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Sunday, 22 February 2015


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Home TV is becoming old hat. You need to know what people look at on their smartphones. Why? Because people are your customers. Lik is selling red ghosts in canyons to people who go to Las Vegas with money they can lose. You need to know who to sell TOP products to in order to survive, so watch out.

Mike wrote, " I'll be rooting for that, but insofar as it's the only nominee I've seen, I don't think my vote counts."

The only vote that really counts is the one signified by a paid ticket.

Determined, single minded, often sociopathic individuals will find a way to make themselves rich somehow, someway no matter what it takes- if that's all that matters in their lives. It's the first thing I thought before reading he pretty much admits to same. Is he an artist? No more than than the local camera guy taking cat portraits for the neighbors, he's just found a way to literally make millions at it.

We laugh at him, he laughs at us. He's filthy rich, we're not. He's not an artist, and we're...

I've seen Peter Lik's work in his Aspen gallery, and I have to admit I was stunned by the prices of the images given that most of the landscapes were not particularly compelling. Peter Lik is living proof that marketing and self-promotion are the most important elements of success in contemporary photography.

As I was somewhere in the middle of watching Nebraska, I began to question myself.

Maybe, I thought, the human race is just a blot on the planet and the Universe, and it would be better if we just died off.

The motivations and actions of most of the characters, most of the time, are either opaque or distasteful to me.

Say that's just how people are, and:

1. I circle back to my second sentence.

2. That is not my experience of life. My family is not like that. I know so many people and have so many wonderful friends who aren't like that.

Fortunately, it was only a movie. It ended. Depression lifted, and I was released back into a world of color, both literally and figuratively.

I think it's better to not get too caught up in the mill...


There's so much now that's there for a brief moment and then just disappears, with really no more value than a shared cultural experience: something to talk about, to fill the void for a few moments. It's definitely better to be out of touch with some things.

A few things transcend. The longer you wait, the easier it is to focus just on those things, and I believe the less we're caught up in the mill, the easier it is to see with clear eyes.


Oliver Sacks' essay was beautiful. The Roy DeCarava article was nice, too. That photo of the trumpet player kills me every time... there's just so much there.


"People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy."


Or, in summary:

"...and it was shot in...uh...oh, never mind, I'm gonna get a reputation."

Actually Mike, it was shot in color digital and converted to "uh...oh, never mind".

Both versions were released for television—the "uh...oh, never mind" version is IMO, far better.

It's not binary; not "a part of culture", or not.

Oh, and don't forget sports.

But given the music you listen to, no, I don't think you're really much a part of modern culture.

Me neither; not very much. And yet I do often have things to talk about with random other people at work, for example. So I'm apparently somewhat more connected to the same culture as those co-workers than I would be in, say, China (or make it Japan, China isn't usually considered "first world").

Q: "How the heck is this guy selling?" (Peter Lik)


A.1: He's selling. Not "showing", not getting his "portfolio" reviewed. He's selling.

A.2: He seems to know that average people want to buy what they understand and he knows where they're most likely to buy it. He is not encumbered by conceptual significance or artistic precedence.

I think the answer to your question is "it depends". It depends upon what part of the First World culture you want to dive into... Movies can be viewed through the lens (pun intended) of culture but they can also be viewed just as a way to while away a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon eating popcorn with your fellow human beings.

A good example, culturally, is the recent film "American Sniper" directed by Clint Eastwood. This film is not a documentary but given the timing of its release, the tragic ending of Chris Kyle (the true life "American Sniper") depicted in the film (including the ongoing trial for the ex-soldier accused of murdering him), the care of veterans in this country, Mr. Eastwood's indirect comments on the Iraq war, and the Oscar buzz it has been getting says something about the "culture wars" happening today in the US.

Separately, as you may know, you don't need a TV to watch movies and TV shows. Having a fast Internet connection, a relatively modern computer (or tablet or smart phone) combined with an Amazon prime or Netflix subscription (and soon HBO online) is all you need.

After the missus and I moved into an apartment 9 years ago we just never got around to getting cable. Besides, we have an internet connection and almost any thing you might want to take a look at, entertainment wise, comes in on that wire. Can't say I've missed TV, because I haven't.

The Peter Lik thing. I agree, "How the heck is this guy selling?" I read the piece before I came here and browsed through his website. Given the price this guy gets and the quality of the work, tells me there's a lot of people with more money than taste. I'm no expert, but I though his work was way over cooked and "okay" at best. Boggles.

I appreciated Boyhood for the remarkable achievement that it was. But really, was it that good of a movie? I really think it's getting all the praise due to how it was made, and it's not being judged on it's merit alone. I was really underwhelmed by it.

My 2 cents.

That Boyhood photo annoys the heck out of me, as does any picture that has been rotated.

It's a very common practice by thoughtless art directors to mess with a photo to make it fit, look better, look more conventional, and so on. Flipping left to right is even more common; so easy to do and no one notices until the client cancels the account because the billboard photographs displayed their logos in mirror-writing.

The Boyhood rotation is acceptable I guess if it is intended as some sort of metaphor for pre-adolescent upheavals and all that. But I suspect that it is a committee decision based on, " Hey that kid looks weird upside down. Get the artist to flip it over will ya"?

Anyway, I feel that rotating the photograph 180º back to the original perspective makes for a stronger statement about boyhood, which is likely to have been the original photographer/art director's intention.

If the shot was directly overhead, with the camera vertical and shot from more than 4 metres, then rotating does no harm. But this shot wasn't and it does.

The Teju Cole piece reaffirmed my faith in photography after reading about the Peter Lik guy.

Can one not watch movies and not watch TV and still be a part of culture in the modern First World?

A person who does not watch movies and TV might miss certain cultural references of the moment, but I don't think it means they've removed themselves from the culture of the country in which they live. Still less from the culture of the modern First World, elements of whose culture are shared across countries, but mostly not movies and TV. TV tends to be, broadly speaking, country-specific. Movies too, but perhaps less so.

The biggest box-office success in France in 2014 ('Qu'est-ce qu'on a fait au Bon Dieu') was a film about a family whose four daughters marry people from other cultures. It was not released in the USA.

Does one remove oneself from world culture by missing an international box-office success such as 'The Hobbit' or 'Spiderman'? I think not. Or by not watching TV programmes that have hit it big internationally, such as 'The Wire' or 'Sherlock Holmes'? Being part of a culture means internalizing its various layers and merely removing movies or TV has no significant effect, though it could mean that you would not be part of certain subcultures.

When people brag about watching zero TV, I wonder how they cannot find a few things they like among the thousands of shows,... And I think of the Residents "ignorance of your culture is not considered cool"
Life is short, be a sponge!

Living in Cairns, Queensland where Lik had a gallery and lived here up until the move to the USA, i am always amused with the whole Peter Lik thing. His main motivation and talent seems to be the pursuit of money, and self promotion, albeit through the medium of photography. Photographically he is an excellent imitator. Many of his photos are blatant copies of other more original work, and was an ongoing cause of annoyance for some photographers such as Ken Duncan here in Australia, who Lik initially copied even as far as the "gallery" business model. I have met a few people here who worked for him in various roles and none of the portrayals or stories are very flattering. Around the time he embarked for richer pastures he apparently employed an assistant who's sole job for one year was to enter his photographs into every photo competition in the world that they could find. Not surprisingly from a statistical viewpoint, this worked to make him "the most awarded photographer on the planet" or however he claims it. There isn't room for anyone else but Peter Lik in his world. Even this type of negative press (at least to many it is) will have little effect on his bottom line, after all anyone who can't see his work for art is obviously just part of the elitist art world. You've gotta give it to the guy though, he's got king sized cojones.

I saw "Timbuktu" (up for Best Foreign Film) last weekend, and thought it was excellent. A good story about jihadis taking over the town, the subtle resistance by the locals, with a classic French existentialist film ending. I'm fortunate to live within walking distance of a couple of very good theaters, as I prefer to see films on the big screen instead of on a TV or (God help us) an iThing.

If you want to watch a beautiful movie shot in 4:3 & black and white and where almost every shot deserves a pause & consideration, watch Ida.

...and don't forget -- Leica have already picked up an Oscar this year for its line of cine lenses.

Your question: "—can you not watch movies and not watch TV and still be a part of culture in the modern First World?"
Twenty years ago the answer probably would have been NO. Today, the internet has replaced and absorbed much of the preceeding generation's means of social and informational input and interaction.So the answer is YES, you can be connected without movie theaters and TV, or even print newspapers (which are still useful for starting fires in the fireplace).

Thanks for the link to the Peter Lik article. I'd done a little searching and found similar stories - ex-employees of the galleries talking about how they were instructed to hard sell people who walked into the gallery on the investment potential of the prints. And I also stumbled across a sorry picture in the extensive listings on artnet.
I don't watch TV (I see a little now & again) but I love movies. I thought Nebraska was great. There were plenty of elements of truth in those characters. I never quite settled with the b&w look. Not because it's b&w (I liked the b&w portrayals in Schindler's List and The Artist better, though I thought Nebraska was a much better movie than The Artist). I'm not sure if it's the look (low contrast) or because the movie takes place in modern times. Anyway, it (b&w) didn't work for me, but it's still one of the best movies I've seen in a while, despite that.

Regarding this Lik character, I remembered William Plante, who sold a lot of large color photos back in the 1980s, using kiosks at airport terminals, etc. His photo factory, where the photos of landscapes, seascapes, old cars and historical sites were printed , matted, and framed was located in a suburb of Detroit, not too far from my home. There was a lot of outrage because he wasn't a "photographer", his photos were just pretty, and they were not sold in galleries. He made a fair amount of money anyway, which probably was the real issue to his detractors. It was pure marketing, which Lik has ratcheted up way higher than Plante. I saw a couple of Plante's prints hanging in a public building a few years back. They looked like C-prints and the fluorescent lighting in the halls where they hung had faded them in a particularly grotesque way. You can find them on eBay, where the reserve prices are optimistic. You can often buy them for pretty much the value of the framing.

I do often wonder if I waste time watching TV, but when I see programs like Foyle's War, Silent Witness, Life on Earth, Edge of Darkness and the forthcoming Wolf Hall dramatisation, I consider myself privileged. This is not vapid time filling, this is fine drama, wonderful writing, brilliant acting. I also feel privileged to have watched The West Wing - I've watched it twice and I probably will again. Sons of Liberty is showing here at the moment. I'm learning things about early American history that I didn't know.

No, I fully agree that fine music and books are probably more rewarding. I rarely want to read a book more than once, but I listen to good music repeatedly, discovering new aspects all the time. Some TV is definitely worth watching and you need a TV to do it. You won't see programs like these at the cinema. Movies go a maximum of three hours - many TV drama series are six hours or more.

To quote P. T. Barnum:

"Every crowd has a silver lining".

The number of people with money and no taste is comparable with the number of people with taste and no money. Either will far exceed the number of people with both.

"There's a sucker born every minute", may be the silent motto of many salesman, although not actually attributed to Barnham but one of his competitors.

Or perhaps this one, from a sales training course I was forced to go on in order to be a service partner for a particular company:

"Customers don't want to be educated, they want to be convinced they were right all along".

If Mr Lik were a corporation, he would be very successful and highly respected. As an artist, he is execrable.

But then so is Facebook as a piece of software.

I rest my case.

Don't have a TV - it's so 20th Century. I watch TV and movies via the Internet.

From a long piece by Raymond Chandler March 1, 1948 ...

It doesn't really seem to make much difference how the voting is done. The quality of the work is still only recognized in the context of success. A superb job in a flop picture would get you nothing, a routine job in a winner will be voted in. It is against this background of success-worship that the voting is done, with the incidental music supplied by a stream of advertising in the trade papers (which even intelligent people read in Hollywood) designed to put all other pictures than those advertised out of your head at balloting time.


A sensible piece and evidence of Chandler's great writing skills. If you're short on time, at least read the second paragraph in part II.

Lubeski used a few Leica lenses on Birdman, that's right, but to me, it was his seamless use of different light sources and his handling of the camera that made the film. I don't care too much for Gonzales Iñarritu designed for the oscar film...

Go see Mr. Turner.

Glad to hear you enjoyed Nebraska. We are big Alexander Payne fans at our house.
The photography in Nebraska made me think of Wright Morris which is to say I loved it.

Re: Peter Lik

The quotes this guy gave the reporter are unbelievable (“Just a nice shot of Yosemite,” Mr. Lik said, summing up Adams’s work. “Right place at the right time.” and “Just a nice shot of Yosemite,” Mr. Lik said, summing up (Ansel) Adams’s work. “Right place at the right time.”

He is like the Michael Scott of photography (albeit far richer).

Several years ago, The Weather Channel ran "From the Edge with Peter Lik" showing him getting his photos. I thought the videography documenting the locations, the approach, setup, and various other aspects was very interesting. The final photographs? Not so much.

One additional note: To get a dust-filled column of light that is so popular in Antelope Canyon requires that someone grab a handful of sand and throw it in the air—repeatedly—to get the desired effect. The side effect, of course, is the chamber becomes filled with dust that annoys the non photographers. And don't try to change a lens in that environment!

Late to this thread, but:

I'd say that these days if you don't have a way of watching TV (Internet streaming is fine), you're not so much missing out on culture as you are on storytelling art.

A lot of the best storytelling around is on TV now (vastly more than in studio movies), and many of the novelists I know, including some bestselling ones, are feverishly trying to figure out how to get into TV. The 4th season of The Wire is one of the top 5 most moving works of art I've ever experienced.

Who needs TV as long as there's radio?

I watch very little series television, at least not while it happens. I like to watch shows that are already over, especially if the long-term critical reception is overwhelmingly positive (although this is not a 100% reliable criteria). The last show I really watched was THE WIRE. The next one I watch will have to be about as good to be worth my time, so I figure I have some time before that happens.

Movies I like though. They require people to distill narratives to just the most critical parts in order to be effective. It's sort of like photography. When it works I find it more enjoyable and less time consuming than television, even good television, which tends to get bogged down in its extended narratives.

Anyway, the way pop culture works these days you don't actually have to see any of this stuff to figure out what's going on. It saturates the air around you. Even small children do this with movies and TV that they've never seen. You'd only be cut off if you really were not paying attention to *anything*.

I haven't had a TV since the early 1990s. Netflix on my computer works for me. Lots of good stuff out there. iTunes has Better Call Saul and True Detective. Michael Connelly's BOSCH TV show is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Is there a Fuckin' Flowers series be in our future? Sure hope so!

I too, read the NYT piece on Mr. Lik. I would hope that I can travel through the rest of my life without succumbing to the multitude of Mr. Liks that exist out there.

It is not so hard to understand how he sells. He understands and accepts the strong human desire to be "with it." Instead of complaining about it, he has decided to run with it.

It recalls to mind something Ctein wrote in one of his pieces a while back. I think, in part, it included something about "accepting things as they are, rather than as they should be."

Peter Lik quite clearly understands that successful commercial photography is 90% marketing and 10% photography.

His customers don't care about social commentary, artist statements, or true artistic or editorial value.

Yes, his work could be critically dismissed as "just a postcard."

Guess what? Lots of people like postcards. They want something that is pretty to look at to hang on a blank wall.

Marketing is all about the value proposition, for some folks, his work creates enough of a value proposition to sell at those prices, just as for others, they feel it is a value proposition to spend $50,000 on a 2-channel preamplifier.

Someone mentioned this but it's worth elaborating: anyone who appreciates fine black and white photography will want to see Ida, though it's subject matter is very difficult emotionally and morally.

For the most part Ida is told through still, square (actually "Academy rectangle", the new square?), exquisite black and white compositions. A friend called it "photography porn". Like every other photographer I know who saw it, I had to fight the temptation to pause or rewind in order to drink in the stunning compositions.

Yes, it's stunning to the point of detriment and distraction, at least for some. Ida is otherwise a masterful evocation of unbearable tragedy and sorrow. On the one hand, it's harder to attend the intense, quiet, concentrated and sad tale while gaping at the artistry. On the other hand, the visual artistry is probably how I could bear to witness the story it told. Within a few minutes of the film's start, I'd decided to watch the film again; when it was over, I wanted never to go through the experience again.

Given the intensity of the original experience, and some of the filmmaking decisions, I'm not sure how well Ida will hold up over time, or repeat viewings. But it is quite the tour de force.

Depends on what you mean by "modern First World culture". TV / high def. internet video is essential for keeping up with "celebrities", water-cooler discussions of TV shows, and fads. Is that "modern FW culture"? My TV is a video playback device that gets used to see "glorious black and white" old movies and obscure "art house" narrative and documentary movies available from the local public library - and I have to say the only Oscars I pay attention to are the nominee lists for foreign and documentary movies. I don't have cable. I read. I listen to music. My selections are not typically "mass market". I read the news. I'd be lousy at traditional marketing, and I am hard to market to by traditional mass-market means.

I took my son to our dentist this morning (four teeth pulled, he handled it like a trooper) in her new office space. There in the waiting room was a sparkling new, print of the sun rising over the grand canyon. I had my suspicions, and couldn't make out the signature, but the number xxx/995 was a dead giveaway. When I asked her, she confirmed that it was by Peter Lik and that it was expensive but her husband convinced her to get it.

Here's the thing - it's not art (whatever that is), but it works very well as a decoration, albeit an overpriced decoration. The dentist also liked it because the picture was taken from a spot she had been to herself. Like Kenneth Tanaka wrote above, Lik is providing a product that people want and his marketing scheme succeeds in getting people to pay a lot for this product. Kind of like Thomas Kincade, but with a camera.

Glad you saw at least two good movies in the last year. As it happens my column last Sunday was about the Oscars they did not award. It is astonishing when you look at what the voters have missed over the years. I loved both Birdman and Boyhood - different kinds of movies, both fantastic achievements.
Anyway, for a little perspective, if you are interested:
Best to all the TOP readers, cognoscenti one and all.

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