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Thursday, 31 March 2022


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Enjoyed your New Yorker article. Came here looking for Woman Staring Out to Sea.

Great column and thanks for the link!

Best Regards,


Congratulations, Mike!

Bravo, Mike, outstanding article. I took up their subscription offer on the spot.

Loving this, well done!

I enjoyed that.

Very nicely done! So happy to see you "in print" again.

I enjoyed THE NEW YORKER article and it immediately reminded me of this: https://resnickstreetphotos.blogspot.com/2014/01/evolution-of-photography.html
This seems to sum up at some level both the beginning Nat'l Geo photo policy, most personal analog policies (or should I say care when there was a personal cost?) and the spelunking required of digital/phone photography.

And to think we all knew you when, back when you were a mere blogger. Congratulations!

Just read the article in The New Yorker.
Really enjoyed it, so true on many levels, you should really consider writing about photography again, you would be great at it!

Couldn't resist, congratulations and well done, you do realise that you have made a rod for your own back. Your readers will increase and you will never be able to stop T.O.P. I like it!

Mike, that's a lovely piece. It's fantastic that your considered approach to photography and life is getting broader exposure.

Congratulations Mike! You are finally getting the recognition you dserve. That makes me happy. I know it makes you happy.

[Oh, yes, I'm pretty much floating on air. I didn't expect to feel this way, which makes it even nicer. --Mike]

Congratulations on your published article for "The New Yorker," you certainly deserve it. Just a comment on your mention of contact sheets within that article. A recent showing of Jeopardy! displayed a typical contact sheet and questioned the contestants as to what it was, and nobody knew the answer. It made me feel old... damn kids!

Ed Wolpov

I’m not exactly sure how to phrase this… Your essay is just as good as I’ve come to expect, so no surprise there. My big reaction is that I’m proud of The New Yorker for finding its way to your door. Good for them! I’m so glad you’ll find a larger audience. Also I hope David Remnick has you lined up for the podcast.

Excellent article. Congratulations!

Well done Mike. I enjoyed reading that. Now more people will get to know you.

Mike, I love how you used stories from your past to illustrate that photography has not fundamentally changed even as the technology has evolved. And you pulled it off without sounding like an old codger! Great article, well done.

Well done, Mike! As a forty-year New Yorker reader, I am so pleased to see your work there. Do let us know how TOP performs over the next few weeks--whether this new exposure translates into new readers for the blog. I am betting on a boost.

Mike, I absolutely love it. It's beautiful and as is strangely often the case with your writing, uncanny in its timing for me. I've recently re-engaged with shooting film as a reaction, maybe an answer, to this problem that digital photography is making worse and worse.

The volume has become outrageous. The need for redacting has increased exponentially. I've begun to wonder if that gem is as likely to be found on a 120mm roll of 10 as it is in a digital gallery of 1,000 images? Especially if the task of culling that gallery is so daunting that it never happens.

Congratulations on the article. I'm glad that more people will get to enjoy your writing. And I'm also very happy for you and the joy that you are getting from this success. It is well-deserved.

Nice to read something that is so simple and quiet.
Beautifully written.
And about photography.


Home run, straight over the center field fence!

Terrific piece. I remember reading years ago in film days reading about National Geographic's editing process. Today, with the ease of taking images, it must be more difficult for them.

Good work!

I recognized your style and thoughts immediately, but this put a lot of pieces together very well.

Thanks and good luck going forward!

What an excellent piece. Thanks and congratulations!

Hearty congratulations!
I suggest you put up a few of your old posts from the archives over the next few days to fish for people who may come here from The New Yorker.

I liked it, Mike. I liked it a lot. What struck me was that it recalled vividly for me the general flavour that runs through your blog. So in that sense it was what I look for in your writing: thoughtfulness, intelligence, and the experience, well expressed, of someone dealing with life on his own terms. So in that sense no different from what I expect when I tune in to you. But still, it wasn't routine. It was tightly written, had a quick pulse. It showed clearly that you had taken a lot of time and trouble to write briefly ... which shows that you're not just the ordinary writer. Thanks a lot!

Congratulations Mike, well done.

I know the advice is meant for amateurs but still I have to say that the dismissal of hard work by suggesting a good image is the product of serendipity is preposterous.

Very well-written article. Something new for the TOP readers too. Thanks, and congrats!

It's a great article, Mike. Familiar to those of us who have spent years with you here, of course, but it's really incredible to see you getting the message out to a wider audience. Congratulations!

Your description of culling your own photos back in the day gave me an idea: every few days (or maybe once a week) sort through the photos in Lightroom and select 10-15. This would be sort of like your work prints (except they're not prints, but who's counting). Put them in a Lightroom collection. Every day for several days, maybe a few times a day, look only at that collection. See if any "pull me in further" (as you said) and mark those as keepers. Maybe even print them!

The New Yorker is one of the few prestige publications that retains a large and very dedicated weekly readership. It's quite an achievement to be published there and I wouldn't be surprised if you also see an uptick in interest in your website. Well done!

Well done!

And to think we all knew you before you hit it big!! Congratulations Mike.

congrats. well done.

Great piece, Mike. Really hits the spot. And it's an excellent fit for The New Yorker in its style and thoughtfulness. Congratulations, you deserve to be floating. Let's have more.

YAAAYYYYY!!! Great article.

Very well done. I’m happy that you’re happy. You deserve it.

Could not have happened to a more deserving writer! Finally you are getting the recognition I have always thought you deserve. A fantastic article as well.

(PS: this made my day as I woke at 5:10 am after a tree fell on my home during a tornado watch. I never let stuff get in my way, but I am so exhausted. This is wonderful for me to hear.)

Wonderful article Mike! Congratulations, very much deserved.

Congratulations Mike. Definitely an article worthy of The New Yorker. I look forward to the next one. Now a lot of other people will know why we read T.O.P. every day.

I just hope that you've been compensated fairly for your fine work. (Don't mention any numbers, though, if you reply.)
And I hope that this is just the first of many articles for them, whatever they pay.


You wrote an interesting, succinct piece that synthesized ideas and experiences that you have been noodling on here for quite a while. The whole is more than the sum of its parts. Good work!

Read your New Yorker article enjoyed it a lot. Few cellphone users think to edit their photos. I look at them and then delete the the obvious losers. Your suggestion to wait a few days and then look at them again is a great idea.

I have always been curious about how magazine writers get paid. Do you get paid once or based on how many people read it?

[The magazine doesn't like contributors to reveal the workings of the process, understandably. So, there won't be much in the way of behind-the-scenes from me. --Mike]

I could definitely recognize Mike Johnston, but an extra good version, squeezed through the New Yorker process. Seems like a good home for your musings. Very enjoyable.

Congratulations, finally and officially, Mike.

:-) :-)

Congratulations. The New Yorker is known for being rigorous editors (I believe that is so). If it's not giving away state secrets, I wonder if that process is something worth talking about some day.

Wonderful. Worth the 17 year wait. Now off to my phóto archive for a quick browse!

Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!


— from "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll

Congratulations, Mike! A delightful return to the big time of New York City magazine publishing! And a wonderful piece.

I have forwarded it to several friends from my youth, who I know will read it with keen interest. Be assured that your latest magazine article will be read around the world.

Mike, first up congratulations on the article. The article itself is a very interesting read, especially for those of us who kinda 'know' you from years of reading your blog it does synthesise a lot of what you have talked about on these webpages of your blog and we keep retuning to your corner of the interwebs that you inhabit. I personally look forward having you post any more links to future articles
May they keep having you contribute more.

Great article, congratulations!

I don't understand why they couldn't link to this blog in the credits, but they appear only to do internal links.

English isn't my first language, but the article seems a bit more polished than I am used to from you - which is understandable given the medium, but I kind of prefer the style on this blog - it is more lively - in lack of better word.

I hope you will also notify your readers when the next article is up.

Very cool, Mike! Happy for you!

Congratulations! It's a wonderful distillation of much that I've read here over the years. Thank you and to the New Yorker for recognizing your thoughtful writing.

Great article Mike. My interest in photography has come quite late in life so it is very educational to hear and read stories about film processing and publication and related challenges to the digital world of today.

Congratulations Mike I just read your text. You write so well and cleverly and I'd say as always. So glad for you that you write for the New Yorker. We followers knew your story with S. and now the whole world will say what a sensible man.
To me: a masterpiece

Congratulations on a piece that is graceful, thoughtful, humane, and full of insight — classic MJ that is now finally reaching the huge audience it deserves.

"Oh, yes, I'm pretty much floating on air. I didn't expect to feel this way, which makes it even nicer. --Mike"

Kind of the way I feel when I get a "featured comment" on TOP. I have much more modest goals.

So happy for you Mike. It is a wonderful piece.

Congratulations, Mike!
A wonderful piece of writing.

I’ve been a New Yorker subscriber since my dad got me my first subscription as a going-to-college gift in 1986. Great magazine…you absolutely belong. Congrats!

I’ll join the others with congratulations. Your writing truly deserves a much wider audience.

Excellent item in The New Yorker. Here’s hoping they don’t pay in tote bags. Now that your foot is in the door, there’s room inside for more.

So excited for you Mike!

Wanted to also add my appreciation in taking a principled stand on what and how you write on this blog. I guess it’s easy for me to say that as many of my political opinions align with yours, but there’s plenty of lefty-liberal writers I can’t stand and right leaning writers I admire.

“Slapgate” is about as divisive as the gold/blue dress meme from a few years ago (John Gruber of Daring Fireball noted this in his just released Talk Show podcast). I noticed even the Financial Times comments getting very testy on this topic! Anyway, I truly appreciate when you do weigh in on big topics of our time (Trump, Covid, Ukraine) and think the silent majority of TOP readers (I didn’t comment on the previous posts) are either indifferent or largely agree with you.

Really nice piece, Mike. For me, those few-and-far-between masterpieces somehow manage to increase in power over the years.


Congratulations - must be a great feeling. Thoroughly deserved.

Congratulations! It's a beautifully written article, and a nice mix of personal experience and perceptive commentary on finding those masterpieces. Now how soon can we expect to see the next one?

The new yorker piece was a delight, so glad to have found this website through it.

Congratulations Mike for your publication in The New Yorker. It is the right showcase for this essay.
Thank you for writing so well about the essence and purpose of the craft we love.

Congratulations. Well reasoned and informative. I guess now we go to The New Yorker for your photography writings and come to TOP for your musings on the spherical arts.

A strange thing happened as I read the article. I got through the second paragraph and then I wandered away from the computer. When I returned I only read a short bit and then switched over to the NYT Sudoku. Funny, I heard about this reading pattern recently.

This reminds me of an article Daniel Wallace wrote. https://www.pw.org/content/rejection_slips_on_not_getting_into_the_new_yorker
He's a successful author, with six novels published. But never got a piece published in the New Yorker after trying for 30 years. I've been enjoying your writing since the 80s. Congratulations!

If I may add just a touch of snarkiness to my earlier congrats…

Isn’t it ironic that your triumph comes from writing an article about how to curate images from a medium that, until just recently, you didn’t even acknowledge to be a form of “real” photography?

I’ll understand if I never see this comment posted but, like Will Smith, I just couldn’t control myself! 🤣

[That's not really true. Readers first challenged me to "get to grips" with iPhone photography around 2012 or 2013. And I did. With difficulty at first, when I couldn't even seem to remember I had a camera in my pocket. I remember when sending a picture via the web was exotic to me and I had never done it. But I got to the point where I was doing a lot with the phone and sharing pictures regularly. I do admit I often have only my phone with me when I wish I had a bigger camera, but that's been consistent over most of my life--not having the right camera with me. Must happen to you too, eh? --Mike]

Wonderful piece I also came to through Apple news. It’s so often your writing I come here for. Even up to and after woman out to sea I was not thinking anything except what a great gift this piece is and how clever and refreshing that the New Yorker has it. I never read the woman staring out to sea post here. It was the very last line that had me thinking that this writer is not a New Yorker himself. I looked for the writer, and found the coincidence of there being another Michael Johnston who writes such a delicate, positive humane little piece. But nope. It’s our guy, gracing the New Yorker. Lucky them.

Very nicely done, Mike. Selfishly, I also had the "inside baseball" sense of having seen the picture you referred to in the piece. There is a poetry in your prose too, an evocative rhythm to your words. That isn't easy, at least in my experience. So: well done, you! Of course, your read-a-day fans won't be surprised. Who knows? There might be a little twinge of jealousy at having the editors over there know what we have known for years: you bring the goods, man.


So... Did you ever consider giving her a second chance?

Great article! But so sad to hear about your ‘it might have been’ experience. Life is so full of twists and I feel almost guilty to have had two great marriages, the first was cut short by cancer. And my ‘miracle gal’ saved me from becoming a bitter old fart. (Now I’m just an old fart.)

About that tsunami of pictures. One way to slow down is a 4x5 pinhole camera and 5-6 used film holders. To keep it simple use photo paper as a negative and then scan or contact print. Even starting from absolute scratch you could set up for less than $400 and that includes a paper cutter and box of 8x10 multigrade. Obviously not suitable for perhaps 90% of how a regular camera is used, it is still a relaxing exercise and a rock bottom way to get into large format. If the price sounds high think back to how much your last oil change cost.

I have been a New Yorker subscriber for many years, and a follower of TOP for fewer. Your article reads like it belongs in the New Yorker, which I guess is the highest compliment I can pay.

Congrats Mike! The New Yorker! There's no better institutional validation for a writer than to be published in The New Yorker. I've been reading TOP for 13 years and The New Yorker for 15 years. Your article had all the hallmarks of what makes TOP great; historic photography references, your personal photography experience, and your writer's voice.

Wonderful title. What follows flows like honey from a tap. You did well to highlight "Lost Love" -- I paused the reading while I retrieved your print (which I still have not framed) -- and admired it all over again.

“Instead of grieving, be grateful”
Thank you Mike.

Good piece. Keep ‘em coming!

A big high five Mike. You've hit the big leagues, and deservedly so.

My only disappointment was that the article was so short. I was expecting the usual meandering New Yorker article. Instead, I found a well-written concise article, slightly longer than a blog.

Perhaps next time you can indulge yourself a little and wander a bit.

I'm positive there will be many more.

Congratulations Mike! I am so happy for you. I have been lucky enough to have found your writing a long time ago. I always enjoy reading your writing, regardless if it is related to photography or any of the OT subjects you share your thoughts on. I thought your New Yorker article was a great read and great advice for everyone who takes photos with a phone or a camera or even draws stick figures on rocks. I sincerely hope this first article is one of many to come.

Congratulations Mike! I have enjoyed reading your writings since I found you on Luminous Landscape, and the New Yorker article was some of your most polished. Great job!

Great article!

Nice writing, and congratulations.

Congratulations, Mike! Beautifully written piece. I love the contrast between the more measured style of your New Yorker writing and the engaging, sometimes off-the-wall, writing in the blog. And the story of your friend who printed matchbox-sized photos for his “portfolio” resonates with me. I frequently print using Fuji’s Instax Share in the mini format, a modern version of the matchbox-sized print. Great to see that you have joined the likes of John Updike, James Baldwin, Truman Capote, et al. The New Yorker has been a favourite of ours for decades. Now, time to return to redacting. All the best from Australia, John

Congratulations, Mike! A lovely, fluent, illuminating piece. You're an inspiration in many ways. Long may these - pictures, pieces, muses - continue! Long-time reader (and lurker) here, harking from Singapore.

I loved your NewYorker article. It was different from the usual musings of the TOP curmudgeon that we find here, which I also enjoy. The article was shaped to tour a fascinating landscape, probably new to many readers, with a guide from whom we should hope to hear more. And I would love to hear more in that voice.

Incidentally, nine rolls a week, plus contacts and work prints of 45 shots sounds like 20-30 hours every week in the lab. And where did you put up all the prints?

Congratulations Mike. It was fascinating to read a notably tighter style in formal print, but your distinctive voice shone through. Here's hoping for many more.

I sometimes pull together photo slide shows for funerals. People give me a stack of photos, mostly snapshots, selfies and occasional studio portraits (usually older, rarely recent). The photos are chosen not as pieces of art but because of the memories associated with them, but it has struck me that occasionally amongst the snapshots there are photos that would stand up in any exhibition, that draw me in and have a universal quality beyond the particular of that person in that place at that time.

Hearty congratulations, Mike! A terrific piece, delivered in your authentic voice. Also a richly deserved, long-overdue opportunity. I hope this turns into great things for you, and that TOP continues for as long as you enjoy working on it. Long live TOP! :-)

Cheers to you!

I have been an on/off subscriber to The New Yorker since the 1960s. My current subscription is in its third or fourth year now, and now my wife reads it more than I.

It could be that my wife thinks I spend too much time reading your blog (and some other photography related blogs). That will change now that I can say : "I going to read Mike Johnston's blog - you know the guy who writes for The New Yorker". A perfect alibi.

(Sorry, I posted this in the wrong place a minute ago.)

One good exercise is to make a photobook for family and friends (I use Blurb). I'm doing one per country - Singapore and Italy done; Myanmar next, I think. That really forces you to decide whether a shot is worth getting down on paper. There are plenty that you kind of like on the screen - but when it comes to it, they are really not that great. Having to cut 15,000 shots of Singapore or 11,000 shots of Italy taken since the dawn of the digital age down to about 300 in each case to make an interesting 180-page photobook really concentrates the mind.

And there will be something permanent for people to look at when you die. Sure as eggs are eggs, they won't be combing through your hard drives on the hunt among the dross for for photographic treasures that they can't identify anyway ...

The downside of this exercise is the realisation that you tend to take the same photograph over and over and over again - same dark alleyway with a street lamp silhouetted against the sky or whatever. And going through my late father's old slides, I realise that I take exactly the same photographic clichés over and over again as he did. It must be genetic.

But the real question is: did you willingly use a word like "coordinate" in your article just to get the fabled New Yorker diaeresis? I know I would.

Congratulations on the publication, that's a major accomplishment!

Nice piece!

I was surprised that it needed any editing at all, and I'm not just blowing smoke.

I'd have been afraid that it would be watered down or made to fit the magazine's style at the expense of your own style, but you say it helped.

Anyway, congratulations.

"Michael Johnston has been writing and editing the Web site The Online Photographer since 2005."

(Fist up with heavy metal rock fingers flagging "Yes!")

It was fun to read. Even more satisfying was hearing your process. I hear your voice in the writing, and I also like how you adapted it to your new NYer style. In some contrast to your personal story here about the photo, it yielded yet even more views of what holding onto those photos and capturing those singular moments means.

Beautiful writing. Congratulations Mike. Loved the photograph since you first showed it to us.

I am a subscriber to the print edition. Cannot find it there. Was it online only? If it was in the print edition, what date?

[ Hi Kurt, it's on the website, newyorker.com. If you search for "Camera Roll" there, you'll find it. --Mike]

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