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Saturday, 01 December 2018


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That definition of a photograph is beautiful. One we are losing with the proliferation of screens and devices. There is so much magic in a print. For me they are the primary goal. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy your writing so much is your understanding of the physical print. Your promotion of it through print sales. My question is, how can we continue to promote this notion to current and future generations of photographers?

That "general rule of thumb" should be applied also to the art in our homes and offices.

Not sure sure if this is appropriate but have just watched a fascinating documentary on Satoshi Kuribayashi, an amazing award winning insect photographer. Insects aren't my thing but his gentle philosophy and approach to photography was fascinating as was the equipment he makes and uses. Broadcaster was NHK (Japan ) the series is called the Professionals and can be watched on the net just search for NHK. They tend to repeat their progs so you should be able to pick it up from their schedule for your part of the world. Might take your mind off the stomach flu.

MOMA has a course conducted by Sarah on Coursera that I started but could not finish due to a family tragedy,I'm waiting to get signed up for the next iteration

I've used the terms photograph, image, picture, interchangeably in the past but that definition of photograph is really helpful. What about 'picture' though - that seems to be a broader term that includes painting etc.

OED: "noun. A picture made using a camera, in which an image is focused on to light-sensitive material and then made visible and permanent by chemical treatment, or stored digitally."

The term "image" applies to any painting, drawing, screen print, etching or illustration, whether photographically generated or not, and whether it is digital or not.

What is wrong with the term 'photographic print'?

[I just think we're missing the obvious, and that after another generation has passed, people will accept the obvious as being...well, obvious, and they'll wonder why we didn't. What we do now is fundamentally different because the means of camera-imagemaking have changed so drastically. We're just slow to accept the implications of the differences because our thinking about the matter is already formed and our old ideas are persistent. And our ideas are confused--the clarity of our thinking is fogged--by status concerns. --Mike]

Four years ago my wife and I sold our farm, packed everything worth keeping and put it in storage so we could travel the US and Canada. We are both artists and our walls were covered with the art/photographs we had created over the years. All was packed away and we have not seen any of it for the duration. It was a wonderful experience but we have now come off the road, bought a house and next week the movers will bring all our “stuff” and our art to the house. Having only four-year-old memories of these photographs and paintings I wonder what my reaction to them will be.

"What we do now is fundamentally different because the means of camera-imagemaking have changed so drastically. We're just slow to accept the implications of the differences because our thinking about the matter is already formed and our old ideas are persistent. And our ideas are confused--the clarity of our thinking is fogged--by status concerns."

What I do with both film or digital is fundamentally the same - make images. I have no idea what you mean by status concerns.

Here’s my two cents worth regarding digital images vs prints: a digital image isn’t a photograph, it’s a reproduction of a photograph that is subject to way too many variables to have much of any real meaning. Calling it a photograph is like calling an iPhone image of the Mona Lisa a painting.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Having now listened to the full interview with Sarah Meister, and with more than a little (-ahem-) knowledge of that world, I can confirm that Sarah's remarks represent the best overview of a top art museum curator's roles I've encountered. If anything, she downplays the amount of time that her "Miscellaneous" third job task category can really consume. Research, shopping, and exhibitions/publications represent the sweet spots for art museum curators. But the essential tasks of fund-raising, basic organization management, and legal administrivia can easily consume more than half of one's time.

Rob's comment represents a very common misunderstanding of museums' and curators’ operations, particularly at major public institutions. Exhibitions are damn complex to stage, especially when object loans must be identified and arranged and gallery space is at a premium. I know of no museum, public or private, where the curators can just whimsically tack stuff to a wall and call it a show. There are many parties involved (lenders, painters, electricians, carpenters, signage/graphics, publications, marketing and social media relations, lawyers, etc., etc., etc.) in nearly every show. In my experience even a relatively modest exhibition, not traveling to other venues, requires at least 2 years from conception to preview. Double that for more complex shows, especially travelers.

So yes, an art museum curator’s work features some wonderful moments of fulfillment and gratification. But they are balanced by many hours of just plain hard, and often frustrating, work far away from any glamor. The media being exhibited often hardly matters with regard to the challenges.

"The general rule of thumb, she says, is that if it's exhibited for three months it should be rested in a cool, dark place, with no one looking at it, for a year."

I'm sorry, but this reminds me of the Stratocaster in Nigel Tufnel's guitar vault (in Spinal Tap) that the producer was not allowed to look at (or play, or point at) because it was so precious.

Hi Mike, I am more irked by the blatant kidnapping of English words, whatever the motivation.

As I know you are a fan of Dorthea Lange's "Migrant Mother" photo, I think you will find this article in the World's Best Photography Journal to be interesting as it describes Sarah's search to solve some of the mysteries surrounding that photo.

I think that no individual gets to decide what the words 'image' or 'photograph' refer to in general usage: instead the language will adjust to how things are, as it has always done, and in a couple of decades the meanings will be clear again.

I'll make a small bet (safely so, because this probably won't settle down in my lifetime) that 'photograph' will refer to what she wants to be called 'images' and we will need some other term for physical artifacts when that distinction needs to be made (which might be 'print' or 'photographic print' or 'print of a photograph' or something).

I completely agree that the way we make images with cameras now is more different than people realise to the way they were made in the photochemical era (well, it is for some of us: I'm just on the way to spend the afternoon in the darkroom...). I think that the two things will be seen as increasingly different and we'll need different terms for them, but I don't think that I, or anyone, gets to say what happens to the language: that's the sin of prescriptive linguistics.

Mike, your description of John Gregory Dunne’s book brings to mind Ray Bradbury’s book about adapting Moby Dick to the screen and Larry King’s stories of adaptating “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”. Both are very funny reads of hugely frustrating endeavors.

Thanks for posting the video.


Wow, she's incredibly articulate, plain-spoken, open... I could have listened to twice that much.

Thank you, Mike for The link to a very interesting podcast!

Get well soon! Greetings from Norway.


Off topic:
You can delete this if you want.(I know you have god like power over your blog, but I woudn't mind if you did). On one of your previous article someone posted a link to your sensor size articles from 10 years ago. I think it would make an interesting article basing it on the comments, what us normal people expected from the future and what actually happened. At that time I never thought I would want an expensive Sony camera. Yet here I am saving up to to get one so I can have both high resolution stills and 4K video.
About sufficiency I have been thinking about getting a new camera mounted microphone, and I have been trying to decide between good and better. I know good will serve my needs perfectly, but on some situations better will be very helpful. The thing is I have managed to work without it, using an external mic. But I really want the better one or even the best one wich of course is twice as expensive as the one I should choose.
If we can afford it we want the best, even if we will not requiere it every single time. If I really needed it, I would bite the bullet.
I hope you are feeling much better.


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