans‘Exhaustion can occur merely attempting to breathe’

Karen Miranda Rivadeneira on captions: 

A lot of people wonder about the captions. I’ll tell you. The captions work like Polaroids in a family album, where there is always a short text at the bottom of a picture. It makes sense to the people involve in the image, and I wanted this work to have that personal-story structure. I never wanted to be too specific, neither too poetic. I wanted the captions just to say what is happening in an objective and subjective way, a bit like directing the attention of the viewer to what the memory is about and from there they can work their way around.

Pete Brook:

I hope that the importance of projects about humanity, and its loss, are not themselves lost among the photos of holidays, cappuccinos and cats. My problem is not with fluffy images of that type, but with the prospect of them dominating our visual experience and edging out the education that can come through photos and stories of people beyond our daily experience.

Brooks Jensen: 

This illuminates, I think, another way in which artmaking in photography has changed so dramatically. It’s not just that we use new equipment, but that in order to be reasonably competent we need to have competency in each of the variations. It’s no longer sufficient to be skilled at one and only one method of image making. Said another way, faced with the creative challenge and the desire to most effectively present my vision in a finished image, I need to be able to foresee (or to use the old term, previsualize) the final result in ever so many production variants. I find more and more that artmaking has become an attempt to answer the simple question: In order to achieve my desired result, which technical path is best?


John Cleese on Creativity

  • Walker Pickering

    I was told that The Old Reader was basically just Google Reader reincarnated, but there is a massive queue for importing your old stuff from GR. When I created an account a few days ago there were 17000+ users ahead of me. Now it’s down to 3000. No idea if it’ll be worth it.

  • Christopher Paquette

    You can seamlessly move your entire Google Reader set up over to Feedly. I did it a few days ago and I am actually liking Feedly better than G Reader. It has a nicer look, but it takes a bit of getting used to. Best- CP

  • Blake Andrews

    Who needs Google Reader when there’s LPV Magazine?