Archives

July 2009

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Jul 31

There is a reason why Arnold Newman is one of the most renowned American portrait photographers. Newman died in 2006, at the age of 88, looking back to a career that spanned six decades. If the name does not ring a bell, you will certainly be familiar with at least some of his work, be it his portrait of composer Igor Stravinsky or his portrait of industrialist and convicted war criminal Alfried Krupp. Alfred Newman - Five Decades, originally published in 1986, contains over one hundred of his images, most of them environmental portraits, but also other work.
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Jul 31

Being familiar with Hans-Christian Schink’s wonderful Traffic Projects (see some of the images from the book here), finding LA was a bit of a surprise for me (even though I should have known from his most recent work - examples in the top row on this page that Schink is not a large-format one-trick pony). LA of course depicts Los Angeles, and it does it in two different ways. The first is similar to what Schink did with his German highway construction projects: Large-format photographs of deserted places against a grey, blank sky. I’m not that familiar with LA (but familiar enough to say that I could never live there), but I wouldn’t have expected to see photographs of that city without anybody (incl. only parked but no moving cars) around.
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Jul 30

Excellent post from the folks over at DLK Collection: The Gallery Show Review is an Endangered Species. Key quote: “the erosion of print media, and in particular, the waning coverage of everyday run of the mill gallery shows, is going to continue to cause gallery owners to rethink how they build word of mouth for their artists, how they find new accepted sources of reference-able credibility to ease the concerns of uncertain collectors, and how they more broadly generate some buzz. […] If the coverage of photography (and gallery shows more specifically) by the mainstream press is going to slowly wither away, we as a community need to step into the breach and start writing. Most of all, we owe it to the artists/photographers, who deserve more from this community than deafening silence.” I agree with this 100% - which is (in part) why I started reviewing photography shows on this blog a while ago, something I hope to be able to expand in the future.
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Jul 30

It has become fairly obvious that lately that our understanding of what photography is and does has not quite caught up with, well, what it is and does. A wonderful case in point is the attempt to differentiate between “photographs” and “photo illustrations”. What is the difference? When does a photograph become a “photo illustration”? If you think the answer is so simple keep reading. I don’t think it is.
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Jul 30

There is a wonderful interview with Bertien van Manen over at Bint photoBooks Too Much Chocolate (seriously, people, if you copy interviews at least be very open and obvious about where you got them from - thanks, Pim, for letting me know!).
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Jul 30

Colette Fu’s Photo Binge is probably the spectacularly messiest kind of photo collage (if that’s the right word) I’ve ever seen. There are also pop-up books, which are also well worth the visit.
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Jul 29

There are many reasons why I provided Edgar Martins the space to explain his motivations and work on this blog. I believe that in general, what is missing from photography online are longer, in-depth discussions and/or articles about the medium. I intend to publish more of those in the future, and many will be written by photographers or writers. Some might be more theoretical, others less so. I’m not so much interested in publishing something I agree with 100% as in providing/publishing writing whose goal it is to expand the discourse.
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Jul 29

This post complements Edgar Martins’ How can I see what I see, until I know what I know?. For these images Martins explains his thinking/work behind them. Click on the images to see larger versions. All images are © Edgar Martins - Jörg Colberg Untitled, from the series ‘Ruins of the Gilded Age’ 2008 (Arizona, USA) C-type print, 98x127cm & 40x52cm Edition of 5 © Edgar Martins The constructions in this image are restricted to some of the pipe work in the ceiling as well as the objects in the foreground which were simply increased in number and, of course, in some cases mirrored. My starting point for this construction was a simple statement which I once read: ‘only a bad architect relies on symmetry; instead of symmetrical layout of blocks, masses and structures, Modernist architecture relies on wings and balance of masses’. My intention was to draw on references form Modernism Art, thus also alluding to the wider concerns in my work, particularly with respect to the impact of Modernism on the environment.
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Jul 29

Georg Küttinger’s landscapes:remixed is a fine example of how digital image technologies can be used in very creative ways. (via)
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Jul 29

Recently, the New York Times published an article in its magazine that featured photography Edgar Martins. The Times withdrew the work (something that could only be done on the web, of course) after it became apparent that Martins seemed to have manipulated the images. As could be expected, this case caused quite an uproar (find some smart comments by architectural photographers here). So far, Martins has remained silent, in part because at the time of the publication of his images he was traveling. The following text was prepared by Martins as a response and explanation (the same text can also be found on his website). - Jörg Colberg
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Jul 28

That’s not a statement about the merits of Twitter or Tumblr. It’s a statement about my own Twitter account, which I tried to use for stuff that wouldn’t make it onto this blog - short links maybe, or pictures I’d come across, or shorter thoughts or reactions. Thing is, though, if you have only 140 characters, there’s no way you can create anything meaningful (don’t believe the hype!). I often ended up having to write a whole series of “tweets” for the most basic stuff, and posting images was impossible. I often ended up wasting a lot of time trying to figure out how to post something. And having just snippets of thoughts and (external) links or pictures really promotes ADD. So I just gave up on it. Instead, Tumblr seems to be the kind of tool I am looking for (starting a second Movable Type blog would be another option), so there now is Conscientious Redux, which is basically going to be what was impossible to do with Twitter. We’ll see how that goes. All these sites (Twitter, Tumblr, …) are tools, and I think it’s important to find out which ones work and which not. It’s like with cameras: Sure, a Leica comes with a name, but if it doesn’t serve your purpose, you’re wasting your time and money.
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Jul 28

If you want to see something that is way more disturbing than, for example, the Colonel Kurtz scenes in the movie Apocalypse Now, the TV show Toddlers and Tiara should be right up your alley (here’s this season’s trailer). This is the world of Susan Anderson’s High Glitz (via).
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Jul 27

“This corner says that the Chelsea gallery scene will be gone within a year with the exception of half a dozen megaspaces, feeder galleriess for Fashionland and ClubLand. It is weird right now to see vast swathes of Chelsea territory which resemble the bad parts of Staten Island dotted by visually claustrophobic Frank Gehry buildings and their spawn. When everyone who still has cash is dancing in the High Line sky and staring into each other’s wealthy windows, then the junkies and whores can seize the streets below.” - story/opinion
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Jul 27

Done in the style of classic Chinese paintings, Yao Lu’s works actually employ photography. More samples here.
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Jul 24

There is a branch of portraiture that I want to call “conceptual portraiture”. In a nutshell - please don’t take this as some strict theoretical definition because it is not - its practitioners all seem to share some discomfort with the way standard portraiture is done, so they add something else to the process of taking a portrait to get closer to whatever it might be they want to show (feelings, or more spontaneity, or whatever else). The biggest problem with conceptual portraiture is that many of these projects fail to achieve their goals: It’s almost as if they decided to get rid off some straight-jacket, only to climb into a very narrow box which allows no movement.
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Jul 23

While I am waiting for further clarifications from Edgar Martins on the NY Times Magazine kerfuffle (don’t worry, they will come), Alan Rapp (a photography and architecture book editor - who, for example, edited the BLDGBLOG book) talked to four architectural photographers about the complex.
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Jul 23

David Schalliol’s Isolated Building Studies (via) overlap with Kevin Bauman’s, and I think the way to look at them is to think about what the series are about and what they mean.
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Jul 23

Remember the days when you would receive postcards from friends in the mail (and by “mail” I mean that box that’s next to your door, which these days is filled only with junk mail and bills), maybe because they were on vacation somewhere? I don’t know about you, but seeing them “Twitter” something like “Checked in now. Seats 34C and D” is not quite the same experience as holding an actual postcard - even if the information on it is the same or comparable: “We had OK seats on the flight” (Theorists might now start long discussions about the “tangible”).
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Jul 23

Via art collectors I found these useful art gallery terms. Some very funny, such as “Limited edition” meaning “Generally, art produced in sufficient quantities that its practical availability will be unlimited.” (“Isn’t that cute, isn’t that true?” - Dusty Towne) or “Secondary market”: “The art world equivalent of a used-car lot, where work is sold with no benefit to the artist, except the rise or fall of his reputation.”
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Jul 22

Paddy Johnson over at artfagcity certainly claims it is. I don’t see how I am putting an “awfully positive spin on the value of reproductions” given that most photography books - and this is a photography blog - are well, if not extremely well produced objects. Compared with a $2,000 or $10,000 print a $80 book is in fact not only very much affordable (as an aside, some photography might in fact actually work better in book form) but indeed “a valuable alternative aesthetic experience”, because we’re talking about photography here. If you don’t believe it, look at the photography books I have been reviewing on Fridays on this blog! Some of those books are so well produced and printed that you could cut out pages, frame them and hang them on the wall.
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Jul 22

The list of possible sins one can commit with one’s website is pretty long, and it includes - apart from very bad or unusable navigation and goofy music - such gems as tiny images or gigantic copyright text over the images or terrible image-compression artifacts (or, of course, any combination of those). As Brian said during the blogging panel in New York, if your images are so precious (that you’re worried about people stealing them) why put them online? Regardless, it might be worthwhile to point out some recently overhauled websites to see some good solutions. Turns out Brian’s website was just re-done, and it can serve as a nice example: Nice big images, very simple navigation. Another good example is Chris Buck’s website. Get this: It’s not only easy to use, it even has a “download” button - so if, for example, you want PL diCorcia to stare at you, you can simply download the image as a pdf file. Perfect! I’d love to see something like that more often! And I’m sure if someone tried to use any of those downloaded photos for something commercial without permission, they’d hear from Chris’ lawyer. BTW, don’t miss Chris’ new celebrity look alikes (under “Isn’t”).
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Jul 22

Here’s a moment of non-photography blogging: “21st century computer modelling software has enabled a long-lost, trumpet-like instrument called the Lituus to be recreated - even though no one alive today has heard, played or even seen a picture of this forgotten instrument - allowing a work by Bach to be performed as the composer may have intended for the first time in nearly 300 years.: (story)
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Jul 22

Today, I got a PR email from a gallery about Russell Young’s Diamond Dust series. “Funny,” I thought, “but doesn’t that really remind me of something?” Oh, yes, indeed: Vik Muniz’s “Pictures of Diamonds” (which you can access on that website if you scroll down to 2004; alternatively, here’s one).
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Jul 22

I found Deborah Hamon’s art work the other day somewhere: Paintings of young girls, copied into photographs (at least the work listed under “photography” - kind of an inverse Loretta Lux, who copied photo portraits into paintings, didn’t she?). In her statement, the artist writes she is “interested in the interplay between reality and fiction”.
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Jul 22

Scott Conarroe’s By Rail beautifully combines landscape photography with a bit of a commentary on the kinds of environments we live in, by focusing on railway lines intersecting towns.
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Jul 21

These days, barely a week goes by without yet another announcement of some photography now on sale for cheap somewhere. You will never see the word “cheap”, of course - you might see “affordable”. But regardless, prices seem to be coming down; or maybe the range of prices now extends to numbers, which the art world has not seen in many years. I’d be the first to admit that part of me welcomes this trend, because given that photography has such a wide appeal it should be affordable for large numbers of people.
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Jul 21

A little while ago, I started taking photos of erased blackboards, since I liked the way they looked. Of course, in this day and age it doesn’t take long before you can find on the internet that someone else has had your idea before: Matthew Gamber. His are b/w, though.
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Jul 21

Rebecca Sittler Schrock’s projects under “The Occupied Landscape” depict landscapes used in a recreational context. If you’re into still-life photography, there’s a ton of that on her site, too (but really, I’ve seen enough photographs of fast-food hamburgers on a plate now - I think there’s a fairly uninteresting idea [sorry, Stephen!] that got way out of control).
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Jul 20

First The Kiss and now the dying soldier? For some reason, I thought the debate about whether or not Robert Capa’s photograph of the soldier getting shot during the Spanish Civil War had long been settled (in favour of “fake”), but it seems I’m misremembering things (I was so certain I had read about this a couple of years back). Anyway, here we are (again): “New evidence has emerged that one of the most famous war photographs, shot during the Spanish civil war by Robert Capa, was taken well away from the battlefield, reopening the debate as to whether it is a fake.” (story; also see the video; via)
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Jul 20

“A great deal has changed in China since Mao’s regime. During that time art served only as a means of depicting the glory of communism. […] In this series I combine images with graphic text. The text follows the form used in Cultural Revolution-era propaganda posters: an image bordered with a slogan in bold text below it. The texts that I chose come from a variety of sources. Most are derived from contemporary advertising and signage as well as from Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book. The images depict Chinese youth in front of various significant facades wearing T-shirts with phrases in what is often called "Chinglish" […] Having divided my time equally in recent years between the East and the West, my own experience of my home country is often one of profound ambivalence. These photographs explore that ambivalence by exploiting the collision of my influences and in doing so, the series visually captures the economic and political conflicts in modern day Chinese culture, among them, the identity crisis facing Chinese youth.” - O Zhang (for the explanation of the image above click here)
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Jul 19

No Caption Needed (Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites, both professors of rhetoric and public culture) have been discussing photography for a while now, and there are lots of great posts on their site. The other day, in a post entitled Photographing Poverty: Realism or Sentimentality?, they discussed photography of poverty, noting that debates “about the moral value of photography have to deal with poverty.” You can agree with that or not, but the post is very much worth the read.
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Jul 18

The simplest ideas are often the best. Case in point: Timur Siqin’s animated gif Kerze. If you need a soundtrack along with it, this would be the obvious choice (for those not in the know, here’s why). (Kerze via)
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Jul 17

The other day, the current governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post, criticizing President Obama’s cap-and-trade energy plan. The article contained the usual nonsense that Republican politicians have been peddling for quite a while now, and as John Kerry noted, the piece focused “on everything but the single grave challenge that forms the basis of all of our actions: the crisis of global climate change.” Of course, most Republicans either don’t believe that global climate change (aka global warming) exists at all or that it is the result of human industrial activity, and regardless they usually don’t bother dealing with actual facts. It would be rather straightforward for Governor Palin to see the effects of global warming in her home state of Alaska.
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Jul 16

Dash Snow, “Artist of New York Downtown Party Scene” as one obituary poignantly described him, died the other day, from what seems like a drug overdose. A couple of days later, a friend sent me an email, which included the following questions: “Who is responsible for getting his work into museums? Why Dash Snow? […] What do his tired, shitty Polaroids of naked, drunk, partying friends say about anything? Is there a set of signs or language that he’s developed that imbue his work with insight? What is it that people like? What am I missing?” I am familiar with questions like these - or similar ones. Occasionally, I receive emails with such questions; and often my wife will ask me about photography we’re looking at when she accompanies me on my tours around Chelsea.
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Jul 16

“A pair of photograph collectors in Maryland, USA, have uncovered what they believe to be the first and only ever photographic record of Phineas Gage - the railway worker who survived an iron tamping rod passing straight through the front of his brain, following an explosives accident in 1848.” (story) (Updated below)
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Jul 15

I’m sure regular readers will be aware of Ed Winkleman’s blog. Ed runs a gallery in New York City (well worth the visit, btw), and those who read his blog regularly know that not only is he very passionate about art, he is also extremely happy to talk about it openly, with anybody. Ed’s new (I think also first) book How to Start and Run a Commercial Art Gallery just got published. Given his writing on the blog it looks like the kind of book you want to get if you want to open your own gallery or if you want to find out how galleries actually work. Here is Ed talking a little bit about the book.
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Jul 15

For her photography of German nuclear reactors, Anja Behrens uses very classical landscapes - works wonderfully (via)
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Jul 14

“Curated blogs and online galleries are playing an ever more influential role in the fine-art world.” - full PDN story
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Jul 14

If you’re not immensely bored by the Fairey saga (you know, where a hipster/amazing artist took/stole someone else’s photograph to transform/convert/rip off it into a political campaign poster/an amazing piece of art/an utterly shallow piece of nonsense - your picks - and then got sued), here is the latest update: The photographer who took the photo now claims he owns the copyright and not AP. It’s hard to predict what will happen next; but I’m sure there will be new “developments” for a while.
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Jul 14

“For the past year, I have been making pictures of people posing as glamorous movie stars. […] The project came from my fascination with glamour, a remnant of Old Hollywood.” - Simone Lueck (via)
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Jul 13

Rob Hornstra’s book “101 Billionaires” made it into this blog’s ‘best of 2008’ list and into countless others. “101 Billionaires” - self published by Rob - quickly sold out, but for those who missed out on it, there now is a second edition: The Crisis Edition (what with the number of billionaires in Russia now sadly down to 49). It’s a hardcover edition, just as beautiful as the first one, and at 46 Euros (it’s less if you live in Europe) it’s a real steal. There are 1,000 copies - I don’t expect them to be available for long, so you better order a copy quickly.
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Jul 13

A good post by Todd Walker on the ruins left by Communism and Capitalism - and the photographers covering them.
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Jul 13

You might have heard of Chris Anderson’s new book ‘Free’, which, if what I hear is correct (I haven’t read it, yet), is all about how “free” is the new black. It certainly sounds great, right? After “always low prices” there’s now “free”! Of course, just like “always low prices” comes at a price (a new book, Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, explores this), “free” does, too. Malcolm Gladwell took ‘Free’ apart, and this review from the New York Times also notes quite a few problems.
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Jul 13

Michael Mazzeo Gallery’s RSVP is the latest addition to efforts to use the internet as a way to exhibit and sell photography. I find the following extremely noteworthy: “It is important to note that this is not a pay-to-play program and the exhibitions are not ‘competitions’. There is no charge for entries. There is no charge for inclusion in exhibitions. There is no charge for inclusion in exhibition catalogs.”
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Jul 13

“The unregulated recycling industry in India takes place in thousands of extremely small, backyard workshops. Many of these locations are also people’s homes.” - Sophie Gerrard, in her series E-wasteland
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Jul 9

In an email to me, photographer Edgar Martins - whose New York Times Magazine photo essay just caused such a stir - told me that he is currently traveling and for the most part without access to the internet. He wrote he will get back to me as soon as he can. So stay tuned…
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Jul 9

As someone who loves yard sales, I quite like Greg Ruffing’s series about them. Also don’t miss some of his newer b/w work, to be found here and here. (via)
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Jul 8

My first ever fundraiser is off to a good start, and I want to take this opportunity to thank everybody who has donated and thus supported this blog. If you have not donated, yet: Please consider giving some money that can be used to sustain and expand this blog! Photography blogs have been transforming the way photography is seen and talked about, and they have been steadily growing while the traditional print media have slashed their budgets for the arts, with newspapers turning into a dying breed now. There is a lot of talk about a “free” culture; and Conscientious is free: You can come and browse and read without having to pay for it, regardless of where you live. But there is a limitation to free: At the end of the day, some things cost money. The production of contents does cost money - I have long refused to admit this (this is the first fundraiser after seven years of blogging), but it is a simple fact. For me to be able to not only sustain the blog, but also expand it your financial support is crucial. So if you have not done so, please consider supporting this blog by donating money.
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Jul 8

This past weekend, I looked quickly through the latest photography project commissioned by the New York Times, photographs of abandoned houses etc., done by Edgar Martins. Since the photography did not strike me as particularly interesting, I didn’t spend much time with it, but I remember I was a bit puzzled about the stairs in this photograph. Updated below (thrice)
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Jul 8

It’s just a coincidence that I found this very interesting post about Arts Stimulus Funding today. Just to give you an idea what this all is really talking about, one of the most important snippets: “There are more full-time jobs (incl. accountants, designers, plumbers, union workers & engineers) supported by the nonprofit arts organizations than are in accounting, public safety officers, even lawyers and just slightly fewer than elementary school teachers. America’s nonprofit arts & culture industry generates $166.2 billion economic activity annually, including 5.7 million jobs, generating $29.6 billion in government revenue, of which $12.6 billion is federal revenue.” I’d be the last person to measure what art does by looking at the money it makes; nevertheless, these are some serious numbers.
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Jul 8

Frederike Wetzels’s “Hoeschviertel” shows what many Germans cities look like, once you get away from the centers and regardless of whether you are in Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, or wherever else. (thanks, Tobias!)
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Jul 7

For the fans of typologies there now is Stefan Klink’s project Architecture of train stations in the Harz region (German language only page; but you don’t really need the text). It’s slightly amusing to see that some photography now seems to follow a pattern known from academia: Researchers focusing on some tiny aspect of a much larger field…
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Jul 7

Eric Rondepierre produces his images using decaying old film material and other sources - there are a lot of great images/ideas to be found on his site!
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Jul 6

This week, Conscientious celebrates its seven-year anniversary. If you have followed the blog, you probably noted that I have been steadily expanding it, so that, after seven years, the almost 4,000 posts now not only contain introductions of almost 2,000 photographers from all over the world, but also over fifty extended interviews, over eighty book reviews, slightly over a dozen exhibition reviews (the latest addition), and hundreds of other posts on photography, many short, some long. And there will be many, many more. Over the past few months, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the blog. Adding more and more features has been an immense pleasure, and I will continue doing this. But it also means that I have to raise some funds, so I will have the freedom to do some of the things that currently are not possible. This includes being able to work with additional people. So if you enjoy reading this blog and its daily posts, please consider supporting it financially. I set up a Paypal button, which makes donating very simple and convenient (if you want to avoid Paypal, please email me: jmcolberg at gmail.com). Your donation will not only go towards sustaining Conscientious, but also towards its expansion. Any donation will be extremely appreciated!
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Jul 6

Well, if they put on a show like Younger Than Jesus at New York’s New Museum, they’ll have to live with reviews like this one. “I’m by no means an educated art consumer or art critic,” writes the reviewer, but maybe it is exactly this kind of review that a show like Younger Than Jesus needs - bringing the well-tested approach of fake news shows (such as the Daily Show) to the art world. Make sure the read the whole review, the best bits are at the end.
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Jul 6

In an email to me, Thomas Jackson wrote that his series with his home-made robot is “meant as a meditation on the roles of boring work and abstract anxiety in our hi-tech, hyper-connected world.”
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Jul 4

I had my birthday post set up yesterday, planning to use this photo, and then Sarah Palin resigned, saying that only real winners quit (seriously). But Mitch Epstein’s photo is so much better anyway, saying so many things at the same time, in such a great way. Happy Birthday, (United States of) America!
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Jul 3

The background: New Orleans, ca. 1912, the red-light district called “Storyville”. The “hero”: E.J. Bellocq, a photographer there, whose active period extends into the 1940s. The other “hero”: Lee Friedlander, whose interest in jazz and in the city brings him to New Orleans, where through a collector named Larry Borenstein he first comes across the (re-printed) photographs and then the original glass plates of some of Bellocq’s work, found in a desk after his death. In 1966, Friedlander acquires the plates - by now, some of them heavily damaged by years of abuse by the elements, neglect and acts of censorship (some of the faces are scratched out). Through a bit of trial and error Friedlander manages to produce a full set of prints, eighty-nine of them, thirty-four of which (there are thirty-three numbered plates plus one image in the front) are reproduced in Storyville Portraits, published by the Museum of Modern Art in 1970 (using an edit by John Szarkowski).
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Jul 2

These days, the perks of being a magician are not overly exciting (unless you love to “dazzle” party crowds with doing card tricks and “finding” coins behind the ears of people you want to spend more time with). But as a magician, you do get access to whatever the places are called where magicians hang out - which is great, I suppose, if you’re a magician, and it’s also great if you’re a photographers. Enters Christiaan Lopez-Miro (for effect, you will have to imagine he suddenly pops up, with us not knowing where from - man, how did he do that?) and his series “Smoke and Mirrors”. (thanks, Alesh!)
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Jul 2

“A few months ago I met with the Department Head of Photographs at a major art museum to show them my new book Fall River Boys. During the meeting I asked if I could show another more recent body of work that appeared on my website. They obliged and handed me a laptop to bring up my site. When I entered the url a message was returned that my website was blocked due to adult content […]. This was regarded as no big deal by the curator. I was told that there were many artists whose websites were blocked because there was some form of nudity in their work.” - Richard Renaldi
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Jul 1

I really like Annabel Elgar’s series Refuge, and I wish I could find out more about it. Unfortunately, on the website there is only a text written by someone else, which, with its combination of vague art speak (“process of allegorical bricolage”) and bad cliches (“a bleak Orwellian vision of sad bedsits, neglected kitchens and subterranean basements”), I find offputting.
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