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Friday, 23 May 2014


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As Amazon slikes to say "if you like that you may also like" Gerry Badger writings about photography.

He writes about "the documentary mode" (as opposed to "the directorial mode") but he has a broad minded critique of a wide range of art and vernacular photography.

The Pleasures of Good Photographs: Essays. New York: Aperture, 2010 is back in print.

The Genius of Photography. London: Quadrille, 2007 is an excellent overview of (mostly realist) photography in the 29th century (mostly). The associated TV series (that's on DVD) is worth watching too. Not your average "history of photography" but a typical BBC Four documentary series. It will make you think. There is overlap and differences between the two forms of the same story.

And, of course, Gery Badger has three volumes about the The Photobook (cowritten and researched with Martin Parr) from Phaidon which are woth a look.

He also has some of his writing on his website (unfortunatly not all of it, a bit of pain when it's an introduction of his in a rather rare photobook that one wants to read).


P.S. Even better you can read Gerry Badger writing about Paul Graham in 1994 to get a feel for his work.


It gives a good feeling for Badger's general stance navigating the murky waters of left/right, political/apolitical, documentary/directorial, modernist/post-modernist, and humanist/conceptual in photography.

And he writes in genuine English. Not International Art English.

Art’s content will forever be a continuum of interpretations. What I experience when viewing Stephen Shore’s “deadpan image of a crossroads in El Paso,” is not what everyone else experiences during the elucidation moment of essence (if it is there at all). Paul’s disappointment regarding the art world’s interpretation of a particular genre of photography makes me want to shout: “What would you expect from the status quo, Paul?” The elucidation moment of essence in regards to Shore’s photo, is like breathing the same air while standing at a different set of crossroads, but not everyone in the art world gets it.

(Great articles by the way.)

I will have a preliminary announcement about some planned changes soon.

Hi Mike,

If a transfer to WordPress is one of the alternatives you're considering, please take note that WordPress requires commenters to register.

This won't be a problem for 99.996% of your 30K readers who follow TOP but haven't commented yet. All they have to do is change their TOP bookmark.

As for the 600+ TOP readers who comment "regularly" (like me), many of us who have commented at least once in a WordPress blog will have registered already. Some of them may even own a WordPress blog. (Mine is at Blogger.) WordPress requires first time commenters to register for a WordPress username (if they are not WordPress bloggers).

If TOP should move to WordPress, the one glitch regular TOP commenters may encounter is this: The name ("handle") they have been using to sign their comments (in TOP.typepad now and/or TOP.blogger, then) may not survive the migration to WordPress, if they haven't been there before. (I recognized a few regular TOP commenters who are using their TOP handles commenting in a WordPress blog. Good for them.)

In my case, my handle which I thought was unique, had already been taken. I had to register for a unique WordPress username (akasarge) just so I can comment (for the first time last week) in a WordPress blog (Ming Thein's).

Sometime ago, you polled us whether we'd rather register or hurdle CAPTCHA before we can comment on TOP. A plurality (44%) of us indicated we wouldn't mind registering. You opted for CAPTCHA, and I don't think that made a dent on the number of TOP comments, subsequently.

If TOP migrates to WordPress, the latter will do the filtering for you. Even if we have to use a different handle, I think registering for a unique WordPress username is just another hurdle TOP regular commenters can very well take in their stride. It's just that some of us feel proprietorial about our handles and would wish to continue signing our comments using our TOP handle, even if it's not unique.*

Compared to not being able to comment at all because of intermittent denial-of-service outages, I think this is a small price to pay. (We can still sign using our TOP handles in the Comment Window itself. WordPress automatically ID's you with your unique username before your comment.) Speaking for myself, I'll continue to follow TOP to the ends of the world.w.w.

Just a heads-up.

*Many regular TOP commenters share the same handles or first names which Typepad's blog software allows. We have many a[n] Adam, Al[l]an Andrea[s], Andrew, Andy, Ben, Bill, Bob, Chris, Dan, Dave, David, Ed, Jack, James, Jim, John, Mark, Michael, Mike, Paul, Peter, Richard, Rob, Robert, Rod, Roger, Sam, Scott, Stephen, Steve, Tim, Tom, Tony, Will, William. "John" is the most popular; "Michael" a close second. {g}

Thank you for this, Mike. Paul's remarks in this 2010 talk at MoMA represent my thoughts and feelings on the subject of photography word-for-word.

>...or tarred with a semi-derogatory 'documentary' tag.

Interesting. I often feel that I have taken a "good" photograph when it is visually gripping but does not document the scene very well.

It is a perennial problem - is photography art. A lot of galleries and curators still think not and as far as I can tell it is mechanical aspect of the process that puts them off - i.e. it is possible to re-produce works ad infinitum. In Western Australia we have the State Gallery which will show photographic work and collects it, but the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, whose mandate is to be on the cutting edge of the art world will not touch it and in 25 years has never had a photographic exhibition. Funnily enough they do show video installations. Even Universities are now conflicted. A while ago universities in Australia had their photographic program housed within the Visual Arts faculties. However over the last few years it has now fallen under the term of Creative Industries and is linked to graphic design, video game making and film. So in a sense it has been seen as more of a commercial activity and demoted from its art status.

I find it quite frustrating in many ways as the inconsistency means that it is very difficult to know how to market work. Is it fine art or is indeed just a decorator item? The funny thing is that in some markets overseas my work is considered art and is held in a few collections. At home because photography is not considered generally a fine art form it isn't and it is very difficult to sell for realistic prices. People will buy a 20x16 here for less than $100 while overseas I can sell for nearly ten times that much.

So is photography art? Well it all very much depends upon whom you talk to.

A quote from Edward Burtynsky in a recent interview with Geoff Manaugh, at Venue:

"I just came back from a conference on the future of photography, where we had an interesting conversation around this. One of the curators of a museum in Switzerland had invited students from any art school, anywhere in the world to submit work to be included in a survey of photography of the new generation. The one thing that was consistent in 1,200 submissions was that not one of the students was showing anything that had to do with spontaneity. Spontaneity was gone completely.

There were no pictures with light coming through the glass on the table or a Robert Frank kind of street photograph or a decisive moment photograph—nothing like that at all. It was all very staged and all very deliberate—not photography as the act of seeing the world or reacting to seeing the world, but rather a photography of crafting things in the studio. We didn’t find one that varied from that, which I thought was fascinating."

The complete interview is here:

Interesting reading. Articulate and well thought out. Kind of like his work.

I come at photography from a different angle I think. I consider myself to be an artist. I have an exhibition record and people have written about my work. One of the things I have come to learn over the years is that, to turn things around, (and yes, over simplify a lot), is that also, often, the photography world doesn't get the art world. When I'm showing work or giving talks or lectures I have noticed that the questions I get asked often split into two areas, why? and how?

The people who want to know why are more interested in the work and the thought process behind the creation of it. The how people want to know camera, lens, paper, printer, ink, is it a silver print etc. These people are much more impressed by technical mastery than by a well realised concept, and are more forgiving of a well printed image that might be conceptually weak than the other group is of visually weaker, but conceptually stronger work.

Whose right here? Technique over ideas, or ideas over technique? Neither I think, but very strong arguments can be made for both sides.

For me, I place people like Eggleston, Frank and Winogrand up there with the Dutch genre painters of the 19th Century. And as Burtynsky noted in the comment above, a lot of student work is becoming more and more studio focused, and the craft of the work is becoming more and more important. Sugimoto talks about the "indecisive moment" in his work, this is something that seems to be being embraced by a lot of young artists these days. These artists are getting back to the tradition of studio painters. While the street photographers continue their "plein air" work.

Only eight responses. I am surprised at how little this subject resonates.

Paul Graham's essay states exactly what I feel about my own practice of taking to the outdoors and making photographs. Except written with an eloquence and fluidity I don't possess.


I tried to comment the day this appeared but couldn't get beyond the scrambled letters, despite many tries.

My comment (considerably shorter than the original, wherever that may be) related to the issue Paul Graham made so well: photography as record of places. What struck me was how it relates to the muddled commentary made years ago by Susan Sontag in her "On Photography." I've been rereading it recently because I like to find new comments I can make (to myself) about her pretentiousness. She also had a lot to say about "Art" and photography as art. Graham has said in a paragraph what she spent an entire book trying to deny and decry. Congratulations to him.

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