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Friday, 15 October 2021


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I, too, want algorithms that know me better. I like targeted ads, for instance---when they hit the bullseye. Otherwise they are just really annoying.

GOAT photographer. Atget.

Everyone else under consideration would be Atget's spiritual children.

The problem with picking the G.O.A.T. for photography is the extreme broadness of photography.

Ansel Adams is great, but he could never have captured a split second once in a life time shot like Eddie Adams (no relation) did with the summary execution in Vietnam.

My own enthusiasm for photography is in photojournalism, especially if it accelerates a movement. My own choice for photography's G.O.A.T. would be a shooter that changed something with a photo that let the world know something was not right.

Yes, my clingy, YouTube algorithm, wanna be best friend can be both surprisingly enlightening- as well as, predictably annoying!

That said, anyone remember when "The Goat" was the guy who actually cost you the game (particularly in the World Series)?

Hey Mike-
If you had to recommend one of Friedlander's books to add to my collection of photo books which would it be? Somehow he is completely absent from my fairly extensive photo book collection. I more interested in looking at his photographs than reading his (or other's) musings about his work and career. Thanks Steve

I'm always stunned by how long the list of great American photographers is. Why does the UK produce only a handful that the general public has ever heard of, and why are those all royal photogs or celeb photogs? No one seems to care much about photography here. Does the UK have a Ansel Adams? I doubt it and it it does, it's David ******* Bailey, always Bailey!

As someone who grew up in Western MA in the 70s and 80s Larry Bird is of course very close to my basketball heart.

The GOAT question is, as you say, ultimately meaningless but sometimes entertaining.

I think if I were picking partners for a pickup game, I would take 2010s LeBron.

If I were picking teams to where the fate of the world were on the line based on the lengths to which the team would go to to win, I might take Michael. He was driven to an extent that was both not really healthy and also hasn't really been seen since.

If I were to pick a player to write a book, it would be definitely be Kareem. 🙂

If you want to repair what the algorithm thinks of you, you can delete videos from your viewing history. You go to something like Library then History, and if you remove the videos on the subject you want to de-emphasise, YouTube will act as if you've not watched them.

The algorithms are built to control you, not to help you. Just remember that.

Lets go back a few years. Do you recall hearing of Oscar Robertson (Basketball)
Oscar Robertson was voted one of the 20th Century's fifty greatest athletes.
He played college ball at the University of Cincinnati where I worked 46 years as a photographer (1973-2019).
I saw him play for UC when I was a kid. I shot photos of him on many occasions.
On one such occasion I handed my camera to a student and asked Oscar if he would mind if I got a shot with him.
He replied "That would be different" and agreed. He was a great person and a true GOAT.

Big Tech & Congress regulators have failed us - their algorithms are targeted to people who received participation trophies - no failures, no "I Don't Like This" buttons. It's so sad and limiting thoughtful discourse, it's just dumbing down the masses that eat it up.

"Chosen for you" guarantees I'll never read it.

I've read all of Adam's books, but I think of him as a maker of pretty postcards. I can't say I know anything about Friedlander. When I think of great American photographers, I think of Margrethe Mather. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margrethe_Mather#/media/File:Semi-nude_-_Billy_Justema.jpg

Hell yes, you should write that book. On the other GOAT question, I'm on Team Wilt.

Your book idea reminds me of some of the surveys Thames & Hudson has been putting out in collaboration with The Photographers’ Gallery: Street Photography Now, Family Photography Now, Art Photography Now, reGeneration, and so on. I have the family photography one and quite enjoy it.

That said, I’d love to get a Mike Johnston perspective (or really any number of competing perspectives — I suspect ten different editors would create ten books with entirely different included artists). And god knows the volume of images out there today needs some curation.

Mike, following thru on the idea of discussing the 50 great photographers of the 21st century would do a lot to invigorate your blog and even perhaps bring in some younger readers. Do it.

Start clicking on watch videos Mike!


For Steve Rosenblum:

I'm not Mike but the book of Friedlander's photos that I have is called "Lee Friedlander" and published by the Fundación MAPFRE, a Spanish foundation. It's the catalogue of an exhibition of his work shown in Barcelona and has over 300 photographs included plus a couple of essays about his work and an interview with his wife, all of which are relatively brief but interesting or at least they were to me. The print quality is excellent and it appears to span his whole career up to the date of the exhibition. It's available from Amazon and the Amazon page for the book shows 6 double page spreads from the book but not what I would call representative images of his work. I think it's a good look at his work.

The algorithms are not just looking to steer you to content but targeting ads to you. The more videos they get you to watch the more ads they show you and more profit they make.
YouTube has become so insidious for ads that I hate to watch it so I rarely do and only for specific videos I know about.
Now I'm trying to find a feasible way to move over 100 training videos to our own servers to get rid of the @#$%^&*() ads.

One of the Internet pioneers said "Internet privacy, forget it - you don't have any."

The whole GOAT thing is an irrelevant waste of time.

Along with all the lists of the greatest ever......

To Dave Miller:
Look up Fay Godwin. Her work stands with anyone’s.
I don’t believe in the GOAT thing, even in competitive sports.

I have this idea about GOATS in the realm of sporting. My thought is that in any era within a sport a GOAT arises because they are changing the way the game is played, forcing not only a change in strategies, but also the body morphology of the players in order to excel at the new.

My idea is that for any new strategic approach to play, a different body type will rise to the top. So a GOAT in a given sport from the 50s would not excel today, and conversely, a GOAT of today would be essentially playing the game differently than players of the past.

This is really evident at the elite level that professional athletes play, and not so much players at a pickup game at a playground. But my thesis is that for any given player position, the players who reach the heights have a very similar body type, through their inherited traits as well as their physical conditioning. A given position requires certain attributes.

Until it doesn't.

Eventually, an athlete will arrive that upends the current standards and will be the latest GOAT and the game will change. And the paradigm of play will adjust to reflect the new style of play, which may require a different type of player.


The biggest failure of the GOAT concept is that times aren't finished yet...

Mike asks: "Who else has published fifty photobooks?"

Not many, but I can think of a few; Daido Moriyama for one.

In 2012 I visited Izu Photo Museum in Japan to see an exhibition of photo books exclusively by Nobuyoshi Araki. At the time he had published 400+ books!
As he continues to spit out a book or so a month, his production must be past 500 by now.
The museum - by the way - is designed by conceptual photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto.

The 50 greatest would only be of interest to me if it also included non American photographers. The US has a penchant for proclaiming whatever they are doing as the World's best or GOAT. I am sure there are photographers in other countries who could hold their own with the revered AA.

[That might be true but I'm an American and I live in America. I pay attention to photographers wherever they live but home is the most familiar. Could you write all about the important photographers of India or China? Nepal or Mali? Me neither.... --Mike]

Maybe you could recast G.O.A.T. as Greatest Of American Time?

OK, let's end this.
Forwards - Tim Duncan, Larry Bird
Guards - Michael, Magic
Center - Bill Russel

Choosing a GOAT for NBA is tough because of the different eras of basketball. Wilt or Bill Russell would be the GOAT of their era, and later the argument of Jerry West and Oscar. Jordan dominated his era, but then there is Magic and Bird. And today, who is the GOAT? LeBron would get the most votes, but there are arguments for other players. The Pantheon is a good approach, although I think I'd go by eras. Perhaps the same is true of photography, there are surely eras there too, although I'm utterly ignorant.

p.s. I'm also of the mind Kareem is the overall GOAT. If nothing else he scored the most points. And the Sky Hook is the most unstoppable shot there's been.

To Dave Miller and Mark Sampson: Another option would be Jane Bown.

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