Archives

February 2011

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Feb 28

I’m not sure I agree with everything in this article by Vladimir Vyatkin on World Press Photo, but it’s well worth the read. Key quote: “Blind and indifferent documentation has become the new fashion in journalistic photography, with distorted pictorial forms providing basic stylistic guidelines. The point is to shock the viewer, brushing aside the humanistic nature of classical photography.”
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Feb 28

What fascinates me about Sohei Nishino’s Diorama Maps is that when you look at those images it looks like there is some jpeg compression going on, whereas in fact it’s just the individual photos that the photographer assembled. Isn’t it interesting how such different methods as compressing an image and assembling one by hand from individual photos can result in the same overall effect as long as you don’t get too close? (via)
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Feb 28

Continuing my series of posts on collage art: Here’s Cless, who at times also incorporates other media than just photographs or cutouts.
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Feb 28

This is an image from Shadi Ghadirian’s excellent Qajar. (via)
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Feb 25

Everything you want to know about Errata Editions
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Feb 25

It is an interesting exercise to take the work of British artist John Stezaker out of its usual context and to place it in the context within which pretty much all the images discussed on this blog live. In particular, I’d like to point out that what Stezaker is doing, namely taking two, occasionally just one, sometimes three, images and superimposing or combining them in ways that, superficially, look as if he hasn’t even done anything is certain to have the copyright police up in arms. The horror! The horror! But Stezaker’s case is a very good example of why simplistic thinking about copyright - all the talk of “stolen” images - has serious repercussions for artists. If you look at the collages, the artist is not just taking images and putting them together somehow (even though superficially, that’s exactly what he is doing). He is combining images in ways that most people would have never thought of, with the results in most cases being astounding. Minimalist as they might be, the transformations are huge. (more)
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Feb 25

At the time of this writing, the official unemployment rate in the US is 9%. This number excludes a large variety of people, incl., for example, those who gave up looking for work or those who’d prefer a full-time job over a part-time one. It’s a bit harder to come by the actual unemployment rate, in part because it depends on how you define it. If we take the US government’s U-6 rate, we get 16%. Very much related to this, the number of photographers, graphic designers and writers I have talked to recently who told me about severe problems getting jobs is mind-blowing. I am not active in the field of commercial or editorial photography, but from what I hear there is some severe howling and gnashing of the teeth going on. So even though it might just be a coincidence, it still seems entirely appropriate that Paul Graham’s Beyond Caring was just re-published by Errata Editions. (more)
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Feb 24

Sarah Mei Herman’s Siblings portrays a group of siblings over a few years. (via)
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Feb 23

And more collage art: Ashkan Honarvar’s often disturbing creations.
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Feb 23

J. Wesley Brown just published his new body of work, Inversion, consisting of a series of animated gifs (plus a video), and I like what I’m seeing.
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Feb 22

Over at A Photo Editor (thank you for the shout out!), there’s a new post entitled Why We Love Bad Photography. I’ve always wondered why people love bad photography. But joking aside, what I consider to be bad photography is just that: photography that I think is bad. Does that make it bad? I think in many cases, I can give you some reasons why I like or dislike a particular photograph or body of work. But that doesn’t necessarily make it bad. (more)
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Feb 22

I usually am not so interested in fashion photography. However, Saya Chontang’s portfolio contains many gems.
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Feb 21

What could possibly be interesting about these spoons? Head over to Nadine Watson’s website to look at Spoon.
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Feb 20

There’s this idea going around that photography is bad at telling stories. I don’t think that’s true at all - quite on the contrary! Good storytelling is more than the words on the paper, or the words plus music plus sounds on the radio, or the words plus images plus music plus sounds on the screen. Good storytelling lives from all the elements that are triggered in the reader’s or listener’s or viewer’s mind and that, in combination with what the storyteller had to offer, make up the story itself. Saying that photographs are bad at storytelling essentially is like saying that words (or maybe sentences) are bad at storytelling. I had to think of this when I watched Fritz Lang’s Die Nibelungen, a fantastic silent movie, which tells a story without most of the elements we take for granted in contemporary movies.
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Feb 20

This post over at Hippolyte Bayard made me think about the photograph as an object again. I’m not necessarily drawn to the process that created the tintype in the photo above - one of the many tintypes I bought on Ebay so far. But the process, along with a subject having his portrait taken, along with some lucky chance that had one of the many tintype photographers produce a stand-out image - the combination of all of that resulted in a little object that I managed to buy for a very small amount of money (a few bucks). And that little object - just like pretty much all the other ones I own (I “curate” my own collection by selecting what I think are good portraits) - possesses something that its scan lacks (I scanned all my tintypes): It has a real presence.
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Feb 18

Photography is centered on light and time. Typically, they are not independent - the amount of light available tends to determine the amount of time needed for a photograph. Exposure usually needs to be done properly, because not doing so results in all kinds of unwanted effects, such as under- or overexposed images - or worse. Worse, of course, needn’t necessarily be worse. If you take black and white film and overexpose it, an object like the Sun will eventually show up not very white but the opposite: black. A well-known example of this is Minor White’s The Black Sun. (more)
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Feb 18

When I wrote my post about the unwillingness of post-war German photographers to confront their country’s most recent past (find the posts here and here) one of the books I had to think of was Zdenek Tmej’s The Alphabet of Spiritual Emptiness, published in 1946 in what was then Czechoslovakia. During World War II, Tmej had been one of the many forced foreign laborers in Nazi Germany, and he had documented part of his life with a camera. The original book is hard to come by, but luckily, there now is an Errata Editions version. (more)
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Feb 17

Some very cool contemporary landscapes by Mike Reinders
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Feb 17

If one wants to think of photobook making as a spectrum, at one end, there are commercial publishers. At the other end, there are artists literally making their own books: Printing the pages, binding them etc. Raymond Meeks has produced a variety of such artist books, and I approached him to talk about those. Find the conversation here.
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Feb 16

“Facebook has a larger photo collection than any other site on the web. According to an extrapolation of photo upload data reported by Facebook, the site now houses about 60 billion photos compared to Photobucket’s 8 billion, Picasa’s 7 billion and Flickr’s 5 billion.” (source, via) (more)
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Feb 16

If this page is correct, the large housing complex (“conceived as a model of modern urban living” - yikes!) depicted in Simon Kennedy’s Heygate Abstracted is scheduled for demolition.
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Feb 16

It’s a simple question that’s hard to answer. Colin Pantall asked a bunch of people and just posted the first set of answers. Update (16 Feb 2011): Part 2.
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Feb 15

Maybe Bill Sullivan should think about submitting his work to World Press Photo. You never know. In this day and age, taking photos of a screen already is photojournalism, even if the journalism bit is entirely missing. But joking aside, I think there is a lot of great work that can be done off a computer screen. And I want to use some of Bill’s work as example of what you can do. There are the self portraits with mirrors, for example, or the volleyball series. I especially like how the self portraits with mirrors really not just grabs images off the screen, but also contains an explicit element of our “me me me” culture, and the absurdity it creates. And that ties in with what has been my concern with this kind of work for a long time: The element of curation that is involved in such work for me has to offer something that adds significantly to collection of images (whereas the act of taking a photo off one’s computer screen, whether or not it involves some camera or whatever, is completely irrelevant for me).
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Feb 15

I revamped my online portfolio reviews and added a couple additional services, project reviews and consultations. Here’s what these are: A portfolio review is, well, what you’d imagine it is. A project review is a series of meet-ups, designed for photographers who are working on a project and want feedback on a project in progress. The number of meet-ups and overall structure will be arranged to accommodate the photographer’s needs. A consultation is designed for photographers who have general questions about their website, social networking, how to approach galleries, how to design a photobook or publish a photobook, etc. Everything will be done via Skype, so there are no travel costs (meet-ups in person can be arranged, too). Portfolio reviews are US$60 or US$100 for 30 minutes or an hour, respectively. I’ll set up a separate website with more details over the next few days. In the meantime, email me (review at jmcolberg.com) for more information.
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Feb 15

This is a photo from Simone Rosenbauer’s borderline overwhelming Small Museum (104 photos!).
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Feb 14

I have been thinking a bit more about the various issues that I discussed in my earlier post about the World Press Photo (WPPh) winners. There are a bunch of very interesting issues, which all meet eventually, don’t they? It’s all coming down to what images mean or say and how. I don’t want to get too esoteric right now (that’s for another time), but here are some of the thoughts I had. Whether or not they make sense, I don’t know. (more)
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Feb 14

The World Press Photo of the Year (WPPh) selections have been announced, and - just like every year - there is considerable debate about some of them. Perhaps not that surprisingly, the World Press Photo of the Year grand prize went to Jodi Bieber (congratulations!), and perhaps even less surprisingly, various people voiced their discontent. The WPPh announcements have become the Pavlovian ringing of the bell, haven’t they? (more)
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Feb 14

Beautiful black and white photography by Dutch photographer Awoiska van der Molen.
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Feb 11

Good critical writing about photography is rare. By “good” I don’t mean someone’s ability to conform to what is widely considered the standard of such writing, namely to reference ad nauseam the usual essays by Susan Sontag, Roland Barthes, and/or Walter Benjamin - the Procrustean Bed of critical writing about photography. By “good” I mean first, to write in a way that makes the text enjoyable because of its elegance, and second, to provide insights that extend beyond that which we already take for granted. The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence by Susie Linfield easily passes that bar. It is also a book that is long overdue. (more)
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Feb 10

Via Hippolyte Bayard comes the photography of Tom Janssen who by stepping back a bit reveals the scales of the various spectacles most photographers would have taken photos of much closer: Not much ado about, well, almost nothing (which, after all, might be the essence of most of what we humans are engaged in). What I like about this is the following: You don’t have to step that far back. You don’t have to peek down onto the planet from a satellite or plane. As a photographer, you just have to be willing to walk one hundred meters/yards or so. Which might tell us something.
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Feb 9

I quite like Jennifer Braun’s Irgendwo. I wish there were more images, it’s a very poetic series (even though it is somewhat marred by the - German-language only - statement). (via)
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Feb 8

Photography has always been a very useful tool for government agencies, and this includes, of course, secret services. German artist Simon Menner got access to the archives of the former East German Ministry of State Security - widely known as STASI, an agency notorious for its ruthlessness. As it turns out, the STASI’s archives are filled with photography (btw, they had a very high demand for Polaroid film). Simon compiled some of the photographs, with some explanatory text added, to share them on this site as Images from the secret STASI archives. Given what these images were used for it’s somewhat hard to write “Enjoy!”, but the absurdity of some of these photographs (the above demonstrates a secret hand signal) might make you laugh regardless.
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Feb 7

This photo is from Reed Young’s series Italians. Also not to be missed: Barrow, Alaska.
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Feb 6

Photographers and photography students occasionally ask me about how to promote their work (Facebooktwittertumblremailnewslettersblogs….). My answer is always the same: If you want to promote what you do, do it so it looks professional, it’s smartly done, maybe with a dose of your kind of humour, and it looks and feels as if it was coming from you. (more)
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Feb 4

You’ve probably noticed that many of the book reviews contains links to the books’ Amazon.com pages. There is a very simple reason for that. If you decide to buy a book having read its review, Amazon.com will pay me a small percentage of its price as a referral fee. In a nutshell, if you decide to buy a book via Amazon.com coming from one of the reviews here you are not only treating yourself to something, you also indirectly support this blog and all the work that goes into it.
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Feb 4

One of the endearing properties of good photobooks is that they don’t get stale. You can pull an older photobook from your shelf, and it will have lost none of its original power. Geert van Kesteren’s Baghdad Calling: Reports from Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Iraq was published two and a half years ago, but I still want to review it here (there exists a microsite for the book). It has not lost its relevance, both in terms of what it deals with and in terms of how it deals with it. (more)
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Feb 3

“I follow the traces of art made in the former GDR. On the one hand I take photographs of the blank spaces in rooms or on the walls or facades that were appeared when pictures were taken away or painted over after the cultural and political turn in 1989. On the other hand I visit archives or storages where images with an uncertain future are stored or forgotten.” - Margret Hoppe about her Vanishing Images
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Feb 3

“We [JS and Hans Gremmen] were wondering if it was possible to create a 3D-colour seperation. We tried to do this with a bouquet of fake flowers. We made 4 still-lifes: one in Cyan, one in Magenta, one in Yellow, one in Black. We made photo’s of this still lifes and printed them over each other. In theory it would have been the start-image, but in practice it became fake flowers in full colour.” - Jaap Scheeren
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Feb 3

I’m sure everybody has been following the events in Egypt, which yesterday took a very violent turn, when the regime, copying the tactics so successfully used in Iran recently, sent in a violent mob to attack those protesting against the corrupt, authoritarian regime. One of the best sites to get information about what’s happening (plus a lot of background) is Juan Cole’s Informed Comment. You’ve probably also heard of and/or seen the attacks of said mob on Western journalists (check out Nicholas Kristof’s brief report). Here is what happened to photographer Andrew Burton (via).
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Feb 2

“The project Watching you watch me is discovering how a photographer can get as close as possible to others, without acting illegal. I have taken portraits of people through a mirror, when they are totally unaware of the camera inside. This way I get shots of people watching themselves.” - Moa Karlberg
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Feb 1

“The best photographic portraits, like the best painted portraits, present us not with biographical information but with a soul.” - Susie Linfield, The Cruel Radiance, p. 40
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Feb 1

Jed Perl, reviewing two recent books, writes about photojournalism.
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Feb 1

This is a photo from Leon Diaper’s S.N.W. Backyard Wrestling, which is about just that: backyard wrestling.
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