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Tuesday, 26 September 2017


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Lately I have been printing Pt/Pd from both film and digital negatives. I think I would be making images somehow no matter when I was born, as I was 80 years ago.

It's not so much about overt welcoming as it is about not being un-welcoming. You don't have to peel the covers very far back in many-a-context to find a vicious nest of misogyny, and I suspect that if you look a little further you'll find a variety of other -isms available for your delectation.

I am informed that photojournalistic social circles can be pretty unpleasant if you don't fit the demographic profile, and so on.

The only problem with women in photography is the same problem of why we only make 70¢ on the dollar compared to men in the same positions with the same experience: systemic misogyny.

This world is built by and for the 49% and much of it is dedicated to keeping the majority 51% of the population down.

Yes, it keeps getting better, but it's not gone by a longshot.

IMHO, cultural conditions remain favorable, but individual rewards are in steady decline. I see it with photographers unable to make a living wage, as well as the declining value proposition in ancillary products and services like workshops, printing and even software (to say nothing of hardware). This seems like a natural result of nearly worldwide "photo literacy," and the rising homogeneity of culture in general (with the requisite fear and backlash aimed at smartphones and the internet, which I think are blameless products of the conditions.)
NB: I am neither a sociologist nor an ambitious and gifted photographer, so nyah.

I can't pretend to have any answers, just idle thoughts of my own. There's a lot more competition out there. More than ever, I think success depends on how well you can market yourself. Guys like Peter Lik and Patrick DiFruscia are great at that, while other photographers who work just as hard at photography and produce (arguably) similar or better results don't have the same market. There are also more opportunities for photographers to make money off other photographers through workshops and eBooks and presets and so on; again, marketing is key. The celebrity culture on the internet makes stars out of photographers who are masters of social media.
All of this strikes me as very depressing, because I'm not the sort to toot my own horn; I'm old fashioned enough to prefer a time when most people were judged on their work and not their self-promotion. Not that I'm looking for recognition (I'm just a hobbyist), but the mere existence of that whole side of the business is unpleasant. An interesting and somewhat related blog post:
The internet affects the market for commercial photography - photographers need to keep up with trends and be masters of video as well as stills, and be comfortable with all sorts of gear, (GoPros and drones and so on).
Fine art might be something of a safe space (just guessing) where you still need to go off to school and pursue a degree in arts and make connections and know who to know; where work is still shown in galleries and hard to find online.
I think the overall sense I get is that photography is just as viable as ever, but maybe for a different breed of photographer.

Like most other fields, now is brilliant for making stuff, and brilliant for sharing it. But lousy for getting rich and famous. ... but then again, was getting rich and famous really good for anybody?

I'm not too sympathetic to the viewpoint that there are too many cameras, too many photographers, etc. today for someone to be successful in photography. For at least one definition of success, which is to make a photograph that is expressive, and touches people, I think today is the best time of all.

Consider writing, like writing actual words to make a story or blog post: we all have the same tools for writing our words, but that hasn't stopped anyone from aspiring to make great literature or to try to make a living by writing. I think it's more that photography used to be hard, and now it's easy, so what your photos are trying to say is more important and more visible now. You can't hide behind technique anymore.

This is not to say that technique is unimportant: far from it as we easily recognize and seek out writers with a facile command of the language since that makes it easier and more enjoyable to read in the first place, and makes what they're saying clearer and easier to comprehend. People who write with bad grammar and syntax, and people who misspell things (all done unintentionally, and clearly unintentionally) leave a pretty bad impression, just like photos taken with poor technique or composed indifferently.

One of the major things that has changed about photography is that more than ever, its immediacy (and plasticity) has been elevated at expense to most else. Photographs now exist solely for the moment, or at least that day's Twitter feed- then on to the next batch tomorrow. It's ability to freeze and reevaluate time for history (its very raison d'être) is now little more than a quaint side effect.

I follow and still enjoy photography and it's been part of most of my adult life. I am now 64 and consider adulthood at around 25 or so. I followed and also admired all the greats of photography such as Jay Maisel, Elliot Porter, John Sexton, Paul Capnigro, Wynn Bullock, Pete Turner, Olivia Parker, Gary Winogrand, Joel Meyerowitz, Michael Kenna, George Tice and yes Ansel Adams. To be honest I can't name one current photographer besides perhaps the Turnley brothers who inspire me or can be considered masters of their art. The internet has diluted everything; everyone has a website or a blog. I think the golden age of photography has slipped by us all and I consider myself fortunate that I was at least witness to some of it.

Hi Mike;

When thinking about Vivian Maier, consider that she didn't
want others looking at her pictures. Is it possible that she
accomplished exactly what she set out to do? She may have been upset at publication of her work? People always assume
that an artist wants exposure and fame. I don't think this
is always the case. Vivian isn't around so, we can't ask

Josef Koudelka said he kept a huge body of his work
unseen for years. When visiting a painter friend in his studio,
there were finished canvases facing the wall. They were not
to be seen by visitors. I think they made their way into
shows but, maybe not all of them. I don't know. My friend
passed on so, I won't know.

I'm not quiet as secretive as some. Almost all my commercial
work has been published in one form or another over many
years. Seeing my work in mass print isn't a big deal. I
got over it long ago when I worked for a small weekly paper.
I've had a few galleries handle my personal stuff over the years so, no biggie there, unless I sell a bunch.

My current personal project is in it's third or forth year, I'm not
counting. About five people have seen small bits of it. My friend and printer has seen almost all of it. I have no immediate plans for sharing. It's my stuff, my experiment; I'll give friends a look sometime.. maybe. It's something I'm making for myself. If it were a sculpture and I kept it at home, few would see it. But, because it's photography and, because it's so easy to share, it's what's expected.

You're well read, what would (did?) McLuhan say about photography in the web world? I think he predicted some form of mass sharing?

I was at a photography exhibition today, and then at a print exhibition (prints from before photography) - and I was thinking how difficult for anyone to photograph people nowadays, at least in the UK. Everyone has been photographed; everyone has seen endless photos of other people in photographs; everyone is past the point of being able to be seen unposed.

"Michael Jordan wouldn't have been a great basketball player if he had been born in 1763 instead of 1963, for example—for the simple reason that basketball hadn't been invented yet."

There is a simpler reason - I think we all know what would have happened to a black baby born in 1763.

[It's quite possible a black child born in that time would have been a slave, but it's also at least possible he wouldn't have been--according to Alan Taylor's book "American Colonies" ( http://amzn.to/2xBsczS ), up to 25% of the slaves in Colonial times were Native Americans, and the treatment of blacks fluctuated up and down--in some places and times in the colonies there was something like tolerance, and there were many free blacks, including black merchants and tradesmen and even plantation owners, if you can believe that. And then typically there would be a backlash, and a period of tolerance would be followed by a cycle of oppression. He says it was neither a steady state nor a linear progression. Anyway I'm no expert, but according to that book we moderns have an overly simplistic view of culture and race in those times. --Mike]

At one time there were filters for the practice of photography -- you actually had to know some things before you could produce a reasonable photograph, even if all the post-shot work was done through Kodak mailers. Now, there are no filters. I went to a Wilco concert this evening and I suspect that everybody in the audience took at least one shot with his or her cell phone, and because we were in a dark space and I was halfway back in the audience, I could see on their screens what people in front of me were getting, and it wasn't bad. Further, a lot of it was instantly shared, or, to use another word, published. My wife sent a shot to her girlfriend in Minnesota, so there's that to consider -- instant free distribution.

I think the concept of photography as a *field* may be breaking down. It's now available to anyone and we regularly see cell phone shots on national news programs...and a lot of those shots are pretty good. In other art forms, you still generally have to know something, or be able to do something -- dance, act, write, design buildings, mix paint, sculpt, play an instrument or sing. That's no longer true of photography in the widest sense.

So here's a question: if we were to have a nationwide contest for the best photograph taken each day, how many would have been taken by professionals or advanced amateurs, and how many would have been taken by totally uninterested amateurs who happened to push the button at the right time? My money would be on the latter.

That would not be the case with any of the other arts.

A few thoughts: There is nothing new about amateurs taking better photos than professionals. The history of photography includes the history of vernacular photography and the boundaries between the two are so vague that even talking in this manner is misleading. See Vivian Maier or Atget.

Photography has had several fistfights with Art and they highlight something important: Photography is not Art. This is a lesson photography keeps teaching us. The Art that is created with it is hardly out of steam and won't be for as long as photographs continue to be central to our culture.

Lastly, photography is itself a product of history. We are all much more the product of historical contingency then we'd like to admit. As such, the language that the early adopters and creators develop have a large influence on future practitioners, even when it's not conscious. This is the Anxiety of Influence where we belated souls resent the luck of those privileged few. Interestingly this creates its own momentum.

John Camp's comment: "So here's a question: if we were to have a nationwide contest for the best photograph taken each day, how many would have been taken by professionals or advanced amateurs, and how many would have been taken by totally uninterested amateurs who happened to push the button at the right time? My money would be on the latter."

This goes the the argument made in "Photography and the Art of Chance" by Robin Kelsey


Mike mentioned that he was reading it back in 2016


but never said anything more about it (other than "loving, probably because I agree with so much of it").

I too found it an interesting book.

Photography is unique in the arts as it mixes chance and planning in producing a final result. Often both have an impact.

Saul Steinberg once said about the American culture that it was very childish. Grown ups wearing clothes to play in: jeans and T-shirts, listening to pop music and eating food that in Italy only was served to children. (He wasn’t even referring to hamburgers and coke but to spaghetti with balls).

That was half a century ago. Now the whole world adopted the children's culture and started wearing jeans and eating fast food. Last week I overheard two men who are over fifty and well educated discussing the latest Madonna album! Their conclusion: a waste of time. Aha, good to know!

Pleasure, convenience, simplicity and speed are important key words of our times. That doesn’t mean that things got worse in general, but it certainly influences the way we communicate. Where once text, typography, design, illustration, photography and printing was reserved to specialists, everyone now can produce and distribute his own in seconds. More than in the Middle Ages we can imagine ourselves being the centre of the universe.

Creating before researching, analyzing, thinking and planning is the hallmark of amateurism. Our culture is full of it. Of course there is still a lot of quality, also in photography. The thing is that the amount of pulp increased so much. Getting older means getting better in shutting yourself off from the rubbish. I'm getting pretty good at it, with the exception of music. We live in a free world but I firmly plea for a prohibition on auto-tuned bathroom productions.

"For instance, isn't it true that Kanye West can neither play any traditional instruments nor sing? And Jeff Koons has apprentices actually make his sculptures."

I'm not sure these examples help your point… A lot of popular music hasn't relied on instrument or voice skill for, what, 30 years, give or take? Someone can make great, and successful, popular music using other skills; they're still skills. And the same for contemporary art - the named artist might be a great draughtsperson but could still create brilliant art without demonstrating that. Neither West or Koons are unskilled, untrained amateurs in their field in the way a complete non-photographer snapping with their iPhone is.

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