The Digest – November 11th, 2012

©Jordi Ruiz CireraWinner, Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2012 [BJP]

I’m sure some of you were shocked to see original content published this week. It took awhile but I’m happy I was finally able to get Issue 5 out into the world. I’m also guessing that some of you are wondering why I would publish the magazine online and also charge for the print copy. I mean, who would buy a physical magazine when you can view the work online? A good question. I’m not looking forward to it but I’ll probably write a piece about my publishing strategy, although I hate using that word strategy. The bottom line is that I want people to have access to the work. If I were to make it print only, unfortunately it’d likely be invisible for the vast majority of people. I don’t want that. I want people to have access to the work because I want to share these stories, ideas and experiences.

It can be tough these days. There’s so many interesting things happening with photography right now that I’m excited about, but with that comes a certain amount of hostility and negativity. I suppose this should be expected, and it’s not unique to photoland. I think the challenging economic climate brings out the worst in people at times, especially in regards to photography where you have so many people struggling to earn a living. The media landscape is evolving quickly and it can be tough to adapt. My day job keeps me on the front lines of digital media so I probably have more time to read about what’s happening than  most people, but even so, I have a tough time keeping up.

I think the important thing is to focus on what brings you the most value. It can be tough to block out the noise but you have to put in the effort otherwise you’ll go crazy. There’s absolutely no reason you need to follow every blog or magazine. If you’re on the fence about LPV, I’d suggest you put it in the ignore column! I’m serious. There’s no reason you need to follow anything I’m doing. Of course I hope you do, but if you’re not finding any value in LPV or if my sensibility doesn’t resonate, then you shouldn’t follow along. Are there ‘must read’ blogs or magazines? Maybe, I don’t know for sure. I’ll have to think about it and get back to you.

For now, here are the absolutely must-read-can’t-miss-or-you’re-an-ignorant-fool stories from the week (if I were Blake Andrews that would be the end of the post)

©Joel Meyerowitz – ‘Taking His Time: A Look Back at 50 Years of Joel Meyerowitz’s Photographs’ [Time LightBox]

Joel Meyerowitz

He’s one of my favorite photographers, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Last year I wrote an article about his work. In it I wondered about his archives and when we might see more of them in print. Well, it looks like that time is now. The limited edition book is out of my price range so I’ll have to wait for the trade edition. Vice had Olivia Bee talk to Joel. I have a tough time calling it an interview. The world of 18 year old’s is now alien to me. Thankfully Joel has enough experience articulating his ideas to result in a few quotable gems.

In the larger sense, if you think of photography as a language, it’s now a language that billions of people around the world speak. It used to be much more secretive. You might have a camera you used for family outings and holidays, but there wasn’t the number of people who bought a camera to make art that we have today. There’s this vast international explosion of people communicating through images that show us a commonality across the world in the way we live our lives, the things that are meaningful to us. So I see it as a tool for disseminating a kind of humanistic expression that makes us all closer to each other. We feel each other’s pain in a more continuous way. So I see it as an incredible leap forward for human communication.

Sean O’Hagan interviewed him in The Guardian: 

“A lot of what I am looking for is a moment of astonishment,” he says. “Those moments of pure consciousness when you involuntarily exhale and say ‘Wow!’ But I’ve also included a lot of muddling-along photographs, because they, too, are a part of the journey. It’s an honest book, I think, and a democratic one. I wanted to show how I got here and the questions I asked along the way.”

I’m sure this excerpt about Eggleston, Shore and Gilden might raise some eyebrows:

He recalls a night in New York in 1962, when a young William Eggleston, now regarded as the pioneering master of colour, visited him in his apartment and they spent hours looking at “my hundreds of colour photographs and his little box of black and white prints”.

Eggleston only acknowledged the impact of that evening recently and you suspect his long silence remains a kind of sore point for Meyerowitz, who, for all his affability, is still something of the tough Bronx kid at heart. Like many photographers, too, he has an ego the size of the Empire State. When I ask him if has experienced moments of doubt, of crisis about his calling, he simply says “no”. And he, rather unfairly, dismisses his contemporary Stephen Shore as “someone who hasn’t made a new picture since the 70s. He hasn’t developed as a photographer for me.”

I ask Meyerowitz about the combative, confrontational style of street photography espoused by the likes of fellow New Yorker Bruce Gilden, and he grows visibly angry for the only time in our conversation. “He’s a fucking bully. I despise the work, I despise the attitude, he’s an aggressive bully and all the pictures look alike because he only has one idea – ‘I’m gonna embarrass you, I’m going to humiliate you.’ I’m sorry, but no.”

Links of Note

In about 20 years there’s going to be an anthology of Alec Soth interviews. Here’s the latest from Aperture where he talks about ‘Influence, Summer Nights, and Allen Ginsberg:’

Photography is a language. To communicate, you need to learn the language. The history of photography is like the vocabulary and influence is like a dialect. One shouldn’t be embarrassed about having an accent. That said, it has been important for me to reevaluate those influences as the years go by. There is a kind of mythmaking that inevitably surrounds influential artists. For me, it is more and more important to figure out how to function as a real-life human being than to emulate some sort of myth. I feel like I can now learn more from my influences by understanding the compromises and everyday challenges they faced than by upholding a schoolboy fantasy.

I like this quote from Joerg’s review of ‘Still by Patrick Hogan:’

All that talk of photography being “over” or “dead” seems childish (at best) when seen in the light of books like this one. As a matter of fact, photography is not only not over, we’re actually just at the beginning of a deeper understanding of what images can do when they are made to interact with each other. And with photobooks now being a medium that is easily available to anyone interested in making one, I am sure we will see more and more examples of photographic story telling that go way beyond the simple ideas so many people are still attached to.

Ron Jude writing about “the graduates of the first class of the Hartford Art School limited residency MFA program:” 

Photographers started taking matters into their own hands by publishing their own books and the books of their peers. There was a ground-level surge in work that struck a balance between conceptually based photography and traditional concerns. It was a new paradigm that emphasized modest means and scale over market-driven bloat. Independently published books became a way to provide structure and context to photographs, and to disseminate work and find an audience while circumventing galleries and the established publishing world. Photography was new again, and there was something invigorating and subversive about stepping out of the gallery and museum validation queue.

Stephen Shore writing to a young artist. This is circulated before but I think the following is always a good reminder:

Having ambition is not a problem. In fact, ambition is necessary to be able to carve out the time needed to produce your work from the multitude of other demands on your life. The question is how that ambition is directed. If you adhere to your personal path, having shows and sales will not do any harm. In fact, you might actually make enough money to live, even live well. There’s nothing at all wrong with that. The problem comes when the market begins to influence your motives and decisions. If your work needs to evolve and change, it may mean abandoning an approach that brought you recognition.

David Hickey continues to throw daggers: 

Today, even if I go to a good gallery, one I like, like Andrea Rosen, I’m getting a department store. Here’s our Iranian Minimalist; here’s our Belgian pornographer. And when you compromise your taste, you lose power. When you take advice, you lose power. When a magazine publishes pro and con reviews, they lose power. When a museum shows the art they think they should, they lose power, and the declining power of the collectors, dealers, museums and critics has made it hard to tell the sheep from the goats.

©J. Carrier

Vince Leo writing about J. Carrier’s ‘Elementary Calculus’ which I guarantee will be on many of the soon to be published top ten lists:

Using this open-ended process of association, Carrier constructs a bittersweet meditation on the nature of the transitory: from birds to fruit to the ever-present phone-callers. What is common to these images is exactly what is elemental to calculus: change, constant yet variable, is the underlying order of all experience. There are undeniable visual pleasures in this view of the world. But even the startling beauty of a lemon tree is tempered by the tragic realization that every moment is fleeting, every social space unstable, every phone call home a phone call about to end. If we believe Carrier, migrancy is nothing less than the inescapable and continuous experience of impermanence.

“Photographers Will Soon Be The Most Valuable People In The News Room” according to this writer from Business Insider:

With that in mind, the question becomes who’s better to for news sites to hire: A writer they can train to take better photos, or photographers who have honed their skills but need help with context? Good photos are difficult to find for cheap. News sites might as well pay people on staff for images rather than iStock or AP.

Daniel Milnor writing ‘one of those posts’ about the value of doing research and some of the trappings of social media: 

When I write a post that takes a stand or sheds light on an issue I always run the risk of getting the usual comments of “Oh, you are just being negative,” or “What gives you the right?” or “How dare you question the power of social media?” About 99% of the time these comments come from people who are trying to build an audience. You know the type. Everything is unicorns and rainbows and every shoot is perfection and photographic life is akin to a suburbia lifestyle catalog. When your business is on the line and you are trying to create a facade of happiness to gain more business I get it, but I don’t have to live like that. I’ve always tried to be honest and gaining followers is not my priority. I’ll take truth and honesty over followers any day, and I’ll never stoop to writing about equipment all the time.

DLK Collection reviews New Photography 2012 at MOMA. I had to send them an angry Tweet about the phrase “groundbreaking ideas” which probably wasn’t the nicest thing to do but I absolutely hate that phrase. Probably a conversation for another day. You should DLK though, they know what they’re talking about.

So while this show certainly covers many of the key themes in today’s photographic dialogue (it’s all appropriately “on trend”), the overall feeling of the exhibit is more like a checklist of the topics we’re supposed to be discussing rather than a discovery or championing of groundbreaking ideas. As we might expect, there’s China, and appropriation, and archives, and digital manipulation, and image proliferation, and commercial approaches, and crossing medium boundaries, but aside from the impressive chaos of Michele Abeles, much of the output is less than memorable.

The Vivian Maier myth-making continues with another article in the NY Times: 

Acquaintances recall Maier as an imposing, confident, stolid woman in her later years. Jim Dempsey, who worked the box office at the Film Center of the School of the Art Institute, saw her most every week for over a decade. She would dig through her purse looking for money, sighing until Dempsey let her in. She often stopped to talk — about movies, life, anything but herself — although he never got her name.

‘Dronestagram’ filters satellite photos of US drone strikes for your social feeds’ [The Verge]