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Sunday, 15 November 2020


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A signature on a photograph adds some authenticity and a bit of class. When I see a photograph on a wall, and there is that small black subtle signature on the lower right, it adds something to the image. It becomes part of it. The edition number is purse BS. It really doesn’t matter how many prints of a photograph are made because they all look the same and the viewer will get as much joy looking at any of them. Galleries insist on edition numbers (low ones) to maintain high prices and attract the interest of collectors. I sometimes wonder how many prints of a 1/15 edition are really printed.

As we get ready to move soon to a smaller house, I was looking earlier today at a couple of boxes of prints from a long while back. There are so many printed photos out there in the world at large. Unlike digital, they take effort to recycle or discard. Most photos hold no meaning for anyone but the photographer. So what happens to the prints - stacks and stacks of dead trees - when the photographers move or, inevitably, die?

Print in newspaper and then wrap the fish. Lol I like it. I’ll share a little secret that will be sacrilege to many. Mixed in with my digital shootIng is B&W film in 3 different formats. I take great care when practicing my development process providing clean, dust and spot free negatives. I scan the negatives, save the better shots and share them on an ancient photo forum I have been a member of for years, or upload them to my phone and iPad Then I eventually throw most of them away because no one will give a ats rass about them when I die and will just trash them for me anyway.

I will never be a noted photographer and at this point it would just be a pretentious ego trip to be considered one. I am not a pro just an enthusiast and am happy to be just that.

Years ago Tom Wolfe's "The Painted Word" argued, among others things, that galleries, wealthy collectors,and critics were deciding what was the in thing. Wolfe himself stated in effect, that being anti-bourgeoisie was mattered. How dare a commoner like myself look at Warhol's Campbell Soup Cans and think, so what. Today, the internet is full of "influencers" whose sole purpose is one of promotion. As we have all seen for the last four years, people will buy almost anything if it is well marketed. I believe that is true for photography. I won't even pretend to know what art is or is not. I'll only admit to being pretty sure cow manure smells no matter how it is packaged.


I think the way to think about this is to think of pictures as a language. A bit like words. Some words are worth enshrining and publishing. Many words are not. Which ones are which is a question of resonance, not proportion.

And it's not so much the pictures. It's it the feeling, the idea, the provocation, the memory or the poem – and the fidelity of expression – that we revere?

The language (pictures, words, musical notes) and the mode of reverence (wall, book, hall, treasured folded-up scrap of paper stuck in the back of a book) vary depending on what's being said, heard, seen or felt, and by who, and to whom.

Why not celebrate the chosen few for what they can do best- outlive us all...

I think that people worry too much about stuff like this. People talk all the time too, but we don't worry much about the worth of great oration. There are libraries full of books containing great thoughts, but that doesn't people writing drivel on the interweb. So now we take a lot of pictures that no one sees. There are countless negatives in landfill sites all over the place and we don't worry about them.

It seems that we already have a better system than museums - given that almost all of these photos are taken and shared digitally, we already have platforms for quickly scrolling through hundreds or thousands of photos a day from the convenience of our own couches. Furthermore they are easily broken down into areas of interest by categories (say local food snaps), or directly shared with your own friends/family, so that many of these billions of photos actually have a chance of reaching their intended audience. Most of them might be trivial or throwaway, but somehow many of those reach the people that might like to see them still. Trying to relate this type of mass digital communication to a building like a museum is really an apples and oranges problem, you're looking at two different planes of photographic existence!

Of course there is also a subset of pictures which may be 'museum worthy' and would benefit from a public, physical show. Somehow I assume though that it was always hard to get a museum show, and I was never likely to achieve it anyway! The sharing of photos may have become democratised, but museum galleries were always the upper tier. Perhaps aiming to get into a physical gallery is harder than ever now given the increased competition?!

Your comments on the volume of photography produced today rang a bell.
I am just reading A New History of Photography by Michel Frizot (translated very well from the French). In it Frizot mentions Baudelaire writing in 1859, a pamphlet criticizing photography after the advent of the Carte de Visite. Nothing changes.
He mentions Narcissus and and the mass of humanity seeking an identity.

Until the iPhone got the wide (ultra wide if you ask me) I thought “I can still get pictures the iPhone can’t !” But it looks like once the iPhone gets a telephoto camera (a real telephoto! About 100mm) it will be the death of the camera industry. And what it can do handheld in lowlight! Wow! A reviewer said he can get better pictures (slightly) with a tripod and his real camera. But that’s not what he carries in his pocket. Apparently the Lidar actually helps a lot with the bokeh (trade mark Michael Johnston) by delineating better what should be in focus according to the distance. Where even my old (5 years old) camera is better is in the megapixels ( great when and if I decide to print) and because I have more lenses available. Everything else the phone does better. The price of admission is a little steep if you ask me, but for many, it’s all the computer they need.
By the way, have you looked at those recent 360 degrees cameras? I decided I want to get into making 360 panoramas. I got a proper panorama head, and started look for a good lens. Guess what, one of the best (and cheapest) options was the old Canon 15mm f2.8 full frame fisheye. Extremely sharp, even wide open. It fits very well with my old 50mm macro f2.5 and an old 35mm f2.

Photographs are the new phone calls. (How many phone calls have you (i.e., y'all) saved, printed, framed, and worshipped lately?) Etc.

Meanwhile, there's some mighty good eavesdropping to be had at "The 2020 International Juried Show at the Center of Photographic Arts" via "Lenscratch", like: https://bit.ly/2KeHq8f

Well, "art" is a rather problematic notion, isn't it? We have all these activities (music, painting things, drama ...) and then a subset of all of them gets unified under the category of art and then some people get jobs writing about those things, some of them stare reverentially at instances of those things in specially constructed spaces, and so on. And some of the things we think of as "art" today (medieval altarpieces, say) weren't part of that hived-off category for their creators. There are certainly many photographs that elicit in me a response of aesthetic admiration, but I'm not sure that the whole impulse to produce photographs "as art" or to have some photos recognized as such matters all that much. (Influenced here by having read Roger L. Taylor's idiosyncratic book Art, an Enemy of the People and Larry Shiner's The Invention of Art)

I agree with Lord Snowden especially now in the digital age of photography. I believe that collectors, museums, galleries at some point will only have an interest in film, darkroom prints, portfolios, and lastly well printed books. With the age of digital manipulation, heavy editing, and the enormous amount of digital files the value of these electronic files seems to me to be of no value.
The files are simply a bunch of 1’s and 0’s, which at some point will be unreadable. I never really understood why some photographic prints were sought by collectors and why the price was so outrageous, it’s just a photograph. Someone pressed the shutter, developed the film and made a print, that’s it, many of us can do it, we give ourselves to much credit.

Brooks Jensen about ten years ago opined that the onslaught of the digital tsunami and the resulting daily deluge of images would fundamentally change the nature of photography, devaluing the individual image. He argued for finding new ways to use photography to craft a message, from long form projects to completed PDF portfolios to print collections.
If anything it looks like he understated his case. Even the most amazing images get lost in the daily flood from billions of cell phones.
I just read a poignant comment from the Scottish landscape photographer Niall Benvie. He noted that there's no market for his gorgeous images anymore, that it would be impossible to earn a living doing what he had done in the current free content youTube era. But he still goes out every week making images because it feeds his soul to create beauty.

I'm still waiting for a really good editor or two (whose taste I like) to get together and just find good work to feature, saving me the trouble of looking for it. Of course, having to "edit" the whole internet of images sounds a little overwhelming, so it likely won't happen. So far the closest I have found is TOP, and you only feature "Random Excellence" once in a while.

Electrical storms are Godx way of saying: gotcha!

Yes you have some protection that you plug your stuff into but I'm here to tell you that stuff will never protect you from most electrical storms. Always unplug everything from the wall outlets. Everything.

No man-made device will stop what God has created.

Digital imaging was a disruptive technology and it did exactly what disruptive technologies do ... it upended, trashed, smashed and shattered the accepted photographic "norms". Throw in "Social Media", an equally disruptive technology and the mix becomes nuclear. And that's OK!!!

We've survived the plague, the industrial revolution, the great depression, two world wars, Donald Trump and we'll survive the current pandemic. We'll survive this too ... changed, but we'll survive. Just look at the resurgence in wet chemistry photography. The 55k museums and galleries may not be able to show it all, but there will always be a place for GOOD photography. IMHO, the more drek and trash that's produced the more valuable and important the good stuff becomes ... even if we can't see it all.

Art, is fraught with contradictions. A photograph will only ever be what the viewer projects onto it. Revered or ignored. Most are both simultaneously, to different people. Jazz is no different and gets bonus points for being loathed by some 😊

I see much truth here:


Perhaps a quote from the famous English painter, John Constable (1776-1837) might be appropriate for your blog post? "The world is wide", he wrote, "no two days are alike, nor even two hours; neither were there ever two leaves of a tree alike since the creation of all the world; and the genuine productions of art, like those of nature, are all distinct from each other."

Here is the link for the EPSON pano awards competition. Most of the pictures were taken with dedicated 360 cameras. All of the finalists are very good!

Lets change a few words for a different view ..

"I'm very much against automobiles being preserved and treated with reverence and restored and sold as works of engineering and design. They aren't. They should be used to drive the kids to school or as an Uber and then sent to a recycler and chucked away."

Some cars belong in a museum or a personal collection or under a canvas in the back of a suburban garage. Others should be used, used up and recycled.

It's not all or none -- cars, photographs, antiques, buildings or jewelry. Not all black and white. Rather, there are shades of gray. And sometimes color.

I wonder: how did/do we deal with the deluge of text? I mean the 1% of it that isn't "fluff" or documentation or by-product? Or did we not figure it out and that's why the world is such a mess now?

I suppose we don't worry so much about text because there are so many ways to filter it.

Filtering is our only hope, as far as I can see (pun unintended). Layers and layers and layers of it. But, so many pitfalls...

Curation? As you point out, Mike, curation isn't enough. Maybe if we filter the curators...

"I read the other day that Lewis Carroll stopped photographing when dry-plate replaced wet collodion, supposedly because he felt photography had become too easy and accessible to everyone."

This is what I feel about digital. The "ease" of digital has devalued photography in most markets to the point that the real commercial practitioners can't make enough to practice it!

Now as I approach 70, I need to get rid of everything I thought I'd use in retirement to take pictures the way I want, because I can't afford the cost and the space. The problem is, do I sell everything but the Pentax Spotty? ...or, everything but the 8X10 Deardorff?

A number of interesting lives you've lived, sir.

The current AARP magazine has an interesting interview with Bruce Springsteen, in which he essentially outlines the many lives we live in our current stretch on the planet. (Are you an AARP member? You're old enough, and it's cheap)

No, in the interest of fair play and fair comment: TA-J was already doing very well, thank you, before he became involved with nobility. I was an avid Vogue aficionado in those years and remember his presence well.

Another guy who was very good - and also publicly punished because of title was Patrick Lichfield. He was very useful to me: my own calendar castings were highly influenced by his choice of models for the many Unipart productions he shot. I guessed that if they looked good for him they'd look good for me. I was not disappointed.

There's always the danger of a little touch of envy leading to easy dissing.


Lighten the kits if you must, but keep both. At worst, the Spotty won't take up much space in a drawer, and the Deardorff is a work of art and a conversation piece. At best, you'll be able to indulge either mood and exercise both hard-won skill sets.

Some Photography can be great works of Art in my humble opinion.
When we start on a work of “art”, be it a painting, a picture or a poem, what do we think about first?
For me, when making a picture , the first thing in mind is to Express…… express what’s on my mind.
I’ll be absorbed in gathering my thoughts, finding a focal point from which I’ll start and gradually go round about it in a spiral before concluding it by going back to the focal point.
Its about Expression, expressing what you think represent best of the subject (or the mental subject you’re thinking about).
At that point in time of Creation, I do not believe that we think that much about connection to the viewer.
At that point of Creation, that you create the photograph for yourself only.
When in the process of framing a scene, we are in actual fact, creating for our subjects, which seems contradictory to above. Never the less, it is mostly true.
Commercial Art for the artist, I think, is doing one’s best in representing a subject.
If you think that you’ve done your best in representing a certain scene, then its art to you. Art to the viewers, I think, is not always the same with the artist’s creation Point of View.
Now, who knows what exactly Jackson Pollock is thinking when he splashed his paints about?
We might know, or perceive something in it, but everyone’s feeling about the work of art is different, that is, from what Jackson Pollock is thinking at the moment.
I might think that the brushstrokes represent perhaps say Energy, while Pollock might feel at the moment of Creation that he’s creating a sense of Flow in the same painting.
I might think its Art, because I “feel Art”, he think its art too, because he thinks that he expressed the feeling he wanted, the flow. But we both judge it differently, but it is still a work of Art.
So what does this say? Art is the freedom to think and express, art is not propaganda.
Anything that does not drum propaganda into the viewer. It’s to creating a space for him/her to perceive and think on his/her own.
Of course it matters to me how people think about my pictures, I’m not so noble. We all need confirmation and security, that we’re on the right track.

We all have our ids, egos and superegos, just in different degrees. (I’m writing this on my perspective)
We all need assertion, a form of benchmark to know that our photos CAN be sold, and like it or not, popularity with the masses is one of the benchmarks.
Don’t deny it, its there. At the point of creation, our id, ego and superego comes unite as one, forming the ‘flow’ that keeps you in the activity, like the fact that you just can’t put down your camera and stop for coffee... At the point of finishing, the three realms separate, and we’re just the same ol’ people twice and thrice again. And like all humans, we have our jobs, art is a job too, you guys who are painters and photographers, and being careers, its meant to be paid. And that simple fact of being paid becomes a factor, a benchmark, at least when you’re alive.
I don’t know if you’re the type who’s work will be “found” years after your demise . (Vivian Maier)
F. Scott Fitzgerald (one of my favorite writers) died of heart attack in the middle of writing a new book, and he never, ever will know that he has succeeded as a writer. The point I’m trying to make is that Art is never fixed, and in some cases, its about seeing into the future . But we, right now, will never know. That’s Accidental Nobility. To be truly “Noble” in its Core sense, In my mind it has to be accidental…….

Art, especially early art was almost nothing but propaganda - for the church and for the nobility with the bread to commission it.

It's no neat, modern conceit invented for the greater expression of anyone's personal gift for creativity, such as that may or may not be. In fact, I sometimes wonder whether those old guys (old today) whose works fill the museums even thought of themselves as artists, but rather as gifted artisans, often able to delegate commissions to lower-ranking painters in their studios.

Today, we have a watered-down version of the same thing with those snappers commissioned to make photographs of politicians and "personalities" in the different entertainment businesses. Art?

I wouldn't be shocked if Snowden was being deliberately provocative.

Certainly the vast majority of photos are created and used practically, with little artistic consideration. I'm not willing to go all absolutist on this, though. It's just one more way (or 96 more or whatever; photography probably isn't "one thing") of putting marks on flat media (among other things it also is), and it's broadly agreed that some sets of marks on flat media do constitute examples of "art". I am most certainly not willing to classify photography as the only way of putting marks on media that cannot be art!

Certainly there are plenty of Snowden prints in, say, the National Portrait Gallery there. I suppose, once he's sold them, he can't really stop that.

I don't think there's much use in attempting to rule things out of "art". Among many, many other reasons, a significant percentage of artists are stubborn rules-rejectors, and it'll just get them to try to show you're wrong.

However, a huge proportion of attempts at making art end up making fairly bad art.

One thing happening with the vastly lowered bar to creating images, and the vastly expanded array of images easily available to any Internet user who cares to look, is that we're seeing more and more people's favorite (or highly-liked) images being things that happen to exactly hit their personal idiosyncratic preferences. These may not appeal to that many other people, and they may have weaknesses when viewed dispassionately by art experts. What this may lead to in the long run, who knows? One thing is that, in a few generations, an awful lot of people, maybe most people, will find that their favorite and most meaningful images are rejected by the art establishment. Even when people don't agree on which images they do like, I think it's quite possible they'll unite on disagreeing with, and rejecting, the views of the art establishment.

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