The Digest – March 18th, 2012


©Alex PragerWinner of the Foam Paul Huf Award 2012

My attention was a bit scattered this week. I ignored a few things I’d normally read. I ignored the ‘Photography’ folder in Google reader for a few days. I skimmed Twitter and Tumblr. I’m in the process of pruning sources and distractions. I’m very easily distracted, and that’s not good for productivity, or so the blogs tell me. I’ve also been spending time working on my own photography; processing, editing, self-loathing, imagining. Sometimes I have to remind myself one of the reasons I’m absorbing as much as I can about photography is because I want to become a better photographer! What’s been exciting these last few years is that LPV has allowed me to share my education in photography. I suspect it’ll take a lifetime to complete that education.

Tips For Making a Photobook

I think I’ve linked to something from Jorg in every Digest. The man is productive. This week he wrote a lengthy post about ‘How to Make a Photobook.’ 

My personal approach is the following: When you look at your photographs – what experience do you want people to have when being exposed to them? This aspect is where it usually gets a little iffy talking about details, since there is such a large variety of photography. But ask yourself, if your book already existed – regardless of what it might look like – what is it that you’d want people to take away from it? What is the experience?

The reason why I always start out with the experience of the book is because it’s so essential: Every decision you have to make about the book involves that experience. Is there a story (documentary or fictional)? Or is the book a large riddle that is supposed to make people think? Is the book more like a gallery that is intended to showcase individual photographs? Etc.

The ‘experience of the book.’ I like that. Sometimes the experience will be a curiosity in people or a story, other times it’ll be more about emotion, intellect or aesthetics. Something I heard Hin Chua say a few years ago is that he likes to be surprised. That has stuck with me over the years.

Editing and sequencing certainly play a crucial role in the experience of the book. Harvey Benge has shared some ‘thoughts on editing and sequencing.’

6. Make a sequence that surprises, challenges and puzzles. Ask more questions than give answers.

7. When you put pictures together don’t make the reason blindingly obvious and make sure the sum of the parts is not less than the impact of the individual photographs.

8. Try and sequence the book based on a conceptual flow not purely visually.  A  sequence made visually is generally too obvious not to mention dull and boring.

9. Don’t have more pictures than necessary. A book of around 50 or so pictures will work best. Less is often more.

Photographs All the Way Down

I’ve come across references to ‘Turtles all the way down’ twice in the last few weeks, which for me is a strong indication that I need to pay attention to it!

A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “What is the tortoise standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!”

Now anytime anyone complains to me about the crap photographs on the web, I’ll simply say it’s ‘Photographs all the way down!’


©Ruth Orkin – via aCurator

Links of Note

Ruth Orkin: American Girl In Italy: aCurator published photos from the photo shoot that produced the iconic image.

The two were talking about their shared experiences traveling alone as young single women, when my mother had an idea. “Come on,” she said, “lets go out and shoot pictures of what it’s really like.” In the morning, while the Italian women were inside preparing lunch, Jinx gawked at statues, asked Military officials for directions, fumbled with lire and flirted in cafes while my mother photographed her. They had a lot of fun, as the photograph, “Staring at the Statue”, demonstrates. My mother’s best known image, “American Girl in Italy” was also created as part of this series.”

A New Spin – Are DJs, rappers and bloggers ‘curators’?: Debates about the term ‘curator’ seem to be resurfacing. This article in the ‘American Association of Museums’ asks various curators what they think about the appropriation of the term.

Kristen Hileman, curator of contemporary art and department head of the Baltimore Museum of Art, says that while she wasn’t overly aware of the definition creep of “curate,” she’s fine with one field borrowing terminology from another: “In fact, it is intriguing to think there is something so evocative in the vocabulary describing my job that others want to use it to articulate their own abilities or services. One of the legacies of 20th-century art has been a thorough appropriation of the everyday, so how could one object to the non-art world stealing something in return?

Ryan Pfluger addressing Tumblr criticism of his color correction:

I often get messages on here and through email about my color palette for my images.  People either love it or hate it, but it brings up a point that I should talk about.  I don’t usually like taking about technique/equipment etc… but I know for a lot of new photographers it’s the immediate question that pops up.  My color aesthetic is extremely deliberate and important to the emotional mood of my work.  I spent years experimenting with film and processing to establish what is now my photography.  There are no rules that one NEEDS to abide by, but knowing technique/lighting/theory is imperative to creating your own expressive form.  With that said, spend the time to have as much knowledge as possible of your craft, but also of outside influences.  Take it all in, and use it to tell us your story, how you want to tell it.  Not everyone may see it how you do, and that’s totally ok. My two cents for the day.

‘Francesca Woodman’ at Guggenheim Museum: A review of the retrospective that just opened. If I went to the Cindy Sherman show, I figure I should go to the Woodman show.

When Woodman killed herself, hardly anyone beyond her family, friends, classmates and teachers knew about the phenomenal body of work she had produced. About a year later, Ann Gabhart, the director of the Wellesley Art Museum (now the Davis Museum at Wellesley College) saw some of her prints hanging in the family home in Boulder, Colo., and she was able to see more in New York some time after that. Struck by what she saw as the relevance of Woodman’s art to the lives of the young women at Wellesley College, Ms. Gabhart resolved to organize an exhibition and enlisted the influential critics Abigail Solomon-Godeau and Rosalind Krauss to write catalog essays. Opening in 1986, the show was a kind of resurrection for Woodman. A cult was born.


©Robin Schwartz

Amelia and the Animals: I’ve been following Robin Schwartz’s project ever since I found it on tinyvices a few years ago.

“I’m looking for a relationship between Amelia and the animal,” said Ms. Schwartz, who lives in New Jersey, where she teaches photography at William Paterson University. “It’s like creating a fairy tale. I’m looking for this magical connection that may or may not be there. I want the animal in the picture to be as important as Amelia. To be an equal. To have some kind of rapport.”

‘Listen up, youngsters’: Springsteen offers life advice in SXSW keynote:

“There is no right way, no pure way of doing it. There is just doing it,” he said. “We live in a post-authentic world. Today authenticity is a house of mirrors. It’s all just what you are bringing when the lights go down, its your teachers, your influences, your personal history. At the end of the day it’s the power and the purpose of your music that still matters.”

Lise Sarfati talks to Elizabeth Avedon:

What was your intention behind your series, SHE? 

The ordinary and the singular. Universality. Anti-heroines. Projections and situations.

“I think comforting art is art that is very easy to react to. I might be tempted to say that Serrano’s ‘Piss Christ’ is comforting art, in that everyone knows exactly what they think about it. They’re not challenged in the slightest. Ninety percent of them think its blasphemous and a few like me think, well, it might not be. It might be a rather ham-fisted attempt to preach about the need to reverence the crucifix. Not a very gifted young man, but he’s trying his best. But that’s comforting art, you see, because it’s so easy to have an opinion and a reaction. Everyone thinks they can do it.”

  • meghanclare

    Lots to ponder here: as usual, chock full of salient points and voices. Funny about the “curate” issue. Use of the word sometimes irks me (not so much in the case of, say, carefully selected photos on a tumblr page or the work you do here, but more like when people pick a bunch of pink things for sale on Etsy), but I like the take you include here. I still don’t like Brainpicker woman: her overinflated sense of importance really rubs me the wrong way.

    On other topics: love the Amelia series. Thanks again.