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Saturday, 27 September 2008


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I know Photoshop when I see it. ;~)

Wow. I look at those photos and for some reason, along with booze and tobacco, I see danger everywhere.

Precarious situations abound in those photos.

Even on the baseball fields..fielding a grounder looks like a trip to the dentist or the nosebone doctor.

Very cool stuff.

"They often simply photographed things they found interesting, meaningful, unusual, or remarkable."

That is of course what people disparagingly call "snapshots" when they're taken today. And without a doubt, a lot of situational photography was very bad then as now. But it seems we have inbuilt cultural filters that winnows out all the boring, bad or uninteresting creations over time and leaves us remembering and treasurign just the small portion that really did turn out to be good.

Same thing happens with music. Go no further than the 1970's, where truly horrible pop music was put out by the shovelload every year. But all that we remember now from that time is the few pearls of truly good music.

I'd like to comment on the featured comment by John Roberts.
John, if you think 'art photography' comes from the photographers pretention you haven't seen much yet. May I suggest you take a look at the work of -for example- Mario Giacomelli? Then come back a tell us again that these photographs do not hold our interest many decades later?

At last an appreciation of vernacular photography.

The curators of this show and book devoted themselves to a treasure trove of mostly LF negs taken by New South Wales wallopers (cops to you) for evidentiary purposes.

Just in case you thought that drag queens and cocaine were baby boomer phenomena.

Highly recommended!



regards - Ross

It's certainly true that thinking only of the subject has made a lot of nice photographs over the years.
But if we go so far, as some people do, as to claim that deciding *what* to photograph is the most important thing for the photographer, then I get a bit lost. If that's true, then a nice automatic camera is all we need, and photographs hold little interest beyond the subject.

André Kertész didn't seem to worry much about *what* he photographed, he just used whatever turned up which might be used to make an interesting picture.

Yeah you'd need to be mad to photo ordinary life. Especially when you get no encouragement from local arts.

I asked our local Museum if they were interested and yes they were. They asked me to leave my work in my will to them! However for the moment they had absolutely no money and when I asked where would they get an in depth photographic record to cover aspects of ordinary life. Their answer was that when they want them (photos) they'll do as before scavange i.e. tackling it now in an organised fashion was not even up for debate.

I pointed out that most of their collections were from postcard companies (or pictorial essays for magazines), these no longer exist. I just got blank looks.

Then 6 months later there was the announcement of £12 million ($24million) being spent on the main building interior (not exhibits just the building). I just thought it was a bit out of balance.

Perversely when I do manage to scrape money together the general public like the photos, just not the gov. types with money. Rant over.
Sample stuff in my url above. Sorry Mike its in Flickr.

Recently I've put a lot more effort into films about ordinary people and life.

Mike -

In response to your comment about municipalities paying a photographer to document the everyday happenings of their area, I think that you're absolutely right. The only thing I'd add is that now -- brace yourself for a cliche buzzword -- in the digital age, photographs of the everyday and the mundane are absolutely pervasive. That's not to say they're necessarily good, so your idea is still totally valid, but I think an even more valuable endeavor is to devise ways to automate the organization of the massive amount of photography that's available online. As a computer scientist (and technophile!) by profession I'm certainly biased, but it seems to me that having the ability to ask questions like "What did the Light and Pratt St intersection in Baltimore look like at night in September of 2008?" or "Show me pictures of people from mid-sized cities on the Eastern seaboard of the United States in cold weather in 2008" (or whatever) and have a computer bring up a series of images taken there, under those conditions, at around that time period would be unbelievably valuable in the future. We have primitive versions of this right now, almost always hand-organized by a human being, but an infrastructure and intelligence that made something like this easy is better (and more sophisticated). It's totally possible and (lots of) smart people are working on this kind of thing - just a matter of time.

Can't wait to be able to search for "Blog posts on TOP post- RSS-feed-debacle featuring historical black and white photos from turn of the century America." ;-)


One good idea for getting this kind of everyday record would be simply to have city hall, a local museum or similar sponsor a "year in review"-style yearly photo competition. The emphasis would be on daily life as much as notable local events, and the selected images (or heck, all submissions) would be kept by the museum or city hall and used for retrospectives, illustrations, exhibiting change over time and so on.

That wouldn't even cost as much as paying one single photographer; mostly a part-time job organizing it for a few weeks every year, some small funds for a winning award of some kind (donated photography stuff from local business?) and the use of whatever public space is available in the town or city.

For this kind of everyday photography I think there is greater value in having a multitude of different photographers each with their own perspective, rather than have one "official" person that is necessarily limited to what he or she finds important and interesting.

I'm not sure how it could be achieved, but archives of quotidian life are so important.

Some time ago I cut a TV film about the life of a woman whose salad days were in Melbourne in the very early days of the 20th century. It was extremely difficult to find motion picture material or stills that had any relationship to her memories of everyday life of the time. Stuffed shirts and politicians were easy to find, ordinary folk about their daily lives, almost impossible.

The Australian National Film and Sound Archive ran a programme a few years ago encouraging people to look under their beds and in their sheds for those pictures that grandad spent his time fooling about with. They found and preserved many treasures.

I gave our local studies librarian negs and prints of street scenes of a township up the line that will be extensively redeveloped soon, most of it demolished. It's about all you can do when the developers can't be stopped, and it's one way to help.

Regards - Ross

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