The Digest – March 31st, 2013

Charlie Haughey is not a combat photographer

He shot nearly 2,000 images between March 1968 and May 1969 before taking the negatives home. And there they sat, out of sight, but not out of mind, for 45 years, until a chance meeting brought them out of dormancy and into a digital scanner. At first, it was very difficult for Haughey to view the images and talk about them, especially not knowing the fates of many of the subjects of his photos. - [The Big Picture]

LPV Lately

I’ve settled on doing The Digest biweekly. That’s seem like the right frequency for now. I’ve been on vacation for the last week, so haven’t been desk bound all day which is nice. It’s been inspiring to get out in Queens to make new photographs. I do my best thinking when I’m out wandering around. We’re also putting the final touches on Issue 6. I’m confident we’ll publish in the next week, unless something goes haywire which could always happen. I’m excited about the issue but I’m in the phase where I’m already thinking how we can do things differently. Maybe I’ll write a post-mortem article about the issue and outline some of my thoughts. More on that soon!

I was able to record a few new podcasts in the last week as well, but it’s becoming more challenging to edit them. I’m finding the conversations are getting longer which I don’t mind but it does add more editing work. It’s always about editing. Editing, editing, editing. It’s one of my favorite topics.

Thanks to Time Magazine for including LPV in the “The 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2013″ #humblebrag. I love Twitter. I use it everyday. Most of the information I share in The Digest goes on Twitter first, but the firehouse can be difficult to follow.

I try to keep the commentary to a minimum, mostly because conversations (or the inevitable argument) can get out of control. I know chit chatting is a big aspect of Twitter for some people but beyond one or two exchanges it can get rather confusing. I enjoy following writers and journalists because you can get inside their head to some degree. Random fleeting thoughts and observations may seem trivial but that’s some of the stuff I actually enjoy.

Anyway, enough about Twitter, let’s talk about Garry Winogrand. Oh wait, I think most of that was covered last time. I have the book sitting next to my desk. I have an article in mind. Should be done by 2015.

10×10 American Photobooks is close to hitting their funding. Three days left, take a look.  Included will be my short essay on Mikael Kennedy‘s book Housatonic, which I only have a vague recollection of writing.

Finally, to keep to up with our daily aggregation, follow us on Twitter and Tumblr.

Links of Note

Beijing Silvermine is a unique photographic portrait of the capital and the life of its inhabitants following the Cultural Revolution. It covers a period of 20 years, from 1985, namely when silver film started being used massively in China, to 2005, when digital photography started taking over. These 20 years are those of China’s economic opening, when people started prospering, travelling, consuming, having fun.

Jonathan Blaustein Interviewed Roger Ballan, and it was a good one

I do the art only for myself. I’m not doing it for an audience. I’m doing it to learn more about my own interior. That’s the only purpose. If it weren’t that purpose, then I wouldn’t do it. I’d rather stick to mining, because then it’s just another business. It’s my own journey into my own life. But if we take that as one point, and then look at the other point: what is the purpose of art for the third party? What do I want my art to do for the other person? To me, art should be making people delve inside. It should be a mirror for their own interiors, as I mentioned for myself. It should open them up from one part of their mind to the other part of their mind. It should be something that maybe even scares them, or gives them a jolt or shock.

And then:

The second point is that, like anything else, practice makes perfect. If you’re an athlete, or a lawyer or a dentist, the more you do it, the better you become at it. I gave a lecture yesterday, and said “What’s the best way of learning about photography? It’s just to do photography. You learn through doing. Furthermore, one needs to rigorously look at your own work and find the holes in it, and close the gaps.

©Stephen McLaren 

“Typically, I find if something happened and I’ve missed, I kind of log it, and think that there’s a good chance it’s going to happen again,” he said. “There’s nothing worse than beating yourself up about missed photographs. It’s a waste of energy.” – Stephen McLaren, ‘Wading Into the Weirdness of the Street’ [LENS]

Paul McDonough says: 

“The reaction is different today. Cameras are much more ubiquitous now. In the ‘70s there was a whole different atmosphere, it was much more laid back then. People didn’t particularly care if you were photographing them. By today’s standards, where there’s so much media trying to get information from people, people are much more wary. People see cameras as containing the possibility of exploitation. Everyone is spying. Local government, advertisers—they all want to know what it is you are thinking and doing. People were less paranoid in the ‘70s.”

Camilo José Vergara revisited via Burned Shoes: 

”(…) I have photographed urban America systematically, frequently returning to re-photograph these cities over time. Along the way I became a historically conscious documentarian, an archivist of decline, a photographer of walls, buildings, and city blocks. Bricks, signs, trees, and sidewalks have spoken to me the most truthfully and eloquently about urban reality.

I did not want to limit the scope of my documentation to places and scenes that captured my interest merely because they immediately resonated with my personality. In my struggle to make as complete and objective a portrait of American inner cities as I could, I developed a method to document entire neighborhoods and then return year after year to re-photograph the same places over time and from different heights, blanketing entire communities with images. (…)

I am a builder of virtual cities. I think of my images as bricks that, when placed next to each other, reveal shapes and meanings of neglected urban communities.”

©Harvey Benge – ‘NYC’

Yes, photobooks are integral to my process. I like the book format for a number of reasons. For a start I think one could well mount an argument supporting the book as the only vehicle for photography. Here I could mention some of the third rate shows of photographs on the gallery wall I’ve seen, where the work simply doesn’t work in that context. Photography is about building narrative, first within an individual image and then within a bookwork where the idea can be expanded into a much more satisfying, extended and layered dialogue. A finished bookwork also gives completion to a series and often a finished idea flows on to the next. Gallery shows are brief affairs, whereas a bookwork has legs and a lasting value. I use my bookworks sort of like calling cards, getting them into as many hands as possible. Limitations are mostly to do with production and distribution difficulties. - Q&A with Harvey Benge on fotatazo

 Nick Shere on Winogrand the Buddhist: 

He opened the talk by relating a presumably apocryphal anecdote about Wingorand going to a therapist, and being told to hit a pillow. Winogrand pounded on the pillow as instructed. The therapist then asked what Winogrand was thinking about, and he replied, “I’m trying to hit as squarely, precisely, and with as much force as I can.” The therapist said, “you mean you’re not thinking about your mother?”

Winogrand wasn’t thinking about his mother because he was thinking about hitting pillows. And when it came to photography, well, he made photographs with the intention of making photographs. To call it “just photographing” on analogy to Zen’s “just sitting,” would be too cute, but not necessarily wrong.

This presents a sharp contrast not only to the classic documentary mode of treating the photograph as evidence of a represented reality, but also to the personality-driven, psychological mysticism of photographers like Minor White, which treats photographs as metaphors or as channels for transmitting an experience — and which is usually identified as representing the “Buddhist” or “Zen” side of photography, something which has long puzzled me.

This gives Winogrand’s photographs a literal quality that makes them hard to write about or think through. It’s a kind of opacity or flatness that can mask how complex, loaded, and yet also emotionally raw they are. They are always full of significance, but at the same time it is seldom easy to say what, if anything, they mean or what they are for. This can lead to a lack of appreciation from both the high and the low ends of photographic culture. (See this Blake Andrews post for good examples of both.)

©Peter Hoffman 

Metaphorically speaking, I feel that our consumption habits—specifically dealing with precious natural resources—are out of control and unsustainable. I also feel that not many people care enough about it because they won’t be around long enough to see the mess they’ve started fully materialize. I wanted to transfer that feeling I had, which was maybe something like a sense of powerlessness or dread, to the image making process. I wanted to lose control, having the resulting work border on ceasing to exist in any recognizable form. —Peter Hoffman, fox river derivatives [FeatureShoot]

Dr Alexander John Bridger hates Google Street View: 

Street View users can “lose that experience of where they are and it just becomes a very automatic ‘I need to get from here and I need to get to here’… so it becomes a routinised mechanistic way of behaviour”, he says.

“I think it does prevent those chance, coincidental moments from happening.”

Arriving somewhere and relying on your senses, or conversations with strangers, can be much more rewarding, he says.

It’s the old fashioned way.

 Blake Andrews says ‘steal this post:’

For me this experience brought home the viral power of Tumblr, which works not so much as a standard viewing platform –à la Flickr– but more as a huge leveraging service.

I think it is this aspect which separates it from the previous paradigm when it comes to image reproductions. In the old world –way, way back, say 5 years ago– copying jpgs was viewed as outright theft, and photographers discouraged it. But with Tumblr, you want your images to be copied. Reproduction equals distribution, and distribution can lead to good things. It’s a complete sea change within just a few years.
Unfortunately much of the photography world still hasn’t caught on.

©Tom Griggs – from Medallo via [Urbanautica]

This gets into the most interesting part of the conversation for me: what information should we consider while analyzing an image? Should we be using the same information in different contexts of interpretation? What types of contextual information impact the meaning of an image? Does meaning depend on who’s looking at it? How should unseen contextual information surrounding the creation of an image change our reading of an image as this information becomes known to us?

Like almost everything in life, the answers are frustratingly gray: people interact with and read an image differently depending on their use of the image under consideration and what their needs for understanding are. The way people should be pursuing a consideration of context – including process – when they look at a photograph depends on when and where and how they’re asked to look at it. – Tom Griggs, Considering A Photograph:

Christopher Anderson in Vice: 

It’s funny, I was just thinking about this earlier. I guess I probably prescribe more to the Garry Winogrand philosophy – he said he photographed people to see what people would look like photographed. There’s not a particular subject I cover, I’m not a one-track person and I’d like to think there are different facets to my self. If I was to unify all of that visually into one thing, whether it is my photographs from documentary work, to more personal work, to family, I guess it is all linked together. There’s a unifying element, I want to see my time on this planet and communicate a certain emotional quality of that time. I photograph my own human experience and the things I have seen and participated in.

©Jennifer Shaw

Motherhood is the hardest job I have ever had. Photography allows me to embrace the chaos and connect with my children. As they explore the elements with carefree abandon, I marvel at their intensity and document them in all their wild glory. These images chronicle the adventure, traversing the spaces between shadow and light, delight and despair, dreams and reality. - Jennifer Shaw, ‘The Space Between’ [LENSCRATCH]

The Onion hits too close to home for many: 

I can’t stress this enough: Do what you love…in between work commitments, and family commitments, and commitments that tend to pop up and take immediate precedence over doing the thing you love. Because the bottom line is that life is short, and you owe it to yourself to spend the majority of it giving yourself wholly and completely to something you absolutely hate, and 20 minutes here and there doing what you feel you were put on this earth to do.

Photography’s Stature Rises at Museums says the NYTimes: 

Now everyone’s a photographer,” he said. “It’s part of the language of what we do. All you have to do is walk down the street. And with Facebook or Tumblr there are infinite possibilities. But museums should be devoted to the original thing. That will continue to give the public a reason to see what’s here.

©John and Teenuh Foster

For Foster, a print’s history is far less important than its visual beauty and the response it inspires. “It doesn’t really mean anything to me, who shot the image,” says Foster. “But when I do find an image that’s one of the best, I just flip out about it. I like thinking that it could be a Lee Friedlander or a Diane Arbus or a Henri Cartier-Bresson.”

Years of photo-hunting have helped Foster train his eyes to recognize an interesting composition among the thousands of snapshots at flea markets and antique shops. “I’ll pick up a handful of a hundred, and I flip them like a deck of cards, because I can tell that quickly whether they have any intrinsic visual power at all or not,” says Foster. “Out of a hundred, I might find a single one that’s even a maybe. That goes to show you how many average, boring, mundane, same height, same scene, same everything is repeated in these old images.” - ‘Take That, Instagram: The Enduring Allure of Vintage Snapshots’ [Collectors Weekly]

Jerry Saltz on the “Death of the Gallery Show” in NYMag:

I don’t even mind so much that the role of the critic is diminishing. Clement Greenberg was a bully, anyway. Primacy always belongs to art and the artist. I’ve tried to keep overhyped careers in check, and had no effect whatsoever. In fact, so many shows in so many places mean that we now have an overload of writing about art. Joseph Beuys said, “Everyone is an artist.” Now everyone actually is a writer. Like exhibitions that can’t get traction, commentary also has a hard time gaining a foothold, unless you yourself enter the arena of spectacle, becoming something of a spectacle yourself. (Believe me; I know.) Adding to this, a generation of academically trained critics were taught to believe they should write in impenetrable language and refrain from opinion and negative criticism.

Eggleston’s democratic forest is deep and overgrown, true. We perhaps feel that we are in danger of being lost within a wilderness of instagrammers and tumblerites. We forget that the passage of time always finds a way to distill our present, our manic confusion into a series of events, illustrated and proven by the documents in which we leave behind. It will not be up to us to decide which photographs will be important through the centuries, it will be time itself, and the only role we can play is to provide the material from which time will siphon from for the generations to come. – MJR – Collection 100 / A history


  • Burnéd Shoés

    Thanks for the feature, I feel more than honored – I love LPV!