The Digest – September 16th, 2012

©Bryan Formhals – From the series ‘Medicine’

It was five years ago this month that I published the first monthly show on LPV. I took submissions on Flickr, then made an edit of 16 photographs. There was no theme, no rhyme or reason really, other than I wanted to share some of the photographs I enjoyed on Flickr. And now today I’m wrapping up the 5th Issue of the print magazine. It’s been an interesting five years, that’s for sure. I’ve made some mistakes, stumbled upon dozens of great photographers, and have made many great friends. This magazine inhabits a very small place in photoland, but it’s a place that I’m comfortable with right now. Thanks to all of you that have followed along over the years! I greatly appreciate it, and look forward to continuing this journey with you.

Moving on, here are a few articles I noticed on the web this week.

The Week In Opinions About Instagram

This is becoming a regular feature on The Digest. I hopefully that perhaps within a few weeks everything that ever needs to be said about Instagram will have been said. That’s probably wishful thinking though. I’m sure there are more than a few photographers out there who will reach their breaking point and explode like a supernova because of Instagram. Thankfully, this week the opinions took a more positive tone.

I’ll start with this insightful article from John Edwin Mason. In it he brings up a perspective that I think is often overlooked in this debate.

As someone who’s deeply engaged with Africa, I’m thrilled by the potential of the camera phone. There are already half a billion cell phone subscribers on the continent, 95% of whom have pay-as-you-go plans.  Most Africans will never have a land line, skipping an entire generation of communications technology.  In the same way, most will never own a device that only makes pictures.

Pay-as-you-go allows even the relatively poor to have a phone, and increasingly those phones have a camera.  For most people, it’s their first camera, their first opportunity to represent themselves in photos, rather than to being photographed largely by professional outsiders.  Social media gives them the means of reaching a large and distant audience.  I have no idea what the consequences of this will be, but I bet they’ll be good, and it will be fun watching to find out.  (By the way, what’s true for Africa is true of much of the developing world.)

Bold, italics are mine. So often the focus is on how Instagram and social media are impacting professional photographers. What seems to get lost is exactly what John has expressed here: the fact that affordable, connected cameras will allow many more people to express themselves through photography.

Tom Griggs of fototazo offered some ‘Notes on Instagram and the Conception of Printless Photography.’

Most digital photography exists as a digital archive and is shared online, but digital photography with dSLR’s and digital point-and-shoots was conceptualized with the idea that the print would be a potential outcome of the photographic process – at least the best few images – as witnessed by the Kodak Picture Kiosk at your corner photography store and all the low-end home digital printers. Instagram has packaged, marketed and popularized mobile phone photography with no pretense of including the print as part of its process; it’s a file-sharing based product, building on evolutions in digital photography use and the inception of mobile phone cameras to end the run of the print in photography as an assumed final photographic product. This is nothing less than a fundamental change in the definition of the photograph.

For photographer John Stanmeyer, it’s all about communication. His prediction about camera’s is fairly accurate in my opinion. All cameras are going to need have internet connectivity built into them in the next few years. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops.

It is rudimentary to mention, however I will for the sake of brushing this key aspect not just out from under the rug, but off the cliff of Mount Useless Discussions — a camera (any camera) is a tool, no different than a paint brush, hammer and nail or cooking pots. It is to be used to do something, to create something. Nothing more, nothing less.

Mark these words deep into your conscious — within the next five to tens years (likely less), most professional photographers will be primarily using a camera which is indeed located within something as portable and ubiquitous in our purses/pockets as an iPhone.

I relish the day when the kit used to document the world around me all fits into the palm of my hand.

More so, the power — and the purpose of photojournalism and photography in general — is not the camera, it is what we do with a camera (any camera) in regards to COMMUNICATION.

©Misha Friedman – via ‘reFramed: In conversation with Misha Friedman’ [LA Times]

Links of Note

A great interview with Asger Carlsen on A Photo Editor. 

“I don’t want to say that this is the newest work, and it’s so different from any other artwork you have seen. But that was the most important thing for me. The reason why I did continue that style, although I found it was not my aesthetic. It was important to me because it was new, compared to any other direction I had headed before.”

Marc Holborn writes about Eggleston work and legacy in the Financial Times. I especially enjoyed the recounting of editing The Democratic Forest.

I returned weeks later to begin the editing of these sprawling stacks into a single publishable sequence, which in those days meant about 150 photographs. The music played and I spread out the pictures on the floor of the hall. Eggleston oversaw proceedings from the stairs above, smoking and smiling. There were defined passages in various cities including Dallas, Miami and Berlin. I started, as I always do, in search of openings and endings. I tried to create a pastoral overture with the photographs of the Tennessee landscape and country roads. The photographs seemed lyrical and easily accessible, but Eggleston stopped me at one point as I looked at a picture of a road and told me this was a “bee’s-eye view”. He had halted the car and raised his arm above the roof to make the exposure, imagining he was revealing an insect’s perspective on the scene. Even the simplest pictures could disclose layers of further complexity. The sequence ended in a plane over St Louis at night with an abstraction of electric light, which seemed appropriate for an artist in endless flight.

This is from a month ago, but I seemed to have missed it. A short excerpt on fototazo from Judith Joy Ross on how to start project.

….its not about how you feel, about how shitty or great its going, you have to look at the pictures and see where they lead. You cannot want the pictures to be a certain way or the idea to be what you thought it was going to be, you have to let it unfold and show you what it is. It’s bigger than you, thank God – that’s why its not about you and how miserable you may feel or the lack of faith you may have during a project. It’s about the pictures. You have to be a good self-critic…of the pictures. It takes time to let things go and let things come.

©Jordi Ruiz Cirera - ‘The Bolivian Mennonite Lifestyle’ via [FeatureShoot]

A nice audio conversation between Ross Mantle, Ed Panar and Melissa Cantanese over on ADP. Ed was featured in Issue 3. The quote below if from Melissa.

I think audience is a really interesting question right now, espcially with the internet and browsing and how we view images today. The potential for audience is great, but the need for mass appeal is not there anymore.

A comment on ‘conceptual photography’ from Marc Feustel. 

Those in the straight photography corner often appear to see conceptual photography as impure in some way, as if it were not what photography is really about. Without wanting to spark off another one of these debates, it seems to me that concept is indeed considered paramount in Western art photography today (in my experience, this is not at all the case in Japan, where “serious” photography can still very much be about wandering around with a camera and taking pictures). For example, I’m often struck by young photographers struggling to hang an ill-fitting artist statement with some big ideas in it over the shoulders of work that is clearly not conceptual in the slightest… presumably because they have been taught to do so in art school.

Paul Melcher writes about how photographers could find opportunities working with brands on creating content directly for social media and the web. I agree with him. This is happening and will continue to happen.

A photographer or a group of photographers could offer to become a brand’s official photographers, building a continuous portfolio of images to be shared and discovered on social media only. A smart brand would hire creative photographers and let them roam freely. Handled by in house photo editors, those images would then be published on the appropriate social media outlet. A sort of internal photo agency, producing an endless stream of fresh original images needed to propel the brand at the top of social media hit parade.

Joerg launches the 2012 Conscientious Portfolio Competition. 

The Conscientious Portfolio Competition (CPC) is free to enter. It’s no pay-to-play scheme. There are no costs involved for you other than the time it takes to decide about and send in your work.

©Steve McCurry – ‘The Ground Zero Photographs’ [American Photo Magazine]