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Sunday, 25 October 2009


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I've been reading the whole series, and also looking back at the recently released "The Likes of Us," which contains many of the less seen FSA pictures and pages of Stryker's shooting notes. There seems to be a line in the sand between Rothstein (not included in "The Likes" and the rest on one side, and between Walker Evans to the other side and the rest in the middle. Errol Morris has some interesting insights into what life in that photo pool might have been like.

But he is really over the top, and admits it in episode 7, where he says

[Oddly, Ganzel’s answer shocked me. I had become obsessed with the various controversies, the claims and counter-claims about the F.S.A. photographs. Had I forgotten that there was something more to these photographs than the endless and hopeless investigations into the intentions of the photographers, the issues of posing, and false captioning? That these were photographs of people caught in a moment of time?]

a worthwhile read, in all.


I have been following Errol's writings for a while. The alarm clock is a fascinating read. Have a big pot of coffee handy.
I find the best way to access his work, is through his web page: http://www.errolmorris.com/.

My word can that man ruminate! That and he has time to galavant off to the Crimea, and he gets paid to no less!! Nice gig, to be fair i did enjoy his writing. Oh yeah i hopped through several of his posts and settled on the Fenton one for a while before making it back here… The Crimea reference isnot as ot as it would seem.

"happier having them as a small, neat, printed book. But that would cost money"

Save the NYT web pages as PDF, and read at leisure, on screen or printed (and archive). That's what I do with heavy pieces, so I can ruminate at my own pace...

"...creating a photograph is...the act of tearing an image from the fabric of reality."

I thought the whole series was good reading, but encountering this statement by Morris, in Part 5, was like finding buried treasure.

For some time, I've been telling anyone who was foolish enough to listen to me that Errol Morris just might be the smartest fellow in the United States.

Mike, I've just read a few large slabs along with some of the responses. Long but rewarding - and I learned some interesting insights into the means of documentary photography. Thankyou for the link.


an alternative title for the whole piece: "The Case of the Inappropiate shovel and the Confused Cow" ;)
I believe posts like this are what make TOP stand out from most photography sites on the web. Thanks for the link, Mike.

There's a lot of treasures in that piece. Another tidbit of gold which I enjoyed were the remarks about the viewer which, summarized roughly, are:

to be documentary, the photograph need only be an effort by the photographer to evoke a response from the eventual viewer that is true to that which is being photographed.

At least, I think this is what Rothstein is driving at in part 6. This may be pushing it a bit, but it is at least a well-thought out position, which recognizes the role of the viewer. I think it's defensible. It removes the issue of arbitrary lines 'you can use any lens, but you can't move objects' or whatever, and makes it about being ultimately honest, rather than about following arbitrary sets of rules.

This is a rather late comment that, likely, nobody will see, but here goes anyway! I was inspired by Morris' series to read my copy of the book.

On page 121 of my edition, Agee makes a poetic but nontheless clear reference to a cheap alarm clock in the house, set ahead 2 hours, and the sound it makes.

I conclude from this that the people beating on Walker Evans didn't actually read the book, or at least not carefully. It's a difficult read, but the clock is right there in the text. Or at any rate, a cheap alarm clock is.

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