Archives

February 2010

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Feb 27

There’s a lengthy article in the LA Times about the ongoing conflict between photographers Sze Tsung Leong and David Burdeny, which details how this actually involved, various previously unknown details, and opinions by various people, some involved in the case, others not. If you’re interested in the case, go and read it. Another must-read is a blog post by Sérgio Muñoz Sarmiento about the case. Sérgio maintains a blog about art and law, a must-read for anyone interested in copyright and/or fair use and especially about the various legal cases in front of judges. I know about copyright and fair use, but I actually had no idea how a case like Burdeny vs. Leong would/might play out, so I asked Sérgio about it. It will be interesting to see how this case is going to evolve.
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Feb 26

I’ve always thought that good images will still be good images, even if you printed them in a newspaper; but of course, art books are not printed like that. Except for Thomas Ruff - Surfaces, Depths. The book, a survey of the artist’s work over the years, is printed on, well, what looks like the kind of paper you’d use for newspapers - it looks and feels just like it. The printing itself is of higher quality than what you find in newspapers, though. I came across Thomas Ruff - Surfaces, Depths by chance - visiting Ruff’s show at Zwirner gallery; and they had a copy on display (albeit none for sale).
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Feb 26

I lived for five years in Pittsburgh, the city that used to be the steel capital of the US. If you go to Pittsburgh you wouldn’t necessarily notice the city’s past, since most of the steel mills are gone. They are not just abandoned shells, they are literally gone. In their old places you can see a few signs of their former presence - such as the few neatly cleaned items used to decorate “The Waterfront” shopping area. A little down the river from The Waterfront, there is a single steel mill still operating, but it’s not the kind of spectacle you’d expect from Ye Olde Tales where Pittsburgh was described as “hell with the lid off” (in contrast Pittsburgh, city politics still is hell with the lid on).
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Feb 25

“Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit rightly decided that the US Post Office’s use of an image, based on a copyrighted sculpture, was not fair use. As a result, the Federal Circuit’s decision holds that the US Post Office is liable to the sculptor and remands the case back to the trial court so that damages may be determined. […] The Center for Internet Society (‘CIS’) filed an amicus on behalf of the Andy Warhol Foundation, and several other amici […]. In the amici, the CIS unsuccessfully argued that the US Post Office’s use was fair use, ‘We think fair use does and should protect this right, which is crucial to huge amounts of expression, including vast amounts of modern art.’” - story Update: Also make sure to read this post.
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Feb 25

There’s a post over at foto8 that states: “What we find incongruous is that we are unsure of the basic moral position of the author in relation to the socially significant subject matter.” As a generalized statement, this strikes me as flawed. For some work it might be a problem, for other work is will not be a problem. In particular, the question at the very end “Is it in fact not the case that documentary photography demands a moral position on the part of the photographer?” seems to contain a whiff of nostalgia for the good old days, when there were always clear divisions, and you knew which side was good and which side was bad. I view documentary photography that covers the gray areas, where things aren’t always only good or only bad, as quite an improvement, especially in the light of the vastly increased visual literacy of the average viewer.
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Feb 24

You might never heard of the Goethe Institute (you might actually never heard of Goethe - kidding, kidding) in New York City. Its reference librarian, Katherine Lorimer, happens to be an amateur photographer and reader of this blog, and she emailed me to tell me that they got a pretty solid selection of photography books (apart from books about contemporary German literature, film, art and history). Due to their mission (they’re funded by the German government), they only carry German artists. But you can use their library if you want. In-house use is free, and if you want to take books out you need an annual membership ($10/year - quite the steal!). Frau Lorimer sent me an impressive list of their recent 100 acquisitions, but it’ll be more fun for you to maybe just check it out in person. All the Düsseldorf stuff and much more. They’re at 72 Spring Street, 11th Floor, and they’re open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 2-7pm, Fridays from noon to 5pm, and Saturdays from 10am to 1pm (What? A German library open on a Saturday? What is this?).
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Feb 24

This image is from Gregory Halpern’s Thin on the Ground, but also make sure to have a look at Living Wage Campaign.
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Feb 23

A final (?) follow-up to my recent series of posts on similar photography (1, 2, 3, 4): This subject matter obviously can only benefit from the input of as many active photographers as possible, so I decided to email a few (I wasn’t aiming for a representative sample, whatever that might actually be) and ask “As a photographer, how do you define plagiarism? Where do similarities end, where does plagiarism begin? How can we approach the issue, given that some images might be too similar for some people, whereas other people insist that similarities are unavoidable in this day and age?” Here is what I got back. My thanks to all of them for taking the time and willingness to share their thoughts with the readers of this blog! If anyone wants to add their voice, email me, and I’m happy to have the post grow in size.
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Feb 23

“As an English-born student of European history teaching in the US; as a Jew somewhat uncomfortable with much that passes for ‘Jewishness’ in contemporary America; as a social democrat frequently at odds with my self-described radical colleagues, I suppose I should seek comfort in the familiar insult of ‘rootless cosmopolitan.’ But that seems to me too imprecise, too deliberately universal in its ambitions. Far from being rootless, I am all too well rooted in a variety of contrasting heritages. […] I prefer the edge: the place where countries, communities, allegiances, affinities, and roots bump uncomfortably up against one another — where cosmopolitanism is not so much an identity as the normal condition of life. Such places once abounded. Well into the twentieth century there were many cities comprising multiple communities and languages — often mutually antagonistic, occasionally clashing, but somehow coexisting. Sarajevo was one, Alexandria another. Tangiers, Salonica, Odessa, Beirut, and Istanbul all qualified — as did smaller towns like Chernovitz and Uzhhorod. By the standards of American conformism, New York resembles aspects of these lost cosmopolitan cities: that is why I live here.” - Tony Judt
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Feb 23

An interesting post about photography and public art. I’m vehemently pro-fair-use in this case. For me, the focal point is the word “public.” If an artist wants to have her/his art work protected then s/he should not agree to have it used as public art. And, of course, part of my thinking in based on the simple fact that most public art is just so painfully bad (this being my favourite example; here is another photo).
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Feb 23

I wish Francesco Millefiori’s portfolio was organized a little better, with some background text for the different bodies of work, but I like the photography regardless.
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Feb 22

“The last few years have raised important copyright issues and concerns for artists. There are three main factors which have impacted-and will continue to impact-how visual artists relate to each other, to art institutions, and to other intellectual property right holders when it concerns issues of copyright.” - full story
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Feb 22

Over at the Detroit Institute of Arts Blog, there’s a great post with scans of the comments left for a Walker Evans show.
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Feb 22

The images coming from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were dominated from a combination of what was carefully staged and controlled, what emerged in an uncontrolled fashion, and of what a new generation of photojournalists, working under the toughest of circumstances, produced. There was the commander-in-chief posing in a uniform and proclaiming “MIssion Accomplished”, there were the gruesome images from Abu Ghraib, Tim Hetherington’s award-winning photo, the controversy about a photo of a fatally wounded US soldier, plus a lot more. None of these images have entered the world of David Levinthal’s I.E.D.: War in Afghanistan and Iraq, which was on view at Stellan Holm recently: The artist is still playing with dolls (click on the image above for a larger view).
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Feb 22

With Island, Roderik Henderson seems to have transformed the inside of an elevator into a portrait studio. The results are spectacular.
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Feb 19

Whether “Walker Evans is probably the single greatest American photographer ever to have worked in the twentieth century” as Walker Evans: Decade by Decade asserts I don’t know. It does sound like a bit of a bold statement, given the competition. Bold claims aside, Walker Evans definitely was one of the most important American photographers of the past Century. This new volume, an overview of his entire oevre, from the early late 1920s work until the Polaroids from the 1970s, take a few year before his death, shows why.
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Feb 19

I got an envelope in the mail, from “A.M.”, Brooklyn, and of course, I didn’t remember anything about it. I order a lot of books online and have them shipped to me via media-mail, which usually means a delay of at least a week. Occasionally, someone will email me and offer me a copy of a book, and I usually forget about that, too. I’m not senile (I think), I just remember other things (often things that are entirely useless, I wish I had this under control). In any case, the envelope contained a hand-made zine, with the cover made to look like a very old letter (see above); and the inside contains b/w photography.
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Feb 18

Since so many people seemed to enjoy the scans from Franz Fiedler’s 1934 guide Portrait Photography, here are some more scans. This time descreened scans, and no snarky comments.
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Feb 18

The problem with conceptual art is that, well, that it’s conceptual. Just like Germans are not supposed to have any sense of humour, conceptual art is supposed to be difficult or serious, not fun in any case, and it usually doesn’t take long for someone to start talking about the Emperor’s clothes. I’m German so I can’t tell whether we people have a sense of humour (there’s this or this, but then again there’s this, this, or this, it’s really quite confusing). What I do know, though, is that conceptual art often has much more to offer than most people think, and Ulrich Gebert’s This Much Is Certain, which was on display at Winkleman Gallery, provided a fine example (click on the image above for a larger version).
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Feb 18

On Jane Tam’s blog, I found a post today that made me think. She writes “Recently I was asked where do I fit in the contemporary art world and how do I contribute to it. These questions threw me off my chair immediately and I was scratching my head nonstop as I tried to think of answers.” On artists’ blogs you can find a lot of announcements of shows or of photos published in some magazine, but you rarely find someone talking about what - I’m assuming - must be in many people’s heads. Where or how do I fit in? What do I actually do?
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Feb 18

Heather McClintock has been taking photographs in Uganda for a few years now, covering the civil war in the northern part of the country. If you’ve never even heard of that war, you’re not alone. One of Foreign Policy magazine’s The Top 10 Stories You Missed in 2009, at number 9, is America Joins Uganda’s Civil War. Find more about the civil war here.
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Feb 17

There is a sign right at the entrance of Pace Wildenstein gallery that tells you that you are not allowed to take any photos of Richard Misrach’s show. I forgot the exact words, if I remember correctly it’s for copyright reasons. So I only have an installation shot of Ruff’s show at David Zwirner gallery (click on the image for a much larger version).
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Feb 17

PDN has more about the copycat issue they raised yesterday. I wasn’t going to spend more time writing about it, but I’ll admit I’m surprised about all those people using the tourist-spot defense in the comments on PDN’s blog. Here’s why.
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Feb 17

I can’t escape the feeling that our fascination with the ruins of Detroit mirrors that of Victorians who’d flock to Pompeii. We have a description for this: ruin porn. But there are still people living in Detroit, quite a few actually; and their story usually seems to get overlooked or ignored. It sure is easier to go to Detroit, take some photos of ruins and have those illustrate some story about the decline of America, isn’t it? So I was glad to find Daimon Xanthopoulos’ Detroit, stories from a city in free fall, which is filled with photographs of people (via, where there are more images). Also see this story.
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Feb 16

PDN reports on a case of images being very, very similar, involving photographer David Burdeny, various of whose most recent images look like almost exact copies of works by Sze Tsung Leong or Elger Esser. These images indeed look like a case of similar being too similar (I mentioned Burdeny in that post, but unfortunately, I missed finding these very similar images). (Updated below)
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Feb 16

“The true affront to Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard’s dignity is that he died young, thousands of miles away from his family, where he was serving the wishes of a government that has a political agenda that it cannot pursue without resorting to violence on a mass scale.” writes Tom White about a photograph of a fatally wounded US soldier, a photo of which caused a bit of a stir some time ago. A must-read post.
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Feb 16

I found Andy O’Connell’s work over at The Black Snapper, but I was unable to dig up another site with images. That’s too bad, I’d really like to see more of his work.
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Feb 16

If you haven’t seen and/or visited The Independent Photo Book now might be a good time. New books and zines are constantly being added (at the time of this writing, there are 85 up), and Hester and I have heard of many that sold through the site. So if you have an independently produced photography book or zine to announce please send it to us. The Independent Photo Book is not “curated”: Any book or zine that cannot be bought at a chain book store (or Amazon.com) will be listed. Also, you can comment on posts there (which nobody has done so far; strictly no anonymous comments allowed). Maybe you own one of the books/zines and want to review it as a comment?
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Feb 15

People sometimes ask how master photographers take portraits, and when you ask them they often do such a lousy job explaining how it works. Thankfully, there is Franz Fiedler’s Portrait Photography (1934, I just bought the English language version, published in 1936) that tells you how it all works. Here are some excerpts.
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Feb 15

This past Friday, I went to New York to attend what had been advertized as An Exclusive Conversation Between Thomas Ruff and Philip Gefter. Given that Ruff spent over an hour presenting the history of his work, it was more like an artist’s talk, but it was tremendously interesting nevertheless. The following highlights are culled from my rather illegible notes, and they might shed a bit more light on an artist whose work is not very well understood on this side of the Atlantic.
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Feb 15

“With my camera in hand I go on urban explorations of man-made architecture that once served a purpose and held a promise of a brighter future, yet has been deserted and left to decompose. Now like outcasts the buildings sit unnoticed waiting to be discovered again. ” - Magda Biernat
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Feb 11

Colin today linked to this interview with Jaron Lanier. I’m sure by now you have heard of Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto, and what you might have heard is perfectly mirrored in the introduction of the interview. The book is described as a “doom and gloom manifesto […] even if” - brace yourselves - “Lanier insists that it is, overall, an optimistic book.” You gotta ask yourself: What does the author know, when there’s a journalist to tell it like it is? When you read reviews you will come to the conclusion that the book cannot possibly be “an optimistic book” - except, of course, that it is. How do I know this? The very old-fashioned way: I bought the book, and I read it (I’ll review it here at some stage).
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Feb 11

João Margalha’s Wonder examines the relationship between Nature and humans trying to leisurely spend time in it (often in areas heavily modified).
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Feb 10

Marc has an interview with Hiroh Kikai, one of my favourite photographers.
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Feb 10

David Pollock’s Sign, Symbol and Nature shows just that: Our modern (Western) world, with its displays of often fake or heavily trimmed nature (where it’s not just cheaply reproduced on wall paintings), generic buildings, and more.
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Feb 9

Here is everything (really!) you need to know about how to deal with infringement cases.
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Feb 9

I saw Gian Paolo Minelli’s work over at The Black Snapper the other day, but I didn’t manage to dig up much more about his work other than this page.
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Feb 8

“In an interview with the newsmagazine Focus, Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner has called for a law to better protect the private sphere on the Internet and has taken Street View to task. ‘This comprehensive photo offensive is nothing less than a million-fold violation of the private sphere,’ Aigner said. […] ‘I would like to see a reversal of the present system. Citizens shouldn’t have to take action to prevent the publication of their private data. Rather, Google should be required to obtain the consent of citizens when they want to publish a photo of their private home.’” - story
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Feb 8

Francisco Reina’s Strauss’ Legacy is a bit on the obvious side, but his other projects are quite interesting. I’m not sure I understand all of his project statements, though. (thanks, Wesley!)
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Feb 8

Another follow-up, this one to my post about fair use. Here is a post about sculptors who produced a piece out of a photo by Alex Brown. I actually knew of that case, Alex had emailed me before I wrote my fair-use post. In my response to Alex’s email I wrote him that I considered this a case of plagiarism. That said, here is a suggestion for how to solve this particular case: Have the sculptors add Alex as a co-creator of the work and have them give him a share of whatever money they might make (if they make any). This solution might actually work for a lot of similar cases, and it would satisfy those who think it’s obvious plagiarism (the creative work of the photographer would be preserved, since he would be given credit for his work), and those who think it’s not (because the derived art work - if we want to call it that - would just remain part of the art world).
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Feb 8

After reading my review (of sorts) of the Malick Sidibe book, Sean Hallisey emailed me with some comments about Dash Snow; and he wrote this following paragraph, which is too interesting not to share (quoted with permission, of course).
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Feb 5

Let’s be bold! Compare Malick Sidibe’s photographs, especially the many ones taken at dances or social events, with Dash Snow’s party Polaroids. No, really, I mean it. You have to ignore the slightly different media (b/w versus colour, the film cameras versus the instant ones), you have to ignore the backgrounds of the subjects, and you’re off to the most amazing journey. But you might think it’s a weird comparison, isn’t it?
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Feb 5

Photography doesn’t have much of a history - compared with many other art forms or human inventions that we take for granted in our daily lives. What are not even two hundred years compared with cave paintings that date back thirty five thousand years (give or take a millennium or two)? But then, our world has changed much over the course of the last thirty five thousand years, and a large part of that change has happened over the past few hundred years - or maybe just one hundred years, if we look at all the various things we now take for granted: Synthetic antibiotics were invented after photography, as were air travel or computers. It is true, we could probably imagine a world without air travel or computers, but I’m not so sure we really would want to do without antibiotics any longer. Plus, there are societal changes we cannot imagine living without any longer: Universal suffrage, civil liberties, human rights. So despite its relative youth, photography has - literally - witnessed a lot of change in the way humans live. What makes photography unique, of course, is that it offers us visual testimony of that change, by showing us images taken in the past.
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Feb 4

Art critic Regina Hackett just blogged about this portrait painted by Jesse Edwards (see the artist’s website here). I couldn’t help but think about Rob’s post about ‘fair use’ from the other day again: When or where does ‘fair use’ begin (or end)? When is a use not fair? (updated below - twice)
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Feb 4

I’ll admit that Alaska is probably the US state I know the least about, so I enjoyed seeing Ben Huff’s (work in progress) The Last Road North.
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Feb 4

“Between 1995 and 2007 more than 200,000 farmers committed suicide in India. […] In my view, this is an act of helplessness in a state of momentary despair: a call to society for help. Help not only for the farmer’s immediate family members - widowed wife, old and ailing parents, young children, but also for farming in general and for other farmers, like him.” - Verena Hanschke/Floriana Gavriel (thanks, Hugh!)
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Feb 3

“Seattle photographer Mike Hipple […] received a letter from the lawers of a sculptor named Jack Mackie. Apparently a photograph that Mike took 10 years previous and was selling as stock, featured a woman dancing along the sidewalk with a portion of Jack’s sculpture ‘Dance Steps on Broadway’ visible. Mr. Mackie claimed copyright infringement in the letter.” (story)
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Feb 3

Reinis Hofmanis’ photos of art models might be the best ones I’ve seen so far (via).
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Feb 3

This one’s from Ian Elsom who wrote in an email: “In the end, though, a photographer’s honesty and integrity are at the core of any Too Similar issue.”
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Feb 2

Ulrich Gebert is one of those German photographers who are so conceptual that they don’t even have a website (or whose website is so obscure that I can’t find it). Regardless, even though very conceptual photography sometimes is a bit hard to digest, when well done - as it is in his case - it can be an incredibly rewarding experience. His current show at Winkleman Gallery is still up until February 13, 2010, so if you’re in New York here’s your chance to see the artist’s work. Everybody else might have to be happy with only seeing this pdf portfolio (which is quite nice actually).
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Feb 2

I was going to write something about Matthew Robert Hughes’s portraiture (via), but then I figured I might as well have people look and make up their own minds.
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Feb 2

“Billionaire Michael Dell’s investment firm, MSD Capital LP, has acquired about 185,000 vintage photographic prints from the Magnum Photos agency in what is thought to be among the largest photo transactions in history.” (story)
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Feb 1

On his blog, Ian Aleksander Adams just posted his mother’s reactions to one of his projects (“Gray Days”). It’s a remarkable read, in more ways than just one.
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Feb 1

My thoughts on how to approach photography by different artists that looks very similar generated a higher than usual number of emails. I am always happy about emails with feedback, and I seem to have put my finger on something that many people have been concerned about.
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Feb 1

Here’s a recommendation Matt Wright-Steel of Eleanor Magazine sent me: Blake Gordon’s work, especially Reality TV, which is a commentary on the sheer amount of TV in people’s lives. Writes Gordon “Open your eyes. Step outside. Indulge in life.”
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Feb 1

Melanie Vogel’s Jitter intentionally uses digital artifacts in the work. I’ve always wondered why photographers don’t do this more - might this be the digital equivalent of film toy-camera photography?
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