Who were these people? A snapshot from an old album
left out for the trash collector
Last week almost all the posts here were about equipment—"gear"—and a fair number of people complained. Two readers stomped off in a huff over it, one telling me that I was just a "click baiter" and the other opining that the heyday of blogs is over.
Heh. Like I ever cared about blogs. I like photography; blogging is just how I happen to be talking about it now. First it was being a student, then it was being a teacher, then it was writing magazine articles, then it was writing multiple columns for a variety of outlets; for a short time it was the PDML and the LUG and other forums; now it's TOP. Some of those outlets worked better than others, but it's all the same. You need a window to the World. Photography's mine.
If you want more about photography...
I keep saying this, and I say it jokingly, but I'm serious: the New York Times is "the World's Best Photography Magazine." It's very much worth subscribing to it just for the photographic content, and I mean it. Its photography content across many different categories and sections is (small-"c") catholic and encompassing, cultural and historical, richly visual. It covers news and obituaries, profiles photographers, reviews museum shows and galleries and books, presents a wide range of portfolios, and regularly takes a deep look at a very wide range of cultural stories related to photography or inspired by it.
You do have to poke around to find it all, though. The Lens Blog is the main place for portfolios, but photography content is here and there in the newspaper and website and magazine. Pops up in all kinds of ways in all kinds of places.
The Internet is awash in gear sites, where we happily natter on about shot noise and the forensics of the lens image and whether the X-trans sensor is or is not free of moiré. As a counterbalance—because its content is not similarly mirrored far and wide—the Times is as valuable as any random ten of these.
Case in point: the recent article "Love and Black Lives, in Pictures Found on a Brooklyn Street." (Copy that and Google it.) A reporter in Brooklyn finds an old photo album set out for the trash collectors. She takes it home, and gets curious about the people in it and their lives. The editors give her the go-ahead and let her have a researcher and a photographer. And gradually, she uncovers the story—along the way, honoring the lives of the deceased people in the photo album and, by extension, others, not pictured, like them. It's a lovely article that I thoroughly enjoyed, and you really shouldn't miss it. Illumines brilliantly (and compassionately, and nostalgically, and in proper historical context) one of the most important of photography's many prismatic facets. You can't get that from some overlong YouTube video of an Asian teenager wandering city streets taking random snapshots with a very expensive camera. You can't get it from me, either.
'Little England': Romford Market, in Havering, in operation since A.D. 1247.
Photo by Andrew Tesla for the New York Times.
And of course there is original photojournalism, too, which is getting as rare as endangered tigers. For example—and this really is just a random example, it happens be to be what I was reading just now, over my coffee—Andrew Testa's pictures for the article "In a Pro-'Brexit' Corner of Britain, Impatience to Be Done With It." Nothing particularly distinguished about these in particular, but they are characteristic, which is to say excellent, and it's good to leaven a diet heavy in found pictures and demotic amateurishness with some conscious photojournalism once in a while—one seasoned photographer doing his best to illustrate a particular story with deliberately honest photographs.
People complain when I link to content at the Times, because they don't subscribe and they sometimes can't get to the link. So then subscribe. It's worth it. It's something you should do. You should do it.
It's the World's Best Photography Magazine. I don't know a better way to say it.
And there's very little about gear.
Back to TOP
Back here at home again, a word about click "baiting": actually, what helps in blogging is not necessarily links, but traffic. Talking about gear improves traffic. Last week, with the gear posts, traffic was up an average of 2,000 page views a day over the week before, and one post drew 248 comments (if you include the "Featured" ones). If I talk about photographs all this week, traffic will go down. That's the way it is. The more traffic, the more your 'umble blogger will earn. It's not the links per se. It's the numbers.
And I've never been a hound for traffic, either. If I were only interested in traffic—or click-throughs, or SEO, or viral attention, or whatever (right now, YouTube is the hot way of making money anyway)—I could do a much better job optimizing it.
But for me those aren't the most important things. I like photography. It's fantastic that I can make a living talking about it, but I made a living as a magazine editor too, and a teacher before that, and I'm sure there are more efficient ways to get wealthy than doing this. It's thinking about and talking about photography that I enjoy. You have to engage with something in your life—something to really get into and think about. Something to get to grips with. Photography is one of the things I picked.
In any event, I don't mind gear posts. I like cameras. :-)
(Thanks to Ken Tanaka)
Original contents copyright 2017 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Dalen Muster: "Word."
Pak Ming Wan: "Hear, hear. I was one of the few who probably turned off last week from your site when you went into gear mode...I especially enjoy the photo side of this site."
Chas: "I would like to see (slightly) more gear-oriented posts. Not the tech detail stuff...more the user opinion...what is it like to own and use; does it feel good in the hand, how is the viewfinder in daylight, is focus, colour rendition, contrast, noise suppression etc...'good enough' for it's purpose, how do the files print...again, not the tech details but real world opinion from a person with experience!"
David Babsky: "Thank you. I subscribed."
Nick Cutler (partial comment): "Agree wholeheartedly about the NYT. In England our equivalent is The Guardian newspaper, with excellent, long, in-depth articles and photography. The print edition carries a full-sized center spread photograph every day; some of them are simply stunning."
John Gillooly: "I came across that NYT story over the weekend and shared it with a few folks I knew would be interested. Really is a great all-around story based on the photography. It is also a reminder of how important it is to provide information on your prints. With no information and context, the people become ghosts. Knowing something about who these people were, what they did and why, gives the photos life."
Robin Harrison: "Well...that was most peculiar, unnerving even. I've been reading TOP since day one, but I never expected to see a photo of Romford Market. That Uppercut is where my father used to take me to have my hair cut. My mother still lives half a mile away from where this was shot. What interest could The New York Times possibly have in this place? Just goes to show how easy it is to ignore the significance and photographic potential of what is under one's nose."
Robin Dreyer: "Mike, I've been reading TOP since the beginning and for a while I thought your characterization of the Times was meant in a joking way. Then I really started paying attention to the photographic content and I realized that you were not joking and, furthermore, that you are probably right in this assessment. I have always eked out what I can from the Times without paying for it, but recent events have caused me to remember how incredibly important journalism is to our society, and I decided I needed to do a little more to support it. The Times hires a lot of good journalists so I finally subscribed. And now, along with everything else, I love having unfettered access to all of their photographic content."
Brian Taylor: "Its a remarkable tribute to TOP's format that those 248 comments were fun to read! I can't remember ever reading that many comments elsewhere! On other sources, NYT may be good but I've had to cut down on subs, and am in the U.K, so would like to put in another word for the Guardian, whose previous editor Allen Rusbridger was a photography enthusiast. They still have very good coverage. Today's feature, for example, is Richard Page on 'Going to the Dogs, the Face of Modern Spain.'"