Archives

466 Articles in

General Culture

SELECT A CATEGORY:

Jan 14, 2013

Late last year, I bought an iPad mini1. It seems fairly obvious that tablet computers will play a large role in photography (in whatever form), and I wanted to start exploring the options. I’ve since been looking at photography magazine apps, say, some of which I like, while others still have a lot of work to do. Ignoring details here (details are for another day), I’ve been interested in what a magazine would look like on a tablet computer. I’ve also been looking at books (mind you, not photobooks - I don’t “own” any ephotobooks, yet). I’m really not all that interested in an ideological debate about all things “e.” (more)
Read more »

Dec 17, 2012

Tom Griggs wrote a lengthy article, reacting to a comment I (and others) had to something he had written earlier (all the relevant information can be found in his recent piece). I thought I’d respond. (more)
Read more »

Nov 19, 2012

I’m tired of talking about Instagram, but it seems these days you can’t get away from it. John Edwin Mason just published a very good piece about the use of Instagram in the war between Israel and Hamas. With the US news media’s unquestioning embrace of Instagram, the photo app was bound to pop up as a tool for unmediated propaganda. What’s interesting here is that in the art world more and more people are now talking about how the flood of images requires smart curation or editing for things to make sense. In the world of the news, the current development points in the very opposite direction: Let the people see all that stuff and try to make sense of it themselves! (this is usually phrased as either “Give the people what the people want” or as “Democratize photography”) On his Tumblr, Darren Campion explains why this poses a huge problem: “we often find ourselves without the means to determine a (non-photographic) context in which to ‘anchor’ a given image.” Which allows us, to take this a bit further, to anchor an image any which way we want - you basically see what you want to believe. And with social media, you can make sure you really only see what you want to see: you follow the people who post the pictures that confirm your view and let all the other ones fall by the wayside.
Read more »

Oct 30, 2012

Someone told me the other day that the art market in its current form was unsustainable. I don’t know whether that’s true. But it might as well be. A few days later, I found a piece written by Sarah Thornton entitled Top 10 reasons not to report on the art market, which you want to read. Again a few days later, the art world experienced the wrath of Dave Hickey: “Art editors and critics - people like me - have become a courtier class. All we do is wander around the palace and advise very rich people. It’s not worth my time.”
Read more »

Oct 15, 2012

“The anxiety associated with viewing images of naked children within the context of an art museum seems to clash with the fact that photographs of children, clothed or not, are some of the most ubiquitous in our social and familial lives. Any brief perusal of Facebook, Flickr, or an old-fashioned photo album reveals the na√Įve nudity of children to be common in our quotidian visual environment.” - found in a LACMA blog post about one of their shows
Read more »

Oct 15, 2012

Between Angela Merkel’s suits, sorted by colour, the girls of Berlusconi, and men who made £1bn as banks were bailed out, The Spectacle of the Tragedy (Visual Database of the European Show and its Leading Actors) pretty much has all aspects of contemporary politics in Europe covered. When’s the US version coming? (found here)
Read more »

Oct 6, 2012

Earlier this year, social-media behemoth Facebook announced that every day, its user were uploading 300 million images per day. That’s a pretty impressive number, the relevance of which, I think, is debatable, though. Regardless of what you make of the number, it’s fairly obvious that photography is being widely used. It might be worthwhile to point out that the vast majority of photographs created on this planet are not being produced by artists, professionals, or academics - unlike the vast majority of writing about photography. So when I read that someone writes how people mistrust photography I always wonder why there are 300 million new photographs on Facebook every day when nobody trusts photography. That aside, Facebook and the internet as a whole appear to be a pretty spectacular archive or library of photographs. This is where it gets interesting. Find the rest of the article here.
Read more »

Sep 26, 2012

Carolina Miranda has written a very thoughtful response to my article about photos of dead people in the news, which you should read. This might surprise people, but I actually do think that Miranda and I agree about the principle. But we do seem to differ on our idea how to approach this. I am with Miranda in that seeing a more realistic picture of life in the news - instead of the sanitized version we get - might be a good idea. But I do think we also need to consider the news we have - and not the news we’d want. For the news we have, I stand by what I wrote: here, photographs of the dead really for the most part serve the purpose of titillation, of “getting eye balls.” In particular, as Miranda points out, the idea of “the other” has returned to our media in an interesting form: It’s OK to show dead foreigners and brutal dead soldiers, but none of our own (I’m planning to write about this in more detail in a future post). For the news we want, obviously including a much larger dose of reality would be ideal - but this does not stop at only photographs of the dead.
Read more »

Sep 22, 2012

“Young women everywhere - famous and non-famous - are increasingly becoming victims of voyeurism in our internet age” - Kira Cochrane
Read more »

Sep 16, 2012

I like photography so much that I’ve spent a considerable fraction of the past ten years looking at it, and thinking and writing about it. I can’t get enough of it. I could - and actually do on most days - look at photographs all day long. That said, there are some things that I’d like to see a bit less. Let me give you an example. These days, it is hard not to come across the idea that photography is ” the great democratic medium” (Susie Linfield), if not “the most democratic medium” (Google it, the terms pops up left and right). I object to this idea for a variety of reason. First of all, it’s a lazy cliché. There might be some truth in clichés, but nevertheless one is well-advised to stay away from them. The main problem with this cliché is that it is a dangerous one: If you were to argue that it’s not true doesn’t that make you anti-democratic? In other words, the idea that photography is “the most democratic medium” is a rhetorical cudgel as well: A good way to shut down a debate before it’s even happening. (more)
Read more »

Sep 12, 2012

On September 11, 2012, the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three of his staff were killed. There is a slideshow going along the report, the last photograph of which shows, to quote its caption, “a man, reportedly unconscious, identified as Mr. Stevens.” The US State Department asked the news organization to remove the photograph, which, perhaps as could have been expected, it denied, “citing the news value of the Agence France-Presse photograph.” (note the specificity of the source: it’s an “Agence France-Presse photograph”) (more)
Read more »

Jul 17, 2012

“It’s not quite right to say that society’s collective failure of imagination stems from a slump in innovation. I would suggest a different explanation. What we are seeing is not a slowdown in the pace of innovation but a shift in its focus. Americans are as creative as ever, but today’s buzz and big-money speculation are devoted to smaller-scale, less far-reaching, less conspicuous advances. We are getting precisely the kind of innovation that we desire—and deserve. […] if we want to see a resurgence in big thinking and grand invention, if we want to promote breakthroughs that will improve not only our own lives but those of our grandchildren, we need to enlarge our aspirations. We need to look outward again. If our own dreams are small and self-centered, we can hardly blame inventors for producing trifles.” - Nicholas Carr (my emphasis)
Read more »

Jun 27, 2012

Rob Haggart has a new post up, addressing the issue of paying for content online. Rob writes “The arguments can be divided into two oversimplified camps. Those who think market forces should be left to decide the fate of artists and their income […] And, those who think people should behave ethically or be forced to behave that way”. In the photo world, he places David Campbell’s argument into the former category, and mine into the latter. I wanted to write about the topic more anyway, so I might as well use this opportunity. (more)
Read more »

Jun 27, 2012

Via LPV Magazine’s Twitter feed comes the link to an article describing the massive role PR has come to play in the art world. All of this easily applies for photography. Over the past few years, we have witnessed an explosion of PR, in part triggered by so-called social media, but also by sites like Kickstarter, where many campaigns result in a flurry of PR emails. It’s a bit like the nuclear arms race where each side is trying to out-PR everybody else. Needless to say, the overall effect is simply that everybody’s is just getting more PR.
Read more »

Jun 6, 2012

It was one of those rare cultural moments yesterday, disguised as an astronomical event, Venus passing in front of the Sun. If you’ve missed it you’ll have to wait another 200+ years to see it again. What struck me about this moment was (and still is) that for once, the web was not going “viral” about some stupid nonsense, to be laughed or angry about and then forgotten the very next day (like that Kony stuff or some video of a dead helicopter cat). It was something utterly inconsequential in the scheme of things we have agreed to hold dear (which, let’s face it, is the real inconsequential stuff when viewed from the kinds of places we are talking about here). Nobody was outraged, nobody (so far) has written about how the “web 2.0” has transformed something here. Everybody was just looking at something to be had for everybody, almost regardless of where you lived (and if you were unlucky with where you live that was absolutely nobody’s fault), it was beautiful (well, about as beautiful as a tiny black dot in front of the Sun can be), and now it’s over. We all just enjoyed it. I wish there were more events like this. (photograph by NASA)
Read more »

Jun 4, 2012

John of Salisbury: “Bernard of Chartres used to say that we are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more than they, and things at a greater distance, not by virtue of any sharpness of sight on our part, or any physical distinction, but because we are carried high and raised up by their giant size.” Brook Jensen: “For artists, history is particularly important — perhaps more so than for the average human experience. You see, history is slightly more alive for us than it is for others because we have, as a part of our ‘now, the artifacts that have been left behind by the artists who preceded us. Their lives may have preceded us, but their artwork is still with us, here, available for each generation to understand and learn from.”
Read more »

May 30, 2012

I don’t know how convincing I find this article about Richard Prince and his antics in court. There are quite a few interesting nuggets in it, though, such as this one: “Any case where lawyers argue what is or isn’t art tends to have some kind of critical value, if only because it serves as a kind of plain-English catalog essay reduction. The Prince case goes beyond this, though, and begins to enter the realm of technical support in the artist’s bizarre refusal to defend his works on a basic level, which, regardless of Mr. Prince’s intent, makes a curious statement about them at a time when the courts have, in some instances, become a place for artistic expression.”
Read more »

May 24, 2012

“Since well before the invention of the photocopier, media industries have pursued a consistent if counter-productive legal strategy of responding to disruptive technologies that decrease costs and open new markets by lobbying for extensions to copyright terms, increased penalties, and criminalizing more behaviors. Their theory—if there is one—is that technologies that make it cheaper to create and distribute content also make it cheaper to violate copyright (see Napster, et. al.). Cheaper production is ignored, while increased potential for violations requires enhanced penalties that can’t, in any case, be enforced. It’s a lose-lose-lose strategy for producers, creators, and consumers. And it’s a loop we’ve been stuck in for decades.” - full story
Read more »

May 24, 2012

“Much fanfare greeted the $388m made by Christie’s post-war and contemporary evening sale in New York earlier this month—its highest total ever. Few seemed to notice that the auction was unprecedented in another way: it had ten lots by eight women artists, amounting to a male-to-female ratio of five-to-one. (Sotheby’s evening sale offered a more typical display of male-domination with an 11-to-one ratio.) Yet proceeds on all the works by women artists in the Christie’s sale tallied up to a mere $17m—less than 5% of the total and not even half the price achieved that night by a single picture of two naked women by Yves Klein. Indeed, depictions of women often command the highest prices, whereas works by them do not.” - The Economist
Read more »

May 23, 2012

I sense a growing backlash over so-called social media in the photography community. It seems as if more and more photographers are coming to the realization that spending too much time with social media simply takes away time you could spend on more useful things (such as doing real work or maintaining actual business relationships). The latest article I’ve come across was written by David Saxe: “For any of you aspiring photographers who want to build your businesses, consider this advice: Talk to people directly. When you address someone directly in conversation, there is a good chance they may be listening to you. If you do it via social network sites, they might read you but they will rarely respond.”
Read more »

May 17, 2012

Yesterday, I remembered an article I talked about on this blog five years ago. Back then, people were interested in “flaming” - why do people leave insanely nasty comments on other people’s websites? The answer came in the form of the “online disinhibition effect”: When you are in front of another person, some parts of your brain will prevent you from being a jerk. When you are not in front of another person, but your computer screen, those barriers fall. (more)
Read more »

Jan 10, 2012

Read it here. Especially note the difference between accidental plagiarism and deliberate fraud.
Read more »

Nov 23, 2011

We are all sinners. Lest you wonder, I have not had a religious epiphany. However, organized religion can offer surprising insights into the human condition. For a while now, I have been fascinated by the Catholic concept of Indulgence, in particular by abuses in the Middle Ages: People were promised they could buy themselves out of all kinds of sins if they only paid enough money. It’s a bit of a stretch, but an entertaining exercise nonetheless, to ask to what extent looking at - and buying - photography in effect is a contemporary version of just that. (more)
Read more »

Nov 3, 2011

“Is it really so surprising that, as we grow wealthier as a society, more and more of our young people, when the amazing resources of the modern university are put at their disposal, choose to use them learning something satisfying and enriching and not for anything except cherishing the rest of their lives? Is it really so surprising that taxpayers are not in revolt over the existence of poetry professors? […] I spent last evening reading a fine Pulitzer prize-winning novel by a graduate of a state-university creative-writing program. I appreciate everything math majors do for us. I really do. But, as far as I know, a math major has never made me cry.” - W.W. at The Economist’s Democracy in America Update (3 Nov 2011): Via Twitter, Richard Bram aptly observes: “Some math majors became financial products gurus & came up with things that crashed the system in ‘08. Many people cried.”
Read more »

Nov 2, 2011

“I’m just wondering why I didn’t hear more about how we, as artists, can use a variety of skill sets and methods to expand the reach of our work, to recruit new viewers, to communicate a message in a manner that will speak to more people, without dumbing down the art in the process.” - Jonathan Blaustein
Read more »

Oct 26, 2011

“Imagine an industry where seventy percent of your products lose money.”
Read more »

Oct 8, 2011

We Are the 99 Percent is a Tumblr blog, where photography, social protest, and the internet have come together in an amazing way. Here is an interview with the people being the blog, this article talks about why Tumblr was used.
Read more »

Oct 8, 2011

An excellent documentary called American Juggalo by Sean Dunne, about “the often mocked and misunderstood subculture of Juggalos, hardcore Insane Clown Posse fans”. Also don’t miss The Archive and Man in Van.
Read more »

Sep 26, 2011

“WARCO: The News Game is a first-person shooter video game in which the player is a photojournalist gathering footage for television news stories on subjects similar to revolutionary conflict in Africa and the Middle East.” - Scott Brauer
Read more »

Jun 20, 2011

Jerry Saltz about what he saw in Venice: “many times over—too many times for comfort—I saw the same thing, a highly recognizable generic ¬≠institutional style whose manifestations are by now extremely familiar. […] It’s work stuck in a cul-de-sac of aesthetic regress, where everyone is deconstructing the same elements. There’s always conformity in art […] but such obsessive devotion to a previous generation’s ideals and ideas is very wrong. It suggests these artists are too much in thrall to their elders, excessively satisfied with an insider’s game of art, not really making their own work. That they are becoming a Lost Generation.”
Read more »

Jun 7, 2011

“From architects to museums, curators to collectors, art fairs to galleries, art advisers to auction houses, everyone has been feeding at the trough of surplus capital emanating from regions where consumption of art is tolerated so long as artists steer clear of political and ideological pronouncements and keep their swords of critical relevance safely in their sheaths. The question was always how long the romance between illiberalism and hypocrisy would last.” - Okwui Enwezor (via)
Read more »

Jun 1, 2011

Brian Dupont just published the final post of a three-part series on copyright and fair use (part 1, part 2, part 3), which is well worth the read.
Read more »

May 21, 2011

Talking about photography, I don’t think there’s an elephant in the room. There is a group of elephants in the room, with different sizes and ages. Stan Banos just pointed one out and asked “When will we finally see people of color not only in front of the lens serving as ample, year round subject matter, but also as: photographers, judges, editors, gallery owners, workshop presenters and festival organizers in some representative proportion beyond mere tokenism?” I’d be incredibly happy if I had a good answer, but, alas, I don’t, and unless I’m missing something (always possible) I don’t think anyone else has one, either. Such questions are, should we say, inconvenient, but that’s what makes it a good question: The elephant will not disappear if we ignore it, so we might as well make an effort to deal with it. We owe it to ourselves, if when we use the phrase “the photographic community” we truly embrace the meaning of the word “community”. (more)
Read more »

May 4, 2011

I wrote a piece for The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog about Why We Want to Look Death in the Face - check it out!
Read more »

May 3, 2011

It might be fair to say that every conceivable photograph will be taken or has been taken already. What is more, every conceivable photo will then be posted on the internet. If anything that’s what we’ve learned so far. Whether this is in fact good or bad is an entirely different matter - that’s where things get interesting, of course. So for me the question is not whether or not a photograph of the corpse of Bin Laden should be released. Do we really want to pretend that it’s not going to happen? Do we really want to believe that somehow a photo might not find its way onto the internet? (more)
Read more »

May 3, 2011

The other day, I asked why stealing a wallet was not appropriation art. Maybe it’s too obvious a question, but unless I’m missing something the number of reactions was rather small (if you exclude a minor flurry of tweets). But regardless, there were some great posts, here’s what I found. (more; updated below)
Read more »

Apr 28, 2011

It’s a few weeks after the latest Richard Prince brouhaha, and as expected things haven’t changed. The art world has come down on the side of Richard Prince, with the argument basically being that it’s a terrible ruling for appropriation art because it’s a terrible ruling for appropriation art. I might be missing something, but in none of the articles I’ve read any of the defenders of Richard Prince has given an actual explanation of why this particular case is a valid case of appropriation art other than “He took that other guy’s stuff, and that’s what appropriation artists do.” Or “obviously it is fair use/transformative.” Well, if it’s so obvious why not explain it properly? (more)
Read more »

Apr 19, 2011

On September 11, 2001, Artist Laurel Nakadate put on a Girl Scouts uniform and took photographs of herself while the World Trade Center towers were burning and then collapsing in the background. The resulting photographs (I can’t find the one where she is saluting) are not particularly profound or interesting. But neither is taking a crucifix, submerging in your own urine (any yellow liquid will probably do as long as you call it “piss”), and then taking a photograph of it. All it takes to take the latter into an important piece of art, while the former still languishes in the kind of obscurity it probably deserves, is… no, not an art critic. It take an American Senator. In the case of Piss Christ, the photograph of the submerged crucifix, it was ultraconservative Senator Jesse Helms who used Andres Serrano, the maker of Piss Christ, as an example of what’s supposedly wrong with using tax payer dollars to support artists. Needless to say, Serrano’s work immediately became important art, because that’s part of the art business works. (more)
Read more »

Mar 28, 2011

A few days ago, US District Judge Deborah A. Batts ruled that Richard Prince had violated Patrick Cariou’s copyright when using some of the images from the Yes Rasta book to produce Canal Zone. Much has since been written about this ruling, here are a few of the reactions/takes: Rob Haggart/A Photo Editor, Ed Winkleman, Donn Zaretsky, Paddy Johnson. In a nutshell, photographers for the most parts are giddy that Prince lost, whereas the non-photo art world is appalled by the ruling. (more)
Read more »

Mar 28, 2011

Fred Ritchin makes the case for a meta-newspaper: “Given the growing desire to see what is important in a more coherent manner among busy readers, perhaps now is the time to begin charging for a subscription to such a meta-newspaper-and distribute some of the income to those working in the field and, where appropriate, those paying for them to be there. The world is changing at too fast a pace for us not to consider such a strategy-going beyond a list of what is out there to a presentation site where each piece complements the next and leaves us with a greater understanding of how our world is evolving.”
Read more »

Mar 21, 2011

There’s a war of images going on - along with the actual war. You probably already noticed. “Operation Odyssey Dawn” - the bombing of Libya - started with the now almost obligatory photographs of cruise missiles launched from US warships far away. Here is a gallery of the first images. Have a look at the credits - many of the images are courtesy of the military (as far as I could tell - sampling whatever was on display at Detroit airport yesterday - most US newspapers featured one of those images on the front page). In addition, you got the photojournalists on the ground, taking the usual photographs: Burning tanks, fighters striking poses, etc. And then you have the photography amateurs, meaning civilians and soldiers alike. Everybody is taking photographs, everybody is trying to shape the message. (more)
Read more »

Feb 22, 2011

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)
Read more »

Feb 16, 2011

“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)
Read more »

Feb 8, 2011

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.
Read more »

Feb 1, 2011

“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
Read more »

Jan 24, 2011

David Campbell has published a must-read article about the seemingly ubiquitous labeling of photography as ‘porn’. I agree with David about most of his points, especially the ones in his very last paragraph (c.f. this post I wrote earlier). I also agree that labeling every kind of photography as ‘porn’ is not so helpful. That said, I do think David misses one of the crucial aspects that motivates why people talk about “ruin porn” (or whatever else). In his list of what the term “pornography” has come to mean, what seems missing is what I see as the main reason why people talk about “ruin porn”. (more)
Read more »

Jan 18, 2011

“So much ruin photography and ruin film aestheticizes poverty without inquiring of its origins, dramatizes spaces but never seeks out the people that inhabit and transform them, and romanticizes isolated acts of resistance without acknowledging the massive political and social forces aligned against the real transformation, and not just stubborn survival, of the city. […] As a purely aesthetic object, even with the best intentions, ruin photography cannot help but exploit a city’s misery; but as political documents on their own, they have little new to tell us.” - John Patrick Leary
Read more »

Jan 18, 2011

“What really dismays me […] is how three major organizations could send out three of the best photographers in the business and, within the space of just over two weeks, proudly publish nearly the same photo-story.” writes Michael Shaw. There are quite a few interesting points to be made here, maybe I’ll be able to untangle the ones I see. (more)
Read more »

Jan 12, 2011

You might remember the kerfuffle around Shepard Fairey and his use of that Obama photo for the “Hope” poster. Well, it’s all over now: As Nieman put it, “the big copyright case ends with a juicy little irony that you can read generously (‘work together’) or more cynically (‘merchandise’).”
Read more »

Jan 6, 2011

Talking about the war in Afghanistan, David Campbell writes: “Covering such a long-running conflict, the dynamics of which have not altered greatly in its nine years, necessarily produces a certain uniformity to the subjects conveyed. In Boston.com’s Big Picture gallery for November 2010 we see 43 high quality images that detail allied forces, Afghan civilians, Taliban casualties and American military families. There is also an inevitable regularity to the look of these images. […] I think we should ask hard questions about how to represent a war that has gone on for so long. I don’t think, though, that those questions are best pursued by a concern over the technologies of representation or the anxiety about aesthetics.”
Read more »


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10