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Monday, 01 October 2012

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I've got an old 8MB CF card that effectively gives a single exposure with a modern camera set to RAW (though I suppose one could still delete and retake the image if another better shot came along). Comes close to the single frame of film idea - I'll have to try it!

One thing I find interesting is the idea of grabbing a frame of video as my one shot. In practice I rarely find I shoot video with similar technique to stills. Shutter speed is usually chosen for pleasing motion, not stopping action, for example...

This project may be of some interest, especially in regards to authorship, networked culture, and the physical performance of taking a photo: http://www.blinksandbuttons.net/

Fluent and informative Johnstonese at its very best.

Very interesting arguments. I am definitely on the side of "they are not his pictures." And the same goes for your hypothetical project. For a picture to be yours, at a minimum, you have to be involved in the making of the photograph. Whether that be planning, lighting, setting up the camera, or triggering the shutter (on a timer, remote, or directly). Where to draw the line, especially when multiple people are involved is certainly a grey area. Books have multiple authors for example; I can see authorship of a single photograph belonging to multiple people.

However, going back to your hypothetical project, the book would definitely be yours. You had the vision (and presumably were smart enough to get signed copyright transfer agreements with the people shooting the pictures) for the project, and did all the editing work. That's great, it doesn't make you a photographer, but it does make you an editor.

I think I'm settling down towards that NOT being a book of photographs by Doug Rickard. However, it clearly IS, as a whole, a work of art by Doug Rickard. (Good, bad, or indifferent is a matter of opinion, and I haven't looked at it.)

In other words, being in control of the photography is important to being a photographer, and he clearly was not. However, his project of finding and collecting interesting photos from the large collection (which I'll categorize as being in the "irrelevant authorship" category) clearly IS a work by him, and his intentions were artistic so it's a work of art.

Yes, you can construct bizarre edge cases, like your school acquaintance shooting in the dark. Luckily, I don't think it's critical to be able to exactly tie down the category for every possible work.

Here in New Zealand the Auckland Art Gallery has announced the acquisition of a Andreas Gursky photograph titled 'Ocean III' http://static.stuff.co.nz/1348096759/823/7706823.jpg

Its obviously a work using Hi definition satellite photographs (not taken by him, I'm fairly sure!) that he has then used in post production to enhance the ocean zones (or as the article states "he recreated the ocean zones himself after consulting shoal maps") But most interesting to me, no where in the article is he identified as a photographer, but rather an artist.

If you call yourself a photographer I then think your workflow needs to match certain expectations. Become an artist and anything goes in regard to method, but where the message should should be of importance to the work.

I think I posted something similar to this before, but in climbing, there are all sort of ethics and standards. A barefoot ropeless ascent with no prior knowledge is the highest standard, which few ever meet even once. But the more important standard is, say what you did. We stopped 200 feet from the summit. We had help from Sherpas. I pulled on gear.

Just that. Say what you did.

It works for many things.

Funnily enough, I was in San Francisco a couple of weekends ago. Went to Pier 24, saw the Cindy Sherman exhibition, and went to the Man Ray/Lee Miller exhibit. One of the photos was of Lee Miller meeting Picasso in Paris at the end of the war, titled "Self Portrait of Lee Miller with Pablo Picasso, Liberation of Paris (photo taken with Lee Miller's camera by Robert Capa)." Or some such. We had a good laugh. Who took the picture? Lee Miller, because it was her composition? Or Capa, who pressed the shutter? The caption read "Photo by Lee Miller."

Marcel Duchamp settled this question almost a century ago.

Collecting Google images, massaging them and producing a derived work is an exercise in art. Given the right motivation that is. It's not about the source material. It's about the reduction, expansion, modification and collection of the source material into a unique work.

I'd say it is not photography either if people like Larry Sultan had not used collected images. Not to mention the collections of vernacular photography made into books.

How the 'artists' involved choose to identify the results is part of the art making process. They can give the credit to the originator of the source material or themselves or both.

It's not about 'You press the button and we do the rest' anymore. If it ever was.

[Let me start out by making two things clear:

1. I haven't seen Doug Rickard's book, nor have I read any accompanying text, and I don't know what he says about his process.

2. I don't know whether it is true that Rickard has edited the pictures. I'm taking Ken's word for it.]

With that out of the way...my initial reaction was that Rickard's book was certainly his work, and fully legitimate. Then I read Ken Tanaka's "Counterpoint", and one thing stuck out for me -- Ken wrote: "the book and prints are heavily worked-over (by yet another anonymous helper) to make them look rather filmish and painterly".

One the one hand, the fact that the pictures are heavily modified from the Google originals should add to the sense of Rickard's authorship (I'm not bothered by the fact that it may have been an unnamed assistant that actually did the work). He didn't just select the particular image and re-contextualize it (cf. Marcel Duchamp), he also modified it and re-interpreted it. Isn't that evidence of his artistic contribution, rather than mere appropriation?

BUT, and this is a big "but", the fact that the photos are manipulated was enough to convince me that Rickard's work is fatally flawed. Why? Because Rickard seems self-consciously to be trying to evoke the look (and emotional reaction) of early color street photographers. If he hasn't disclosed the fact that the pictures are edited, then I don't believe that "the method, whatever it is, is clearly and honestly described".

From the little I have seen and read, I understand Rickard's basic message to be: "Look! Even an automated, unthinking process can result in unintentional works of art, revealing things about the world and our society that we didn't know." One can quibble about whether that is exactly right, but I think it at least gets you in the ballpark of his intended message.

But if he takes an image from Google and manipulates it, then I think he violates two of the basic premises of his message:

A. The pictures are the result of an automated and unthinking process (other than his selection/editing and re-contextualization).

B. The pictures reveal something about our world (implied in this are the unspoken words "as it really is").

With regard to (A.), the fact that someone edited the pictures means they put thought into it. In this case, they at a minimum manipulated the images to evoke a warm, fuzzy, nostalgic emotional response. [Side note: this is the same cheap parlor trick employed by many image-editing apps.]

With regard to (B.), I don't trust Rickard's images for the same reason we don't allow photojournalists to edit their pictures. Most art photography is held to a different standard -- we permit, even assume, manipulation and don't expect the image to show us something about the world as it "actually is". But it strikes me as key to this work that we are seeing small, hidden, overlooked areas of the U.S. that nobody would otherwise visit and that a photographer wouldn't normally have access to, whereas the bland anonymous Google-mobile doesn't call attention to itself and captures subjects unaware. If Rickard (or one of his assistants) has edited the pictures heavily, then I don't know if it was limited to color shifts and dodging and burning, or if it also extended to pixel-level retouching to insert or remove elements to make the pictures somehow more appealing or interesting (e.g., by inserting people, removing power lines or bits of passing cars, etc.). I can no longer rely on the idea that the picture presented is what the Google-mobile saw as it passed.

And more broadly, there is a third objection. The pictures in the book aren't drawn from Google. The pictures in the book are derived from pictures that were originally drawn from Google. That may be the lawyer in me harping on a technicality, but it strikes me as an important one. It changes the nature of the project. Would you find the pictures more interesting if they were straight from Google, or if you knew that they were taken from Google, highly manipulated, and then presented? The first scenario creates surprise and awe. The second scenario makes me think he could have started with any source material and then "merely" manipulated it to the same effect.

While it may be the case that "the visual results are the thing", it is definitely NOT the case that the visual results are the ONLY thing. These pictures do not stand alone. They are interesting BECAUSE of what we know about how they were made/selected. We are only discussing them because of their context. If these were all pictures that Rickard personally took, and he then edited them to look as though they were drawn from Google (rather than the other way around), we would feel very differently about them.

Best regards,
Adam

P.S. I have a hard time believing Rickard hasn't made it explicit that he retouches the pictures, in which case I have misinterpreted his message and the above is based on a faulty premise. Still, the Amazon blurb says "All of the images are appropriated from Google Street View" and "He rephotographs the machine-made images as they appear on his computer screen". The Amazon text was presumably provided by the publisher, and maybe by Rickard himself. There is certainly nothing in there to indicate that the pictures were manipulated, and the second quote seems to deliberately create the impression that these are straight (unmanipulated) reproductions (other than being cropped).

P.P.S. Rickard has certainly gotten us thinking and talking, which is a sign that this project is successful on at least some level...

What about all the photos where some action triggers the shutter? Whether it's Muybridge or any of the subsequent animal photographers (or even someone like Edgerton) who rely on something else to define the timing of the shutter.

Art has always been about articulating or driving the idea and artists, in all media, are not always the ones making all the pieces.

It would be "your book" because you had the idea, set it up and edited the output of your "assistants", the swimmers in the pool. That wouldn't make you the photographer in my book. Director, yes. Editor, certainly. Photographer, no.

What you are doing here is the same thing many have been doing to the word "art" for years now, expanding its meaning to suit your fancy, stretching it to the point that it becomes a meaningless jumble of letters, to the point that when someone (perhaps an "artist") uses it, the listener has no clear idea what they are saying. It becomes a form of art speak, used more to obfuscate than to inform.

The idea of common language after all is to have common understanding of words so that we can clearly communicate. This kind of twisting of meanings has the opposite effect. It contributes more to confusion than clarity.

A couple of other observations: When I was in the Army all my photographs were credited US Army Photo. Apparently the Army is a photographer in the same way a corporation is a person. I'm sure you can find a philosophical justification for that.

Second observation: Pointing to past cases where someone claimed authorship that belonged to another does not justify another's inaccurate claim. Doug Rickard can rightfully claim to be the editor, "curator" if you must :-P, but he is not the photographer even though he pushed the button on the LF camera. I've made copy photos many times over the last 50+ years but never claimed title as the "photographer" of the original image. When I learned photography that was considered dishonest.

BTW the pool book idea is what my wife would call "artsie-fartsie" so you absolutely should do it. In today's art world it would likely be a major success.

I'll stake out a knee jerk position that says that photography is certainly more interesting *to me* if it reflects the vision/desire/reflexes of the actual person snapping the actual pictures. I have no philosophical justification for this. It's just a feeling. Much like I think writing is more interesting when someone does it vs. the words being automatically generated.

That said. I've been doing a lot of astrophotography lately, which is a funny game.

First, you mostly set up machines to do the work. The mechanics of taking long exposures of super-dim objects is such that these days you really want a computer doing most of the legwork.

In the most extreme cases what you do is set up your equipment 1500 miles away from where you live (where the skies are dark and dry) and run the stuff on the Internet. A telescope sitting in a New Mexico desert is not that different from the one on my patio once I'm running it on my laptop...

Second, the subjects are almost the definition of static. It's not like you are going to get some different light on the Andromeda galaxy this night, or this year, or even this century than you had last night, or last year or 200 years ago.

Which makes me think sometimes, "what's really the point"? If you can make a remote robot do it, why not just pull the bits off the Internet or from the Hubble archives? Why bother with all the trouble.

The only answer I can come up with is this: the point is to set up and take the picture myself so I can say I did it.

Gratuitous link to one of my pictures follows.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/79904144@N00/7998046711/in/photostream

Did you mean "fate of art photography", not "faith"? In some cases, the latter may apply ... ;-)

Dave

To me, the difference between your examples and the street view images is that the photographer still had input into where the image was shot The assistants were told what to shoot, and where. The "concept" of the image was still conceived by the photographer.
I think a closer comparison would be to the "Day in the life..." type books. Who is the photographer of those images? An editor still chose from a stack of images based on a concept, but the individual images come from the people who "pushed the button."
Is Doug Rikard an artist? Most definitely. In the same light as Andy Warhol who took pieces of everyday life and iconified them.
Is Doug Rikard a photographer? No, he is not using light to create his images, he is using a different resource completely.
Does it matter? Not really. If he creates images people like, or dislike, or even just think about, he has succeeded as an artist.

I think that as photography became easier, the artistic vision of photographers became lost in the noise of millions of photographs. The idea of conceiving an idea, working toward it's creation and then completing it still exists, and those are the artists. The rest of people running around the with cameras are just taking pictures. You can take a good picture by accident, art requires intent.

This is an important essay. We’ve learned that not everyone who sings in the shower is a Caruso. But, at least on the Web, we seem to have a little problem separating the pictures made by our grandchildren from those by Bresson. (Of course, my youngest granddaughter is a genius, and I don’t understand why her Iphone pictures are not being collected by major museums.)

However

“Thanks to Gary, whose comment to the previous post inspired this. --MJ”

Can I take the midground and point out that the jacket of Rickard’s book gives no indication that he did not take the pictures even though his name on the cover is going to make folks assume at first glance that this is a book of his pictures. The jacket could easily say “edited by…” or “collected by… .” It would have been a little more generous on Rickard’s part.

You probably didn't intend for that kind of response, but I think you've just hit again on yet another philosophical problem that has torn Western thinkers for, oh, a couple of centuries.

It's the idea of subject. Not subject as what's in front of the camera, but subject as in "thinking entity."

What's a human? A lump of matter, a mind, a mind and a body, a divine spark, or else?

René Descartes's answer is one we're familiar with: cogito, ergo sum. I think; it means that I am. In other word, my whole being can be summed up by the fact that I am a rational entity. The body I inhabit is a mere accident.

That's the idea of a rational subject: a fully self-aware mind, who is always standing into some kind of relationship to the external worlds of object. Its first certitude is to be rational; anything else is dubious.

It follows from being a rational subject that you must be considered as such in all spheres of life: if you're arrested, you must be judged as someone who had the power to rationally decide of his actions. If you're a photographer, you are a photographer because you are a sentient being who DECIDED freely to push a button and perform whatever menial task ensues.

Free will is of paramount importance to the rational subject.

On the other hand, there's someone like Heidegger.

(Cue in an army of anglo-saxons waving their hands in despair (too complicated! too obscure! baloney!), followed by another army of historians who question his thinking because of his involvement with the Nazi party... Leni Riefenstahl would be a comparable foil: brilliant, influential, and widely copied, but aligned with the wrong people.)

Heidegger proposes you a different idea. You're not a pure, rational entity stuck in a body. You're not a ghost in the machine. In fact, you're actually part of a real world. What's more, the world is also a part of you. In fact, it's pretty much impossible to consider you in isolation from the world. Especially your reason. What you think, what you say, makes no sense when it's considered in abstraction from the fact that you have a body and that you are in the world.

In cognitive science, we call that embodied and extended rationality: there is no thinking without a world.

Applied to photography, it complexifies the question of subject, authorship. Our actions are not strictly, purely determined by free will: the world speaks through us. It doesn't mean we're puppets; but we can't just understand authorship as the sole product of a unique subject.

You might be more familiar with a version of this idea through the famous Death of the Author(TM) conceit from French thinker Michel Foucault. He's fashionable in the States, I hear.

So when you pick your pictures out of Google Street View, you're just reproducing what you've been already doing: acting as part of a world that's always-already there, that determines you, that speaks through you.

As you just mentioned, if someone steals your idea, is it their idea or your idea? You, as another part of the world, is speaking through them, but we can go on like that forever.

Obviously, at this point, the problem is sufficiently muddled that you've achieved undergraduate bliss by having questioned all of your assumptions to the core, left with the dizziness of uncertainty. But what do you do, since you still want to sell your pictures?

I can't say I have an answer, but I know that these two poles will pull actual people to draw the line at one point or another to decide what constitutes culture and what constitutes their work. It's a more pressing problem nowadays because of copyright laws, but it's probably been there forever.

Just sayin', as you're sayin'.

Google is now doing the ocean.

http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-09-26/news/34108607_1_google-maps-street-view-apple-maps

I guess Google Universe 'street view' is next, but it will have to wait until they can time travel at their pace that cannot be too far in the distant future ;-)

Actually many 'artists' have envisioned or conseived a design for a work of art, only to have the actual physical work or assembly be done by accomplished assistants or by an apprentice tradesmen who never receive any credit.
Louis Comfort Tiffany and Dale Chilhouly, famous for their glass art come to mind.

Allow me to ask: if I were to take a recording of, say, Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and make a salsa remix off it, thoughts about sins against mankind and all that is good aside, would it be "my" work?

Well, according to the law---and specifically the legal concept of "derivative work"---it's "ours", Queen's and mine, and without their express, written permission I am not even able to post it online for free, nevermind making money off it; pretending it's my work alone would only doom me to perpetual poverty after the inevitable lawsuits are over. I think that's a good guideline for what the ethics of the matter should be, as well.

So, I don't like what he did, not because he didn't trip the shutter but because he didn't give Google enough credit and gave himself far more than he, in my opinion, deserved. Even if you'd argue that Google Street View's images lack artistic merit whatsoever (though I'd say they're no different than the wildlife photos you mentioned), that's still no excuse for his behavior in my book.

Your examples and pool idea involve photos taken by others for the photographer. The image makers are "click" extensions of the photographer artist. On the other hand, Rickard repurposes found photos that were not taken with anyone's artistic intention, let alone his own. He is no more a photographer than someone who makes a collage from catalog photos. (Artist, arguably. Photographer, no.) To find otherwise connects dots between image and "photographer" that do not exist. There was no "click" extension. And to find otherwise, by the way, would only support the current avalanche of purposeless photographers/images about which you write.

I didn't bother to comment on the previous Rickard post because I thought it was just more tedious bullshit, and besides, Ken Tanaka pretty well expressed my opinion. But now that you've moved on to aesthetic considerations, I would say that I feel that any art photography has to involve a mind that says to itself, however fleetingly, "This is an image of significance" as it is being taken. But to be able to say that, the photographer had to be there, and has to have a sense of context.

On the second Sunday of every month, there's a huge flea market at the Rose Bowl, in Pasadena, and there you can find box after overflowing box of discarded snapshots, apparently bought at estate sales. Many of the photographs (because of the age of the people who are leaving the estates) are from World War II, and show soldiers in bunkers and with guns and on the decks of ships...but you don't know where, or who they are, or what exactly they're doing, whether or not they're in danger, whether they survived or died. The photos are shorn of context, and so, these snapshots -- some of which might be structurally interesting -- ultimately are meaningless. There's an art institute up on the hill above the Rose Bowl, and you often see these young women walking around with TLRs around their neck, like Diane Arbus, and they *always* stop and go through the boxes of photos. You can see the initial attraction of the shots on their faces...but they usually go say without buying, because I think they come to realize, after looking at hundreds of them, that the photos mean nothing to them.

And I think that's what Rickard has -- a lot of photos shorn of context or meaning. He can't testify to anything about them, because he wasn't there. You can make up stories about his photos, but the thing about photography is that it's specific, about real people and real places and real times, and a real intelligence making a photographic selection. If you take all that away...I'm not sure what you've got. It's not even a snapshot.

If you look at another photographic appropriator, Andy Warhol, you see that with his silk screens (Marilyn, Jackie Kennedy, Mao etc.,) that context is absolutely critical. It seems similar to Rickard's work in one way, in that he used appropriated images...but everybody understands the context of the images. In most appropriated images, context is critical; even in Richard Prince's work. With the Rickard's work, context doesn't exist. You ask yourself, finally, why should I be interested?

A final thing...I don't believe that almost anything can be art, or that art is what the creator says it is. I think most people (not all) who have looked at a lot of art, over years and decades, come to share those beliefs. The examples you gave of other remote photography, or of "art directors" taking credit even though another man may have pushed the button...that's not art. Some people may call it that, but they're wrong: it's journalism, or advertising, or cartography, or reference work, or something else -- there're a lot of rooms in the house of photography. Only one of them is art. I don't think Rickard is in that room.

I don't remember - how did you feel about Richard Prince? Didn't he also use photographs he didn't actually take. Feels like there are some similarities in how they used others work.

For another perspective, contemplate cinema. Who is responsible for the moving images? The DP? The cinematographer? The editor? The director? The folks that put together the original shooting script and storyboarded each image and sequence, the framing and the camera movements? What about the back office dude who greenlit the project and provided the funding to permit all the above to do their jobs? If he had not "pushed the button" on the project would there have been a movie?
---
Is this concern with authorship central to photography and the enjoyment of it? Is it not possibe that our preferences for art are as unique and as individual as our culinary preferences, our vocational choices, our past-times, our significant others?

The Walker Evans example is interesting. From the book titled Walker Evans at Work, one learns that Evans cropped, and re-cropped, frequently. He was more interested in getting the picture he wanted than in the exact picture he took.

And going back to your post on typos, I trust the exercise for your class was complementary, not complimentary, unless of course you praised all the results.

I think what you're describing with, say the pool photo idea or the streetview based publication (which I love by the way) can be described not as photography but as a form of authorship.

Sure, perfectly valid artistic works are being being created/edited/published by people who (usually) have an extensive background in photography and/or and art. And they do in fact "own" those legitimate works of art. But photography? I don't think so.

Some great thoughts, Mike, and I'm afraid (for the sake of your moderating time) thought-provoking.

Actually, my favorite part of your Doug Rickard post was the out-of-the-blue capsule assessment (or dismissal) of the poet Philip Larkin.

But back to the topic at hand, which is fascinating; some random thoughts:

There's a long tradition in the arts (for example Italian renaissance masters, or monumental sculptors or muralists even today, or film auteurs) of authors leaving most or all of the hand labor to apprentices or hires. There are exceptions, of course.

Timing aside, the actual pressing of the shutter button has to be the most trivial, mechanical, and undemanding aspect of making a photograph, and there are any number of ways to separate the timing decision from the actual mechanical act. So what we must be really talking bout here is judgment and decision-making in the flow of time.

Ken Tanaka objected that Rickard "did not make either of the most seminal decisions of photography: where to place the camera and when to push the button." That's not entirely true. In as much as Google presents a 360-degree walk-through of the drivable world, Rickard had to decide where to place and where to point the camera in ripping a frame out of that virtual world. Not so different than me going out with a camera and taking photos, other than being more limited in the degree and granularity of freedom, and in any particular vista being frozen in time. KT might argue that taking virtual photographs in a photographically reproduced world is a lesser accomplishment, or liken taking "photos" of such a world to mere cropping, or the photographic equivalent of necrophilia, but I feel that those are different, and more nuanced, arguments than the one he stated.

How does KT see the authorship of astrophotographers who program the operation of large automated systems to photograph the distant past (pun intended)?

Speaking of vantage point, one thing I find interesting about Rickard's (or Google Van's) photos (or crops), is the off-beat vantage point. Most photographers would need to be boosted up on something to gain that height.

It depends: If we found out that one of Cartier-Bresson's famous images was taken by someone he'd handed his camera to, or that a frame from some random person's roll had been made by HCB, we'd value those photographs differently. It would probably matter little how carefully HCB guided the user of his camera, or how carelessly he'd used that other person's camera. On the other hand, no one cares which of the many hands present actually pressed the shutter on one of Jeff Wall's preconceived and elaborately produced scenarios.

Whoo I'd better stop! I could ramble on like this for quite a while.

"Speaking of vantage point, one thing I find interesting about Rickard's (or Google Van's) photos (or crops), is the off-beat vantage point. Most photographers would need to be boosted up on something to gain that height. It depends: If we found out that one of Cartier-Bresson's famous images was taken by someone he'd handed his camera to"

robert e,
Funny you should mention HCB as an example there--there is one famous photograph of "his" of Gandhi's funeral, one that's in his book on India, that was taken when he passed his camera up to a boy clinging to a tree and asked him to take a picture for him. At that moment HCB was trapped in the crowd and couldn't see.

Mike

"Marcel Duchamp settled this question almost a century ago."

Not very well, apparently.

Mike

The idea of individual authorship by an employee of a business, with few exceptions (largely in the arts), is a relatively new idea. What the employee does, belongs to the owner who pays the salary. It is still the case in patent law, where an invention belongs to the company, not the employed inventor. So it is no surprise that Matthew Brady was credited for all the pix done by his camera operators. Photogaphy was a craft, like silversmithing or blacksmithing, not Art.
As for not needing to push the button, we already have the technology to tell the camera's computer what we want it to shoot, and go away, while the camera waits until the desired scene is seen, and then makes a photo, or moves around without further input until its shooting conditions are met, then exposes frames, and goes home. Remember, we already have cameras with face and smile recognition,but full up automation still requires more software than will fit into current cameras. Still, that may not be far off. We'll know when we see an attibution such as "Photo by Nikon D9999, ser. #123456432"

Mike, you mentioned that you like looking at pictures. Do you mean illustrations, comics, screenshots, and lolcats as well, or just photographs?
Will

The difference is between a good photographer or a good editor. The blog B, for example, was commenting the use of lots of tumblr publications that publish photos, and other tumblr blogs that publish an edition of this photos, like some DJs can play some disco, rock or jazz music. Each have their own style. But this are not made in purpose, following one obsession, or feeling, or necessity. Is all by an edition. Most photographers try to understand the world or something, try to get some explanation of something, try to enjoy themselves or others, try to surprise and marvel making proofs with their cameras. Not in the only meaning of proof as evidence but also trying to print in our memories or intellect what they can get. In the process they have some relationship with the environment. Some photographer install the traps and the lights to reveal the animals in some way, they are, in some point, part of the environment where will be made the photo. I believe that the process of photography involves this kind of involvement. All this other practices could be named different but is not photography for me. They are good editors but not photographers. This discussion have some similar points with other about the tales of Raymond Carver. After his dead, some critics attribute his success to his editor, because accord this critics, he gave the style of the tales cutting to the essential each paragraph, named dirty realism or minimalism. But the feelings, ghosts, demons of common lives were created by the writers, in this case Carver, who surely had some hard times to get this juice. Several years ago someone commented that if a monkey or robot with a camera take thousands and thousands of photos at the end we can see some gorgeous photo. Is that photography? In spite of what some enterprises wanted make believe to the photographers, lowering our payment, I think no.

Two comments:

1. It does matter who pushes the button: Can Monkeys own Copyrights in Self-Portraits?

http://www.trademarkandcopyrightlawblog.com/2011/08/articles/copyright/author-author-can-monkeys-own-copyrights-in-selfportraits/

For the tl;dr it's "No" ... animals can't generate a copyrightable image. Neither are photos generated by machinery that photographs at random copyrightable.

There has to be a human creator (of some sort) in the loop.

2. In weather forcasting there is a special term called "forecast skill" that is used to evaluate "prognostics" (the output of computer models that "predict" the future state of the atmosphere).

The "forecast skill" of a model has a statistical definition (see Wikipedia) but it's essentially a measure of "what fraction of the forecasts are better than the climatological average forecast for the time of year". The higher the skill the better the forecasts.

A definition of "photographic skill" would perhaps include how many "good" photographs the "photographer" makes compared to a "standard snapshooter".

Of course, like a stopped clock is correct twice a day, even a random shot gets lucky every once in a while. Perhaps to often for me.

3. Regarding giving kids cameras and letting them take shots they want which are then edited and published see the Oscar winning 2004 documentary Born into Brothels as a practical example of this.

Ultimately shooting then editing (rather than editing then shooting) is applying a form of "photographic selection" to making images rather than a god-like creation of photographs. Like all beauty, it's in the eye of the beholder. But it is enabled by technology: when your photographic resources are not limited you can "afford" to do this.

"you mentioned that you like looking at pictures. Do you mean illustrations, comics, screenshots, and lolcats as well, or just photographs?"

Will,
Well, I went through an "illustrators" period in my teen years (still have some Arthur Rackham and N.C. Wyeth books), and I liked comics when I was a kid (practically memorizing every "Classics Illustrated" comic stood me in very good stead all the way through school--I knew the basic outlines of a great deal of literature despite having read relatively little of it). I originally got into photography because I was an immersive Civil War buff as a boy--one Christmas all I asked for were Civil War books. It's what really taught me about photography, poring over thousands and thousands of Civil War photographs in books before I was fourteen. Even now when I see Civil War photographs they're often familiar. A fun exercise since the Internet is trying to remember a Civil War photo from boyhood in detail and then going to find it so I can compare it to my memory. On some I'm remarkably close and with others I miss important things or obvious structural elements. In high school and college I mainly looked at painting and especially drawings (when a Dartmouth professor gave a final exam by presenting a dozen paintings she expected nobody to recognize--she wanted us to deduce what we could from the style--I knew the artists of nine of them. Aced that exam). I got into photography seriously in 1980 and although I look at many kinds of pictures now I tend to lean to photographs, for obvious reasons.

Sorry you asked? ;-)

Mike

I think I got hung up on Ken's counterpoint where he mentions "Photographs by ..." as being part of the title. I agree that the photographs are not "by" Doug Rickard. Chosen by, selected by, etc. sure, but not "photographs by". None of the fringe scenarios mentioned by Mike changes my mind on that. But then again, I don't see anywhere that that text is part of the title. From what I've seen, as presented, it's fine. I think I'd be interested in spending some time with the book.

I am in Philly on business and visited the Rodin museum today. The guide discussed the provenance of each piece including some cast after the artist's death. In fact he just made wax, clay and plaster statues which were sent to the foundry. Would you consider the foundry the artist?
How about collages made from magzzine clippings or pictures downloaded from the internet?
And does Rickard represent himself as a photographer or an artist? Maybe neither?

The difference is between a good photographer or a good editor. The blog B, for example, was commenting the use of lots of tumblr publications that publish photos, and other tumblr blogs that publish an edition of this photos, like some DJs can play some disco, rock or jazz music. Each have their own style. But this are not made in purpose, following one obsession, or feeling, or necessity. Is all by an edition. Most photographers try to understand the world or something, try to get some explanation of something, try to enjoy themselves or others, try to surprise and marvel making proofs with their cameras. Not in the only meaning of proof as evidence but also trying to print in our memories or intellect what they can get. In the process they have some relationship with the environment. Some photographer install the traps and the lights to reveal the animals in some way, they are, in some point, part of the environment where will be made the photo. I believe that the process of photography involves this kind of involvement. All this other practices could be named different but is not photography for me. They are good editors but not photographers. This discussion have some similar points with other about the tales of Raymond Carver. After his dead, some critics attribute his success to his editor, because accord this critics, he gave the style of the tales cutting to the essential each paragraph, named dirty realism or minimalism. But the feelings, ghosts, demons of common lives were created by the writers, in this case Carver, who surely had some hard times to get this juice. Several years ago someone commented that if a monkey or robot with a camera take thousands and thousands of photos at the end we can see some gorgeous photo. Is that photography? In spite of what some enterprises wanted make believe to the photographers, lowering our payment, I think no.

Photography's umbilical to the Panopticon is thoroughly entrenched, to cut it is to disappear.

Mike wrote: "Funny you should mention HCB as an example there--there is one famous photograph of "his" of Gandhi's funeral, one that's in his book on India, that was taken when he passed his camera up to a boy clinging to a tree and asked him to take a picture for him. At that moment HCB was trapped in the crowd and couldn't see."

Years ago, Irving "Doc" Desfor, an old friend who wrote a photography column for a New York newspaper when I was editing photo magazines, told me that HCB actually passed his camera up to Doc's brother, Max Desfor, a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist also covering the event who had a perfect vantage from above of Gandhi's funeral pyre. Max shot what he needed on his own camera, plus a few frames on Henri's Leica, then tossed that camera back down to HCB. I remember the photograph; it was published in Life, I believe, and attributed to Henri.

Photojournalists regarded themselves as comrades in arms back then. The story didn't surprise me.

-- Jim Hughes

Ok, what about Cindy Sherman ?
Her early photographs are known as Cindy Sherman photographs not Robert Longo photographs.

Mike,

Just an amateur's viewpoint on authorship, editing, redundancy, and shooting under pressure.

I give credit for authorship to the person who pushes the button, though it's your camera and you've set it up for him. Especially if it's a manual focus lens and the shooter does the focusing and framing. I'll take credit though, for the project-shoot "concept." In this case, taking landscape photos in less than "Sunny 16"
conditions (inspired by your non-verbal distinction between "scenics" vs. landscapes").

I don't have a "photo-streaming" site. My only outlets are my blog and a few albums accessible only to those I have given links to (usually the subject of the photos themselves). So I do a lot of editing. It isn't difficult for me. At least half of my shots are unusable (blurry or blown highlights). I sift through the "keepers" using only those that will show the subjects and the photographer (me) in their best light.

I take redundant shots of a subject even in unchanging conditions when taking hand-held shots (I've only just acquired a tripod). Because my camera and lenses don't have image stabilization. Shooting redundantly with gear in hand is a cheaper workaround than buying a new camera with built-in IS.

"Shooting under pressure" of your own making can be a learning experience. During my recent landscape shoot, I forgot my glasses. Since I don't have my viewfinder yet (out of stock when the camera was bought), I had to shoot by feel (button-driven resets) and instinct. I got away with wide angle shots, DOF-scale focused and redundant. Doing without the reassurance of reading what your camera settings are, can be liberating.

Another example of a pressure shot is when your subject is an armed and potentially dangerous stranger. Such as this farmer gathering coconuts with the business end of his sansibar (a katana like bolo). Needless to say, I had to take my shots quickly, after I've asked his permission of course. I wasn't as redundant this time taking only three shots. Didn't want to spend more time switching to continuous shooting mode. Catching an airborne coconut he'd just flicked with his sansibar is my most "decisive moment" shot thus far.

Taken with a Ricoh GXR-M with a Distagon 4/18 scale-focused at f/4, 1/73, ISO 200.



"HCB ... passed his camera up to a boy clinging to a tree"

Well that just blows my mind! Now I'm dying to find the photo, and to find out whether there's been any controversy about its authorship or relative value. I presume that, in this case, the story behind the image outweighs the fact that HCB didn't frame and shoot it himself. But what if it had been, say, Chim, up in that tree?

OK here is a thought experiment.

My camera is stolen but recovered a day later. On the memory card is a picture that I did not take. It is a wonderful, breathtaking picture.

The camera and memory card belong to me, so logically, so does the picture. I decide to sell it. The "artist" in this case can hardly claim any rights, even if they are technically the author.

But what if the photograph taken by the thief was of a poem written on a wall in front of witnesses, but subsequently erased. Who owns the copyright to the poem?

So could the thief be arrested for stealing my camera and simultaneously sue me for breach of copyright?

The next day, I set my camera up and give it to a friend and ask them to take a picture. Who owns the picture now, given that all the property rights expressed above still apply?

I'm sure a copyright lawyer could answer the above. Do we have a lawyer in the house?

Two arguements...one

How OK would it be for me to publish a book with photos from my favorite online blog photographers, Ming, Zack, Thom, Richard, Ken...etc. and call it mine!? I see no difference btw...

Second point...
Do you have to hold the brush? (Painting)
Do you have to ride the bicycle? (Cycling)
Do you have to pull the bow? (archery)
Do you have to throw the javelin? (Olympics)
...
The list goes on and on...the one who aims it and presses the shutter, is the photographer. The one who is graphing the photo so to speak. And yes, don't forget aiming, as pressing the trigger is half of the story in pictures we like. Although, Autographer wants to change that.

"OK here is a thought experiment. My camera is stolen but recovered a day later. On the memory card is a picture that I did not take. It is a wonderful, breathtaking picture. The camera and memory card belong to me, so logically, so does the picture. I decide to sell it. The "artist" in this case can hardly claim any rights, even if they are technically the author. But what if the photograph taken by the thief was of a poem written on a wall in front of witnesses, but subsequently erased. Who owns the copyright to the poem? So could the thief be arrested for stealing my camera and simultaneously sue me for breach of copyright? The next day, I set my camera up and give it to a friend and ask them to take a picture. Who owns the picture now, given that all the property rights expressed above still apply? I'm sure a copyright lawyer could answer the above. Do we have a lawyer in the house?"

Steve,
I think you're overthinking this. [g]

Mike

It seems to me that the question "who took the photograph?" is different to the question "was the use of the photograph - whoever took it - art?" A signature at the bottom of an image without more is an answer that conflates these two questions, especially if all that is presented is the image. Hence, if an image is a manipulation of some other person' photograph, acknowledgement is necessary.

Mike, thanks for another excellent, thought-provoking article.
In the second paragraph you mention something that is steadily becoming a nuisance: people photograph standard themes and standard subjects and manipulate the images in order to meet current tendencies. Those pictures are all over the 'net: coastal landscapes taken with slow exposure times, so to induce streaking of the waves; black and white street photographs which the use of Nik Silver Efex turns into heavy-handed chiaroscuri; landscapes with "dramatic" clouds obtained by exaggerating shadow radius in post-production; and, of course, the plague of banal images using completely unrealistic HDRI effects.
This has a cause, and it's called instant gratification. This kind of photography is usually taken by amateurs who copy the style of consecrated photographers in order to get broad acceptance - meaning that they want to get as many "likes" as possible on Facebook. These amateurs push the envelope in order to meet the tastes of people who have no knowledge of photography techniques, but have an aesthetic appreciation that could sum up to thinking "oh, that's beautiful" when they look at a picture on Facebook. (They usually look at the photo for a whole 5 seconds and then turn their attention to the latest gossip.)
There's little room for subjectivity and imagination in this kind of picture taking - let alone the ideal of permanence that's nuclear to photography.
It's definitely a trend. It will eventually go away, just as gone is the trend of photographing flowers with "creamy bokeh", but it is detrimental to photography in that it negates the need for originality and creativity and leads to standardization and mediocrity, thus devoiding photography of any artistic content.
Sometimes I feel inclined to follow my mentor's advice - he's a 91 year-old professional photographer who's an early digital adopter - and photograph spontaneous JPEGs with just a little measure of post-processing, but you know what? Most of the times I end up fiddling with local contrast, black point and shadow radius to give my photos a "cantemporary" look. That's what Ovidius meant when he said: "video meliora proboque, deteriora sequitur". (For those who think Latin is the language they speak in Bolivia, it translates as "I see the best of things and approve it, but follow the worst".)

Much of my daily work as a developer is programming, which is in many ways a creative act; my contract says that copyright/ownership of the results belongs to my employers. Such is the nature of employment and its law. This understanding can also be applied, with varying degrees of looseness, to the photographic process - if you send your films off for developing, then you don't expect the lab workers who dip&dunk them to claim any credit for the results at all - because the nature of relationship is employment.

This discussion makes me think the perception of photography is slanted toward an individual sport, rather than an industry.

What about the hypothetical case of a quadraplegic photographer who orders others to set up a shot, hold the camera, and then press the button? Who took the photo? Who is the artist?

As someone else wrote above, just say what it is. One picture may be the result of one person's actions. Another photo may be something else. Isn't that all you need to know? The rest of the debate seems to be about categorization.

If you go fishing and you use my rod and line; my bait and hooks, who catches the fish? Just asking'

Funny this came up now. I was just thinking about photo authorship in the context of an upcoming photo class. It is a tradition to assign a self portrait project in the first two weeks, and because of our limited resources (no tripods, remote releases, or even timers on most of the cameras) one tacitly approved method is to have your "self portrait" made by somebody else, often one of the other students. Sure, we coax them to set it up as carefullly as possible, etc, but they are using film (no instant review and feedback/correction), and practically the standard is very low. This bothers me a great deal, actually, though it seems i am the only one. To me, it seems to deeply misunderstand what goes into making a picture. I have no problem with timers, remote releases, or trip-triggers, but if another person is framing and choosing the moment... then it really isnt your photo.

How far the culture has drifted on this issue can be seen in the common parlance of many professional (or just vocational) models, who refer to "taking" photos they are posing for. As in, 'here are some photos i just took', 'i am going down to the studio to take some photos'. Now, i dont deny that in many cases they are the primary artistic force in the making of those photos, from personae they craft to scenarios they stage, but many dont have any particular skill in controlling how a photo looks in terms of dof, perspective, relation of subject to bg, etc. at *most* in these cases i would consider the authorship of the photo a joint effort.

It only gets weirder once you spend some time in the tangles of tumblr or pinterest, where "curation" is creation.

For whatever reason, the google street view projects dont really pose much of an authorship connundrum to me. However, i also dont really consider the artist selecting these frames to be a kind of photographer. Photographer does not necessarily = artist, and vica versa.

I think the classical definition of authorship of a photograph may be to narrow. A lot of examples have already been given, but I’d like to add two more:

What about those photo booth setups at weddings? The photographer sets up the camera, lighting backdrop and placing of the subjects, but they are ultimately pressing the shutter themselves. Can the subjects really be credited as the sole “photographer”? What about if you automate pressing the shutter with one of those smiles detection features?

And in today’s heavily digital manipulated imagery, the person shooting an athlete in in the studio for example is usually credited as photographer even when the athlete ends up in a composite image made by some unnamed digital artist. Arguably the art director in charge and the digital artist assembling the finished picture have a greater influence on the final aesthetic than the photographer.

There are countless other examples of course.

In the movie business there is a Director of Photography usually credited with the visual style of the movie (e.g. camera angles, framing etc.), camera operators who do operate the cameras (I am assuming) and a Director who tells everybody when to “press the shutter”, i.e. yells action.

This seems to be more fitting for collaborative works at least.

When visiting Amsterdam last spring I saw a photographic project on family holidays. The photographer had given the families disposable cameras to play with (sorry Mike, nothing new under the sun), and exhibited their snapshots in a contact-sheet style next to large copies her own pictures of the family. In the case of a professional giving an assignment to a 'shutter-presser' and then publishing the material, I would call him or her an editor of the work.
Gregory Crewdson's work should be mentioned as an example of a modern "photographer"taking a role more like the director of a film rather than the person pushing the button.

Well, in my mindset the most important part at the moment of exposure is the time- and spatial dimensions - where to direct the camera and when to trigger the shutter. Those are the two elements the photographer controls, and I belive it is my picture if I choose both of them, or at least control them. In the example of wildlife photography by motion detected shutter, I belive the photographer choose that the camera will be triggered when the tiger is exactly *there*, making him control the picture, not the tiger (who was only out for an evening stroll, not expecting to trigger a camera).
As far as editing and post-processing goes, that does not have to be the photographers job. Remember Robert Capa didn't process his D-Day films (although he might regret that...).

And to extend the concept even further: There is a growing practice of “Video Game Photography” in which people do everything a photographer would do, pick a place, a time, frame the shot, wait for the decisive moment, etc.; except in a completely virtual environment.

An article about this can be found here: http://videogametourism.at/node/1634

To me that seems relatively close to photography…

My Motto: - I'm still trying very hard:
"I try to make beautiful photographs of ordinary things rather than ordinary photographs of beautiful things"

What I find weird/interesting is that he felt the need to photograph his screen as it displayed the image, rather than just save the image straight to his hard drive.

I can think of a couple of possible reasons for that, though I don't know which would be true :

-- He felt that gave him more authorship of the art work
-- He felt that created more chance that he wasn't violating copyright
-- He really wanted to be the photographer and not just editor, even if that meant a photo of a photo
-- He felt that the concept of "photo of a photo" added something to the work

Any idea which is correct? Maybe all of them?

I like it when Robert Adams pushes the button.

Summer Nights Surfing, just doesn't have the same ring to it

I think it is (now) clear to us that there is a spectrum or continuum between "photography" and "editing" just as there is, now, a continuum between "photography" and "painting". It's important to have these discussions, and to think about things like "what is photography, really?" and "how much does the button-push matter?"

It is, I feel, less important to draw precise agreed-upon lines. Words are defined by usage, always, and usages are often vague. There are things we can all agree are "a photograph" and there are tasks we can all agree are "editing, not photography". There are also an infinity of things and tasks where different people will use different words to describe it. That's ok. That's language for you. As long as we all understand that there are grey areas, and as long as we try to be honest about when we're talking about something in a grey area, it generally all works out ok in the end.

Understanding where the grey is is important, slicing and dicing terminology isn't.

(Re: "photo by Lee Miller.") What, they didn't have mechanical self-timers in 1945?

Something I haven't seen much mention of in this discussion of Doug Rickard's book is the fact that his selection (or "curation") of the images involved more than simply choosing from a set of existing images. Google Streetview represents a crude kind of "virtual reality" in which we can immerse ourselves in a location and then move around "physically" as well as virtually turn our heads. There are no pre-composed images in Streetview; any screenshot you take from it comes from *you* deciding where to "stand" and where to "look."

That is way more abstract than just choosing from a set of static images.

And for me at least, that's what makes this project so interesting. Not only is it a somewhat geeky preview of the possibilities of virtual reality, but it shows that the result of working in a hybrid environment can be more than the sum of its robotic parts. The fact that the Streetview aesthetic (crappy resolution, lens flare blurred faces, etc.) is so well known and taken for granted magnifies this, especially since so few people are exploiting that virtual world in artistic ways.

None of this would matter much if the "scenes" themselves were boring, but they're not. If you forget the method, many of these bleak images are highly compelling on their own. And they are doubly compelling because of their familiarity (at least to anyone who uses Streetview a lot), even while recontextualized.

One other thing; I don't know if Rickard has Google's blessing on this or not, but even if he doesn't, Google would be very foolish to complain, as this is an extremely positive validation of the Streeview service.

"Nowadays, in the digital era, the first part of this exercise is commonplace [...] but the second is foreign to us, actually almost impossible to simulate."

Mike, there's a free app for that called One Memento: http://www.onememen.to/ Only one picture can be taken (or chosen, unfortunatly...).

Why is every slightly “lonely” street shot compared to Edward Hopper, when the compared work has none of the psychological or emotional investment Hopper imbued his work with?

I have a pretty loose definition of Art; it can be built on a foundation of 10,000 hours of technical skill and craft, or not. It can come from the hand of a child (Picasso had some thoughts about that) or even the wave action of a great body of water, but it is transcendent of it’s material origins.

I think it’s Art, therefore it is.
JC is entitled to completely disagree, therefore, for him, it isn't, ... Art.

As to Rickards work, I’m ambivalent about the concept, and thus the work, because it is so removed from the actual reality, and seems emotionally distant. Quite the opposite of Edward Hopper, or even HCB handing his camera to a child in a tree. I have the same response to much marble sculpture; it rarely is the hand of the artist who designed the maquette.

I reserve the right to be completely inconsistent. 8-)

Bron

Somewhat relevant to this discussion is the exhibition by blind photographers in Dehli: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-19754586. They describe how they use sound, the warmth of light, and touch to compose their photographs. The images show how wonderfully successful this can be.

Your first paragraph is I think a very nice precis of a certain type of photography. I don't think the second paragraph represents a counter argument at all - surely just the exception(s) that prove the rule?

Projects where the author is not in charge of the initial selection process are of course viable, but my feeling is that they are to a certain extent artistic gimmicks, and won't bear much repetition. They are a little impoverished in that they cannot contain or reflect the photographer's connection and reaction to his environment.

By the way, another work of art that would fit very well into the idea presented in this post is the classic Evidence by Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel, which I had the fortune of looking through last year. Excellent all around.

one thing about rickard's work became clear after reading through this post: all of his work happened after the photos were taken, while everybody else did something before. so it's easier to think of him as a curator, though i have to wonder if there are any curators blurring the boundaries by influencing the creation of the works they include in their exhibits.

maybe authorship is not the important thing in the end. does rickard own these photos? could someone else make a book using the same idea with some of the same shots?

A very interesting debate, to which there is now, so far as I can think, little to add, so just two brief comments ...

1) Re "how did you feel about Richard Prince?" - I felt he made a million dollars (or so) by making a mess of some very competent photographs.

2) Re "in France, in the very early days of hot-air balloons, cameras were sent up in the balloons, their shutters tripped by timers" - that may well have been so, but the balloons (with human passengers) arrived (in 1783) long before the photography.

Overall, the topic is complex and perhaps too wide to set down any ground rules that would apply to more than just a few specific examples. Just my $0.02.

I think when you have these (still photograph) productions that involve many people the credit model needs to be more like the one in movies where the producer, director, writer, cinematographer, whatever, is named.

This issue crossed my mind about a year ago. I took my camera and tripod down to the beach with my two boys (aged 1 and 3) to take a photo of a pier at sunset. While I set-up the camera, my 3-year-old showed an unexpected interest in my camera, and wanted to push the button. So, of course, I let him take a few shots after composing the shot. It put a smile on his face, before he lost interest and wanted to build a sand castle with his brother. Afterward, I wondered whether the shots he took would be, technically, his, or mine. The point became moot, though, because the light got better, and I later refined my composition and selected a different frame for development

Think about this way.
Rosalind Franklin took a picture of DNA. Francis Crick grabbed the photo and had a conversation with James Watson. The ideas of the conversation made it into a paper published in a journal and hence won both Watson and Crick a Nobel prise for discovering the structure of DNA.
But they did not push the trigger, they only talked about an image taken. Who really should have won!

In the contemporary art world, method is certainly important. Jeff Koons has an army of helpers that craft his ideas without credit on the wall card.

Photography seems particularly unique in that it attracts both artistic and scientific minds alike, and, without method, photographs often turn into just another page in a scientific text book.

We may all have asked someone,a stranger most of the time, to push the button for us, and the results are OUR pitures, my family and I standing in front of a famous relic with all the mouths wide open like hippos for example. The person pushing the button wouldn't care for doing that and also the results, and we probably will not get the pictures published. And sometimes we are being asked to push the button. No problem. Things seem sinpler in everyday life than in the "art" world.

So long as he (Rickard) doesn't claim to be "the photographer", all the debate is moot in my opinion.

I saw the show of the google images selected by Rickard, at Steven Wirtz's gallery in San Francisco. They're wonderful to look at (big screen shots, basically). I don't believe Rickard made any claim to being the photographer, at least I didn't see any such claim.

This kind of work needs to be enjoyed and appreciated for what it is, not for what its not. Rickard's images are simply a message about something else that's now possible in the digital age... online data mining of images for viewing pleasure. Period.

Aside to Michel Hardy vallee--

Some helpful thoughts you've posted, but it wasn't Foucault who proposed the death of the author; it was Barthes. Foucault in fact wrote a kind of rebuttal, noting that even if Barthes was right in some respects, the effects of the author lived on. There is far too much invested in the author, or subject, for either to fade away without a trace.

Just googled Rickard and came across a Vimeo vid of him talking about the work. At one point he uses the words," my pictures" when describing the work. I have to admit that bothered me.

The issue is the intellectual endeavour -- ideas. The Oscar for "Best Picture of the Year," for example, goes to the "Producer(s)." Save for the telephone, rarely is that about the pressing of any buttons.

I think that, nowadays, and regarding art or art perception, we do need to take into account the fact that we need to appraise who takes the risk: the photography taker, the manipulator, or the editor?

There is something as well behind: Are we talking about artists, or artisans [problem being how close even etimologically they are]? Are we valuying the concept, or the craftmanship?

Mike,

I'm glad I asked! I learned more about you, and what you really like (in the broad sense) than I have in a long time. That's a delightful micro-essay. I liked a lot of the same things that you did, but not with the same kind of depth and precision. As a kid I think I latched on to illustration (and photography) because I wanted to know all about the world before I had learned to read - and I wanted to tell my own stories. Even now, I have a bias towards manga, webcomics, and
non-fiction contemporary comics.

I remember being little, and discovering the wonderful/grotesque historical ink drawings and engravings reproduced in a Time-Life series on seafaring. (The pirates volume was a particular favorite!) Around the same time, I found Gustav Dore's engravings for the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. A real eye opener for a little kid!

I hope you have seen Scott McCloud's work on interpreting and understanding comics? He covers a huge amount of ground, not merely typical American comics, but work from around the world. I have a link, here. I really recommend his "Understanding Comics", but I really like his "Making Comics" as a survey of what has been done.

Will

I am adding my thoughts here very late, so I'm not sure if anything I write will have any relevance. Mike, your title says "Do You Have to Push the Button?" at first I thought well of course you do, then I started thinking well, lots of artists in the past have employed others to do the "work" I did some quick online research as I thought that there were some painters who had "employees" one would have been
Andrea de Verrocchio (1435-1488), Wikipedia says that few paintings are attributed to him, yet he is thought of as an artist, he also trained a number of important painters including Leonardo da Vinci. So I guess if one were to have others push the camera button, or capture them via Google Street videos and as long as the said artist inputs his or her vision into the final piece, then I would think that person has every right to be considered an artist and there resulting finished work "art".

You can buy Stephen Gill's book at http://nobodybooks.com/shop/
but I believe Royal Mail is sold out. My favourite is Buried. Little gems. I was lucky enough to at least absorb them briefly when I worked at LensCulture.

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