The Digest – March 4th, 2012

©Theron HumphreyMaddie on Things

I don’t like dogs all that much but Maddie the Coonhound might make me a convert. I found this Tumblr a few weeks go, chuckled and thought that would be the end of it. Then more photos started to appear in my Tumblr dashboard. I became fascinated. How the hell does this dog keep its balance while striking a pose? I’d like to interview Maddie. I know, of all the high minded, serious, important projects created by talented photographers, I’m obsessed with a coonhound that stands on things. Don’t worry, it’ll get more serious from here on out.

Cindy Sherman

I don’t care for her work all that much, but I do respect it, and will probably check out the show at MOMA since I’ll be there anyway to see Atget. As one would expect there’s been considerable media attention about the show this week. I suggest starting with Roberta Smith’s review in the Times.

This is a timely exhibition. At a moment when too much art is dependent for its effect on lengthy explanations offered by wordy museum labels or nattering art dealers, Ms. Sherman has pursued an adamantly visual art that allows for — coerces, really — rich, free rumination on the viewer’s part. Similarly, when younger artists are increasingly encouraged to make work that tackles the problems of the world, she demonstrates that these things can’t be easily calculated. It reminds us that art’s political and moral effects are convincing only when driven by deep, in many ways selfish, psychological needs.

I can see some people having a problem with that paragraph. I’m not certain I agree with the last sentence in particular. What do you think? Maybe you’d prefer Lance Epslund’s review which doesn’t offer much insight but does offer some negative criticism of Sherman’s work.

Sherman, a campy surrealist mired in surfaces, appropriates the distortions of portrait painting without comprehending their metaphoric intent; and she reduces photography to mere documentation of her studio stagings, stripping the medium, as well as the genre of self-portraiture, of its mysteriousness — its revelatory nature.

American Photo interviewed curator Eva Respini about the show.

In the murals she is barefaced, and not made up. She is wearing costumes and wigs, but no prosthetics. Whereas previously she had used makeup and prosthetics as a way to alter her features, she is now using Photoshop as a way to create a face that looks different in each character by narrowing her nose or widening a gap between her eyes or exaggerating the bags under her eyes. These are subtle manipulations that create a face that looks much different in each character. She is using the new technology available to her to make alterations. Certainly it is a reflection on how photography functions today. How retouching is the norm now. And how we all take for granted that photographs are manipulated in some way.

©Jessica Eaton

Interviews and New Issues

New issues of Ahorn, Fraction, Timemachine and F-Stop hit the web this week. I wonder if they’re aware of each other? Ahorn has several good interviews. In particular, I enjoyed this one with Raymond Meeks.

What is your main goal when you produce a new body of work? Do you think of it in terms of a book from the beginning, or is it something that comes later in the working process? What are, in your opinion, the main differences that a photographer has to consider between creating a photo-book and an exhibition?

I’m rarely aware that I’m producing a new body of work. I’m often well into editing a series of pictures before I discover a narrative and lately, this goes directly into a book edit. My goals for an edit; sequence, layout, pace, length, etc., are always shifting. I usually end up working with two complimentary but resistant bodies of work to shape a narrative and define one another in a less deliberate, often ambiguous way. I want a viewer to invest in the story and so I try to leave space for them to enter. I try to provide a fluid, evolving narrative which will, hopefully, allow them to return.

Jonathan Blaustein interviews photographer Kurt Tong in A Photo Editor, about living off of print sales, 20×200 and working in China.

Very few people are living off their art. But living in a city, going to artist talks, you get the impression that they are. I think it’s important to know that’s not the case.

Jessica Eaton talks to The Believer about her work and process. She was also listed as a nominee for the 2012 Hyères festival. Congrats!

I accept any reading of my work. I can’t really see my photographs outside of my personal relationship with making them. When I look at my own work, I only see what I will do next.


I think “abstract” is a weird word to apply to photography; de- or re-contextualized might be better. You’re recording light and light is. With analogue photography, there’s a fundamental connection to – maybe not “reality,” but physical phenomenon right? The pictures are of something that very much exists.. Regardless of how we perceive reality, light is. It’s outside of ourselves, and it is.

A short interview with Sebastião Salgado in The Guardian.

What’s the best advice anyone gave you?

When I was just starting out, I met Cartier-Bresson. He wasn’t young in age but, in his mind, he was the youngest person I’d ever met. He told me it was necessary to trust my instincts, be inside my work, and set aside my ego. In the end, my photography turned out very different to his, but I believe we were coming from the same place.

©Kurt TongGosling Lake, print available on 20×200

Links of Note

The 2012 PDN’s 30 Gallery: An excellent list this year, including several names you’re probably familiar with.

Chloe Dewe Mathews hitchhiked from China to England in search of ideas. Markel Redondo traveled with migrant workers from Honduras to the U.S. Peter DiCampo worked by flashlight for three years in Ghana and elsewhere. Ryan Pfluger and AnaStasia Rudenko challenged themselves to photograph difficult family relationships. Peter Ash Lee published a magazine. Mark Fisher regularly hangs out of a helicopter.

2012 Is the Year of Photobooks Online: LPV contributor Dan Abbe’s guide to sites “dedicated to uploading still photos and videos of photobooks” over at American Photo.

Porn and the shadow side of paradise: Thomas Ruff’s Nudes: Geoff Dyer with an illuminating review in The Guardian.

But by blurring these images Ruff improves them in the opposite direction. They acquire the uncertainty of memory, the imprecision of unenacted fantasy, the unfocusable swirl of the unconscious, of dreams. Or nightmares in which the idyll becomes either leeringly horrible or ludicrous and laughable. Though they are arranged with only one thing in mind, the original lighting is coaxed into gorgeous subtleties; colours become nuanced, delicate, or expressionistically garish.

Guest post from Mr Pete ‘Prison Photography’ Brook: Pete’s response to editor Mike Davis’ rant against multimedia.

Multimedia incorporates hard facts but also the producers’ own interpretations of the contexts for those facts. I would call this space between non-fiction and interpretation, storytelling. Good storytelling involves the teller; we rely on his/her skills to walk us through the story.

A Brief, Photographic History of Republished Books: A nice article from Jeffrey Ladd about his great project, Errata Editions.

In a medium where the book plays such an important role in its progression, it is an unfortunate fact that so many examples of some of the greatest photobooks have been essentially lost to history. That notion fueled my own publishing project, Errata Editions, which offers studies of rare photobooks that won’t see a traditional reprint because of the aforementioned reasons.

1. Photography: A Promiscuous Life, Part I: Aveek sen writing in Still Searching.

So how can photography be sustained by this inescapable connection with reality and yet free itself from the tyranny of this connection, from what Samuel Taylor Coleridge had called “the despotism of the eye”? Photography must create its own access to a whole universe of reference – allusions, echoes, resonances and reflections – drawn from the myriad worlds of the other arts, determined by the peculiar character of the individual photographer’s inner life and circumstances. Together they constitute the photographer’s “inner darkroom”, in which, according to Marcel Proust, the ghosts and shadows of his art develop into more substantial and enduring, but no less mysterious, creatures. In this chamber of creation, the reality that photography must refer to is an amalgam of art, life and inwardness in which each element dissolves into and enriches the others. This is why photography is never enough for photographers – it is merely the place where all the ladders start.

What Eggleston thinks I do by Blake Andrews


  • Lloyd Spencer

    Superbly digested. Invaluable service, thanks Bryan.