The Digest – October 14th, 2012

Maurice Tabard/The Metropolitan Museum of Art – via ‘Faking It’: Old-School Photo Trickery at the Met [Time LightBox]

I was talking with Paul Kwiatkowski about podcasts the other night. I still don’t know very much about them so it was interesting to hear what he had to say. I’ll start listening to a few and go from there. It’s always nice to have side projects in the works. Keeps the mind sharp.

Issue 5 will be here in the next couple weeks. I’m excited to see it. I mean, I’ve seen all the work but I haven’t seen the magazine yet. Normally after I see it and we get the proof copy we make a few changes. It’s typically been rather smooth. Most of the issues are with the text. I have a good feeling about this issue because Alexi did a great job last time. So I think once we see the proof copy we’ll be good to go.

I didn’t link to much this week. If you ever have a tip about something I should read or check out, drop me a line

Tom Wood

Tom Wood is great. He has a big show the Photographers’ Gallery in London. Phil Coomes has a good article about his career with some nice photographs over on the BBC. 

To many in the business Wood is a true photographer and held in high regard. One that has dedicated his life to his art and has cut no corners nor bent to prevailing trends. He is often classified as a documentary photographer, but he tells me quite forcefully that is not the case. “I am not trying to document anything, I am asking a question. It is more about deciphering and transforming. You don’t call a poet, a documentary poet, because they write about life, so why a photographer? It is that exploration of the subject and what stimulated him to make a picture that is of such interest, a contest between the form and the content. “When the stuff is too journalistic and documentary then it is journalism, if it is too conceptual and arty then that is another thing, but where the two meet – that is interesting.

And here’s Sean O’Hagan:

The New Yorker’s photography critic, Vince Aletti, once memorably described Wood’s style as “loose, instinctive and dead-on” adding “he makes Martin Parr look like a formalist”. That just about nails it. At first glance, the photographs in Men and Women look like a mishmash of styles and approaches, with what look like snapshots interspersed with more straightforward portraits, often in black and white. (Wood is a pioneering colourist, a self-taught photographer who trained as a conceptual painter at Leicester Polytechnic from 1973 to 1976.) On closer inspection, though, you see the unerring eye of a photographer for whom there are no rules.

I like the quote from Wood:

“I’m just interested in good photographs,” he says, shrugging. “I’m not a documentarist. I’m not trying to document anything. It’s more about deciphering and transforming. I make what you might call real-life photographs.”

©Tom Wood

Links of Note

The Verge has an article on Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop. I haven’t seen it yet so I should probably get to The Met soon.

More generally though, it’s a product of the idea that widely-used software like Photoshop regularly collides with concepts of photographic “truth,” that even documentary images are prone to modification, their authors suspected of deceit.

Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop, a new exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, reminds us that yes, we have seen quite a few ‘shops in our time. Tracing the practice through the centuries, the unprecedented collection shows that not only has manipulation been around since the beginning of the recorded image, but many of its methods and motives have remained more or less the same.

DLK Collection on Bruce Haley’s show at Anastasia. I was there for the opening. It was great to meet Bruce and see the new panoramic work.

I have to admit that I am a bit of skeptic when it comes to the panorama format; I think too many of these wide pictures seem gimmicky. My favorite panoramas are those made by Art Sisabaugh decades ago, where the strengths of the format were smartly matched with the superflat land of the Midwest. So I was somewhat surprised to like Haley’s panoramas as much as did. Both the pure landscapes and the city vistas play off the bigness of the sky and the horizontals of the land, and the up-close buildings have been carefully composed to take advantage of an enveloping edge to edge movement. I think part of their success also lies in their narrowness, which keeps the images tightly hemmed in even when they depict something grand and effusive. All in, Haley deftly engages the history of American landscape photography in these images, while still bringing his own voice to the ongoing dialogue.

©Maciej Dakowicz

Erik Kim interviewed Maciej Dakowicz about his book “Cardiff After Dark.” Another one I need to get in my hands. A bit about his process in this excerpt:

Mentally? First I have a couple of beers in a pub with friends or at home. For me beer helps to relax. You think less about the consequences. You just go for the shot. For this kind of work I say less thinking means better pictures.

Physically? Pack the camera, spare batteries, couple of cards, a lens hood, an umbrella and go. Simple as that.

Challenges? The biggest challenge was often simply forcing myself to go out, as you never know what is going to happen to you. The weather was most of the time quite bad which was not encouraging either. My friends and family were always saying: “Going there again?”.

Anyway, once I got there the challenges included: avoiding posed images, getting close, watching your back, not running into troubles, and finally getting back home safely with some good pictures on the card inside the camera. When shooting a scene often the people around can cause more trouble than the potographed ones, so you need to be aware who is observing you. You can say that shooting at night this kind of pictures is kinda one big challenge.

PDN has an article about ‘The Perks of Collaboration,’ with the Flak Photo Network getting a shout out. Here’s Douglas Ljungkvist:

A member of various photo groups on Facebook, Ljungkvist asserts that “none of them have the critical mass or, dare I say, clout that Flak has.” This critical mass, he says, means one’s questions are more likely to get answered, and answered quickly, if posted to the FPN Facebook page, and far more news and information will pass through your radar than it would otherwise. You might even find some like-minded artists who happen to live in the same city you do. As a practical example, Ljungkvist cites his own invitation to join the ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) Fine Art “think tank” as being the result of his membership in the FPN community. He credits the online nature of the group as integral to its democratic structure, which allows everyone “a voice and opinion,” instead of resembling the sort of cliques that often keep like-minded artists in their own individual echo chambers.

DLK on Katie Steciw: 

“I think these works place Steciw in a different category than the countless digital image appropriators and manipulators at work today; I think she is coming from a different conceptual place. She’s way out on the edge where the photographs have become cold objects and the digital transformations have become a dance recognizable to the computer savvy. She’s playing with both virtual and physical space, with texture and surface, the stock photographs and the other accoutrements abstracted and yet still somewhat representative of their original selves. It’s a new aesthetic, with new associations, firmly rooted in our ever evolving Internet reality.”

“What if The Masters of Photography Used Horrendous Watermarks?” [Kip Praslowicz]

Blake Andrews wrote about Stephen Shore and toilets. The following quote doesn’t have anything to do with either, but I like it.

On the one hand, shooting the banal is nothing new. There’s a conceit among photographers that a good photographer can elevate the everyday into the picturesque through sheer force of will. Not only does a good photographer notice photos in scenes the rest of us overlook, but he or she can convert those visions into something special. Whether it’s Weston’s peppers or Groover’s silverware, the everyday scenes of Backhaus and Kawauchi, or the popularity of Instagram, that idea has been been with us forever. In fact I’d argue that it’s the dominant aesthetic in art photography today as measured by any number of juried exhibitions.

LENS Blog on the Marcellus Shale Documentary Project: 

Because of its scope, the Marcellus Shale Documentary Project offers an in-depth look at the transformations taking place across rural Pennsylvania, where thousands of wells have been drilled in recent years, and more are planned. To be sure, photographers said, the shale gas boom has provided a jolt to the local economy of struggling towns, and many residents are benefiting — directly or indirectly — from the new income and business. But there are environmental hazards, of course, and residents are also coping with the unexpected side effects of rapid industrialization. Downtown streets are choked with traffic, local services are straining to accommodate thousands of workers who have arrived from out of state, and the influx of drillers has created housing crises in some places. There are rifts between residents with different views on fracking, and tension between locals and drillers, who hail largely from states in the South.

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