Archives

January 2012

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Jan 30

(The first in what probably is going to become a new feature.) If someone asked you what photography’s big deal was, all you’d have to say is that it has something to do with “the gaze,” and then show this photograph. Of course, photography is not just this image. There is a lot more - or, if you’re a curmudgeon (there seem to be many these days) a lot less. But there is a lot to be said for talking about the most outstanding examples of any art form to get an idea of their power - instead of focusing on the detritus. Thus, when talking about photography we’d probably want to talk about photographs of the human form, and out of all those we might want to talk about this particular photograph. Its title is “A woman sits for a final photograph with her dying mother,” and it was taken by Eduard Méhomé (the photograph can be found on page 41 of Life & Afterlife in Benin). Find the full article here.
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Jan 30

A good eye for symmetry requires a good eye for asymmetry. Just the right amount of asymmetry, just the right amount of confusion will make any symmetric photography much better: It truly brings a photograph to life. Georg Aerni’s Promising Bay is a perfect example.
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Jan 27

In Sochi, every “self-respecting restaurant has a singer,” The Sochi Project’s Sochi Singers notes (I’ll try to limit the use of the word “Sochi” in the following sentences, I promise; this and all following quotes are taken from their website). The city is a tourist resort (“The smell of sunscreen, sweat, alcohol and roasting meat pervades the air.”), and of course restaurants have to be competitive. The level of cheerfulness that is - presumably - the intended result of the singing escapes me: “Chansons are Russian ballads, but the comparison with French chansons is only partial. The songs have their origins in the age-old Russian tradition of labour camps and prisons.” And: “nowadays the term ‘chanson’ more often refers to the saccharine genre of Russian-language dance music. It is usually accompanied by a heavy disco beat and occasionally even a dash of techno.” Labour camps to a disco beat: I don’t want to know what that sounds like. (more)
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Jan 26

I have a bit of a weakness for photographic depictions of messy places - such as those in Gustavo Sanabria’s Talat Noi.
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Jan 25

As a photographer, you won’t get around bringing your desire to photography, just as a viewer you do the same thing. You have no choice. As I have argued before, photography must fail if that desire is denied. But desire does not automatically create good photography. An equally crucial factor is trust. As a photographer, you have to trust your photographs. You have to trust that they say what you want them to say. Or more accurately, you have to realize that your subconscious mind is bringing more things to photography than your conscious mind might realize. Continued here.
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Jan 25

This is an image from Ulrich Lebeuf’s extended portrait Tropique du Cancer, for which, alas, information is hard to come by.
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Jan 25

Kickstarter uses an all-or-nothing funding model, which, I think, doesn’t make as much sense as they probably think. Let’s say you want to raise $5,000. If you need the $5,000 to buy something that costs exactly $5,000 then you really need all the money. But for many photographers (I’m going to focus on just those for obvious reasons) this often is not how this might work. A photographer might be not overly happy, but still quite content to get “just” $4,000 instead of the $5,000. (more)
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Jan 24

This is what one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the lighthouse of Alexandria looks like today - or more accurately, this is what the scene looks like, since it’s gone. Find the rest of the wonders in Hans Engels’ The Seven Wonders.
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Jan 23

As you saw earlier here, I’m currently conducting a reader survey to find out how to improve this website. I want to thank everybody who has already taken the survey! Your time and feedback is much appreciated! If you haven’t taken the survey, yet - maybe you have a few moments?
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Jan 23

This is an image from Youngsuk Suh’s Wildfires - a series of landscapes with the fires only present in the form of a diffuse smoke.
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Jan 21

As a reaction to my earlier post on crowdfunding, Pete Brook just published The Etiquette of Crowdfunding: A Recipient’s View. I’m a supporter of Pete’s ‘Prison Photography’ on the Road: Stories Behind the Photos, and I think his frequent updates have been nothing but amazing. To see that there will now even be an exhibition really just adds the icing to the cake.
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Jan 21

The other day, a friend of mine sent me an email to talk about crowdfunding. He had supported various projects on Kickstarter, but the overall experience had left him jaded (his word, not mine). He wrote that while he had essentially received what had been promised, a couple of nice surprises notwithstanding he still felt disappointed. He also wrote that he would not fund future projects by some of the photographers he had given money to because he felt he had been “treated like a cash cow”. (more)
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Jan 20

Well, well, well. A Swedish photographer, Gerry Johansson, might have made the most poignant book about the economic distress many American cities (and regions) find themselves in: Pontiac. The book operates in the same way the setting of the movie Ghost Dog works: It looks like an American city, but it could be almost any American city. Of course, Pontiac is a real town in Michigan. You get all the vital statistics right after the book’s title page. But Johansson photographs it so that it becomes any of those American cities whose unemployment rate has quadrupled from 2000 to 2010, any of those American cities that have about a quarter of their families living below poverty level. (more)
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Jan 20

A fair amount of photography from what one could think of as archives is now being released. Some of that work saw the light in a different - or even the same - form before. Some has never been published. Those books always raise certain questions for me. After all, I want to be looking at photobooks for the photographs and the stories they might tell me. (more)
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Jan 20

Here are the photobooks I have presented in video form of so far this year: Then Again by Shirana Shahbazi, 7 Rooms by Rafal Milach, The Raw And The Cooked by Peter Bialobrzeski, Pontiac by Gerry Johansson, Guantanamo - When the Light Goes Out by Edmund Clark, Berlin nach 45 by Michael Schmidt, and Mossless Vol. 1. Remember, you only need a Google+ account to leave comments and/or discuss the books…
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Jan 19

“The museum, an institution to preserve and interpret the material evidence of the human race, has a long history, springing from an innate human desire to collect and interpret the world around us. By deciding how the past is presented and memorialized, museums not only preserve the past, they also play an important role in the construction of our ideologies, identities and the understanding and interpretation of ourselves.” - Jason Larkin about Past Perfect
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Jan 18

Ralf Brück’s Distortion contains quite a few very interesting images. Not all of them work for me, but the ones that do are very successful.
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Jan 18

If you’re going to Wikipedia today (the English site), it’s blacked out. The same is true for Boing Boing. Google placed a black bar over their logo. These - and other - efforts are targeted against pending US legislation called (brace yourselves) the “Stop Online Piracy Act” or SOPA. If you’re curious why SOPA in its current form is a truly, truly bad idea, you can either watch this explainer by The Guardian or read read this article in Salon.com.
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Jan 17

The other day, I published some thoughts on photobooks, talking about numbers. Photobook publishing is a tough business because not many people buy photobooks. Or more precisely, the books we are happy to call photobooks. While editions of most photobooks tend to be small, some photobooks sell very large numbers of copies. (more)
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Jan 17

I have the feeling that many people will prefer Filip Dujardin’s Fictions over his Sheds. Fictions, of course, is well done. But at the end of the day, you know the constructs are not real. Contrast that with Sheds: Here, it’s not the photographer who made them, it’s other people - leading occasionally to cases which are as absurd as the Fictions.
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Jan 17

There is a very moving piece entitled Lost and Alone Under Tokyo’s Red Rain by Hiroyuki Ito over at Lens that you want to don’t want to miss.
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Jan 16

China’s western parts are very different from its coastal regions where most of the economic boom is happening. There are ethnic (and religious) minorities, which has led to considerable tensions (and violence) - with Beijng reacting to it as can be expected: A growing military presence. Chloe Dewe Mathews portrays that part of China in China’s Wild West.
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Jan 16

There’s a very good article in The Economist about why Kodak is failing, while Fujifilm is doing well.
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Jan 13

How do you write about a book like Dirk Braeckman? Ideally, I’d simply show you the book, in person (doing it online has its limits, after all; you can also go to the artist’s website). That’s how I came across this book. It was a recommendation by a friend, who happened to bring the book to a class we taught together. I was instantly hooked. The problem is going to be to explain why I was - and still am - hooked. (more)
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Jan 13

You might have noticed the flood of “best photobooks of 2011” lists last month. I’m guilty as charged, having made my own one. Marc Feustel then compiled a best of the best ranking, tallying up 50+ individual lists. While I do mind that the whole month of December is now devoted to “best of” lists I don’t mind seeing those lists at all. For me, they are a great way to see some books that I haven’t seen before. Plus, I always find it interesting to see what other people like and why. It doesn’t validate my own taste (I’m not interested in that), but it often allows me to approach something from a different angle. (more)
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Jan 13

For those interested in photobooks produced in Japan, Marc Feustel asked several experts to name their favourite Japanese photobooks in 2011. Check ‘em out! Speaking of Japanese photobooks, there’s a wonderful post about Ed van der Elsken and Eikoh Hosoe at the ICP Library Blog.
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Jan 12

Forever Beautiful by Evgenia Arbugaeva looks into beauty and aging (and our ideas of beauty and age).
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Jan 11

I’m always very interested in improving this website. In order to do so, I just created a little survey. The survey has five questions, so it won’t take much of your time. It’s also anonymous, and you don’t need to sign up for anything. If you want to give me the chance to contact you about your input, you can leave your name and email address at the bottom of the survey. Your input is much appreciated! Find the survey here. The survey is open until 31 Jan, 2012.
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Jan 11

At the core of all photography lies desire, our longing to connect, not to forget, to express love, to reach out to someone else (even if it is just our future selves) and say “Here, look at this! I want you to see this!” Full article here
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Jan 11

This is one of the great portraits from Graham Miller’s Waiting for the Miracle. Also don’t miss Suburban Splendour, which I like just as much.
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Jan 10

Read it here. Especially note the difference between accidental plagiarism and deliberate fraud.
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Jan 10

Kirk Crippens’ The Great Recession comes in three parts: Foreclosure, USA, Dealership Wreck, and Chopping Block. There’s a great photobook to be produced right there!
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Jan 9

There’s a great conversation between Tanja Lažeti? and Joachim Schmid at the ABC Artists’ Books Cooperative that’s well worth your time.
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Jan 9

“The evidence of man defines our modern landscape and is overwhelming and beautiful.” - Paul Yem in his statement for The Modern Land
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Jan 9

It is not a new thing; indeed at the present it seems a positively over-done thing. Appropriation of Internet photography -specifically from Google street-view or Google maps- is acutely prevalent in current photographic and art practice. It may be said that there is far too much imagery littering both our virtual and actual environments already, and to react to this by producing yet more images only adds to the glut of imagery that is being critiqued in the first place. However this seeming contradiction of agendas can be beneficial to the work of a few. In order to make work that critiques the very thing that it eventually embellishes, the work must conceal its agenda behind deliberate layers of intersecting imagery and absolute conceptual rigour. The work must have entire conviction that it is not just another Google project. (more)
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Jan 6

Peter Bialobrzeski has been traveling across Asia (and some other countries) for many years now, taking photographs of countries in transition. The first well-known book to emerge from these travels was Neon Tigers. This new book, The Raw and the Cooked is a follow-up of sorts, another book dealing with, in the photographer’s words, “today’s rapidly burgeoning, constantly changing cities” (quoted from the book’s epilogue). (more)
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Jan 6

The Photobook Review, published and produced by Aperture, is the latest addition to the world of photobooks. There’s a real object - done in newsprint, and there is an electronic version for all those who don’t have access to a place carrying The Photobook Review. A photobook publisher producing a magazine about photobooks sounds like a conflict of interest. But that problem was solved easily and simply: There is a guest editor, here Jeffrey Ladd, who is in charge of each issue. The first issue of The Photobook Review is filled to the brim with great content, so if you’re interested in photobooks, here’s something you definitely want to get. Btw, Colin Pantall has some thoughts on photobooks, triggered by The Photobook Review - well worth the read.
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Jan 6

There’s a wonderful, sad story in the essay that comes with 7 Rooms by Rafal Milach (you can see many of the images from the book here). A couple visits Moscow, at some early stage after the end of Communism. On Arbat Street, people are selling painted nesting dolls, samovars, and old icons, but they’re also selling Komsomol membership cards, war medals, and red banners. The wife, incredulous, calls a policeman over who “explains to us bumpkins: ‘Objects from the era of totalitarianism… may be sold… We only make arrests for narcotics and pornography…’” How do you react to that, as a bumpkin? Here’s how the wife reacts to it: “What? A Party membership card for five dollars? Isn’t that pornography?” Only about one page into this essay, I was already scrambling to find where that essay was from, given I had seen a reference in the book to something else. Written (compiled) by Svetlana Alexievich, it is from Zacharovannye smertiu (Enchanted with Death), published in Moscow in 1994, which hasn’t been translated into English (there’s a German translation entitled Im Banne des Tode). (more)
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Jan 5

You’ve probably seen this image, since it was discussed a little while ago in major media outlets. It’s a manipulated photograph of the burial of the North Korean leader. So we’re talking about manipulation again. I’ve written about this extensively (you can find lots of posts in the archives), and I don’t know how much I want to add to that. (more)
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Jan 5

For Breathing Walls, Rhea Karam has photographed walls in Beirut, Lebanon, to find the traces of the city’s more than tumultuous past.
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Jan 4

Playground by Jeroen Hofman shows training grounds used by Dutch emergency personnel.
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Jan 4

Everybody knows there’s Google Street View, but who knows there also is Bing Streetside? I usually don’t spend much time with such stuff, but last night I thought I should check out the Bing version (anticipating the occasional art project). (more)
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Jan 3

Hans Gremmen took a ride down Route 66 - The Mother Road (“66 is the mother road, the road of flight.” John Steinbeck, in The Grapes of Wrath,1939), using 151,000 screenshots, with the final trip now lasting “only” 5hrs 11min 49 sec. If you’re interested in seeing the whole piece, you can now buy the book plus 2 DVD set.
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Jan 3

Jamie Campbell’s Looking Askance “examines the skepticism based around photography as a medium of objective representation,” in part by using references to work such as “spirit photography.”
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Jan 2

Sur la trace du renard by Louis Perreault documents signs of occupation in an otherwise vacant lot.
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Jan 1

Wishing everybody a very Happy New Year 2012!
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