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Tagged With « critique »

  • One photographer’s perspective on the election and American exceptionalism

    I get it. I am a 59 year-old, white male. I work in a field that once provided me with a very good living, a field that has been decimated by changing technology and globalization. The work that I used to get paid good money to create is now done by people overseas, or by others in America, who get paid much less than I ever would accept, or by machines. But I am still troubled by the recent election result because American workers, like me, have been displaced by changes in the economy and labor market for decades if not centuries. Adaptability to change is a hallmark of what has been dubbed “American exceptionalism”. So what changed in this election?

    14

    Jan 17

  • Crowd-sourcing your editing

    Every photographer knows how hard it can be to edit a large set of images down to a select few. Every photographer also knows how that process is key to strengthening any photo-project. The way that I handle this same challenge is that I now often crowd-sourcing my editing.

    21

    Nov 15

  • Critiquing 101

    The very best way to improve as a photographer does not involve any particular piece of gear or course of study, nor does it involve apprenticing yourself to a master photographer. Impoverishing yourself by working on nothing but photography as something of a photographic “monk” will not do it, either. While all of these things may improve your photography, the best way is much simpler, yet for many photographers it seems much harder.

    31

    May 15

  • Singapore Time

    Late January and early February was a blur of teaching classes in Singapore. Embracing that feeling, I made a video to try to convey the energetic experience of my eighteen days there.

    18

    Mar 15

  • Waterfire Promotion Video

    In a promotional video that I made for WaterFire Providence, you can hear from the volunteers what a powerful experience they have volunteering!

    20

    Feb 15

  • Jurying the Far Away Places competition

    I was asked to be the juror for a photography competition on the theme of Far Away Places. As I reviewed the work, I tried to keep in mind the summary of the call for entries: From the far corners of your backyard to the far away country it takes weeks to traverse to, we want to see where you end up when you go “far away”. As I was editing, I was thinking how could I explain to those photographers who did not make the cut, why that had happened? So I kept notes as I went, which make up this blog entry, one that ideally would serve as the answer to those photographers who did not make the final cut.

    10

    Oct 14

  • Travel Selfies

    I was flattered to be interviewed recently by a writer for the Washington Post for an article on “Travel Selfies.” For those of us of a certain age, who need a translation, that mean self-portraits made while traveling. These photos. at their best, both the traveler and the destination they traveled to. The conversation I had with the writer was fascinating and I took it as an opportunity to turn some time well spent into a blog entry.

    05

    Sep 14

  • Real Exposures Interview

    I recently sat down with David Brommer, the force behind the Real Exposures interview series, to discuss what Brommer describes as my “visually striking and highly moving photo-essays for magazines and non-profit organizations, including a project on the pesticide poisoning of California farm workers that was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.” We also discussed my more recent photo-essay depicting homes that people had left behind during the recent foreclosure crisis.

    20

    Aug 14

  • The Brazilian Experiment Part Two

    In early June we were in Brazil. I wrote earlier about my cultural experiences in South America’s largest country. This time I am writing about my experience with photography and photographing in Brazil.

    27

    Jul 14

  • The Brazilian Experiment – Part One

    I spent the last few days of May and the first few days of June in Brazil. I was NOT there for the World Cup. In fact, I tried very hard to be out of that country before the start of the big event, to avoid the crowds and the connected chaos. This blog entry (and the next one) will explore my experiences in the biggest country in South America.

    04

    Jul 14

  • The best the world of photography books has to offer

    Spring brings with it the awards season, be they the Oscars or Pulitzers. Never having been nominated for (or a viable candidate for) an Oscar, I don’t follow it all that closely. Having been nominated for a Pulitzer once (by the Philadelphia Inquirer) I have a bit more of a stake in that game. The older I get, the more I wonder about the judging of many of these competitions. The recent announcement of two such annual awards left me more bewildered than usual.

    23

    May 14

  • Why listen to me?

    I write a lot of blog entries, teach a lot of classes and give many presentations. Those are NOT why you should listen to me when I write something or say something. You should listen to me because you think I know what I am talking about. The question is how do you know that and by extension, why listen to me?

    14

    Mar 14

  • The hidden scandal in photojournalism’s award season

    The award season for photojournalism is upon us, like the Oscars or the Grammies. Unlike in the cases of those televised awards, the commentary will not likely focus on who attended which awards ceremony with who as their date. Nor will their be much commentary on the costumes worn, since nearly all the competitors will be dressed in black, the artist’s de rigueur clothing. If the last few year’s post-award scandals are any indication, the commentary will likely focus on digital manipulation, a topic certainly of importance. But, I am guessing the scandal-of-the-month club will again miss the real scandal in the world of photojournalism.

    28

    Feb 14

  • Looking at web sites

    Many photographers ask me to look at their web sites to give them feedback. When I review web sites, I think back to when my web site was reviewed by someone in a position of authority. His review reshaped my web site and still influences how I look at web sites. This podcast explores that initial review, which serves as a springboard for me to look at a series of other web-sites.

    19

    Feb 14

  • Another round of morality vs greatness

    At this moment, part of our collective cultural discussion is focused once again on the question, “should the personal life of a creative person impact how we judge their work?” Over time, the moral failings of certain creative geniuses have been viewed according to a different moral code. This is not a new question by any stretch, though, in my mind, it has taken an interesting turn recently. The accusations of child molestation against Woody Allen is the most obvious case, but I am actually more interested in the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

    14

    Feb 14

  • What I love about handmade photographs

    I am a professional photographer making images that are used in publications and as stock photography, so that 99% of my work is used in print and/or on-line. Virtually none of my work is likely to end up as some kind of handmade photograph….. Yet, I am also a perennial student of the history of photography and a fan of all things photographic. So, I am interested in handmade photographs, even if I am not making them. Thinking about this seeming contradiction prompted me to write this blog.

    17

    Jan 14

  • Clearly crossing a fuzzy line

    Last week I blogged about intellectual property in general and the theft of photographs in particular. The line between the borrowing of ideas and concepts, verses actual stealing of intellectual property can occasionally be fuzzy. But the thefts I was writing about were clearly over that line. In writing that blog, I was prompted to think about my own borrowing/appropriating/reusing.

    03

    Jan 14

  • I was wrong but they are even more wrong

    Throughout my career as a commercial photographer, I have had a fairly consistent attitude about copyright theft (and its impact on my imagery.) This was based on my world-view of the photography market and my ability to realistically respond/control that. A recent experience has shown me that my attitude was, to put it bluntly, wrong.

    31

    Dec 13

  • A GREAT question

    A former student of mine, who has gone on to great accomplishment, wrote me with a GREAT question. My answer was be used on his blog page, but I thought it was such a good question that I am cross posting it on my page as well.

    06

    Dec 13

  • Lessons learned jurying a photo competition

    I recently had the privilege of jurying the work for Car Culture competition for the PhotoPlace Gallery in Vermont. It was real education, both in terms of photography and learning about the global world of cars. As a photo-educator, I look at moments like this as “teaching moments” and so I wrote this blog entry about the jurying process. (As I also wrote the “juror’s statement that will accompany the final exhibition of prints that will opens at the PhotoPlace Gallery today, November 8th.)

    08

    Nov 13

  • Is Gene Smith turning in his grave?

    I write this entry in mid-May in a pretty agitated state of mind.  I am posting this in September because posting it in May might have burnt a bridge for me professionally.  I also wanted to see if the anger I felt back in May subsided.  It has not and so I am burning a bridge now.

    27

    Sep 13

  • Finland? Finland!

    I spent the first two weeks of June teaching a photo-essay class to university students in Finland. When I started the class, I was worried if it would go well. I have a hard time working with college students, since most of them don’t want to speak out in class, out of fear of “sticking out from the crowd.” Since those same students were Finnish, a notoriously shy people, it had all the makings of a train wreck. I am thrilled to say it turned out much better than I expected.

    28

    Jun 13

  • How a liberal arts education saved my career again and again

    College graduation season is upon us and with it discussions about the importance of educating young people for the so called “jobs of the future.”  With a daughter half way through college, I have plenty to worry about in terms of her future. Yet I am here to make a last stand for a liberal arts education, the one thing that has saved my career again and again.

    07

    Jun 13

  • How fabricated images ruin my work

    Another controversy is erupting in the world of photojournalism. The image that won World Press Photo of the Year 2012 is starting to look like it was HIGHLY manipulated or an outright composite. Though I no longer work as a photojournalist, I have been following this (and other recent image manipulation) controversies closely because it directly impacts my own work.

    17

    May 13

  • Photography as a second language

    With graduation season upon us, thousands of photographers-in-the making will soon be graduating from institutions across the country. The commencement speakers those students would be listening to will be loath to admit it, but getting paid to be a photographer is dying as a career option and it is clearly time for a new paradigm in the business of photography.

    10

    May 13

  • Rochester takes down another photojournalist

    The annual winners of the prestigious photojournalism contests are starting to be announced. Another photojournalist has got himself stuck in a controversy, largely of his own making. One upside is that this is one of those old fashioned ethical controversies where digital image manipulation had NOTHING to do with it. One downside to commenting on that is that I have indirect ties to a few of the players so I might appear to have a conflict of interest. I also thought that those ties gave me an unusual position to speak from in terms of the controversy.

    01

    Mar 13

  • New Bollywood Satirized work from Annu Palakunnathu Matthew

    Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (my wife) has created new work in her series Bollywood Satirized, work that she describes as “…a critical commentary on the societal expectations that I experienced as a woman growing up in India.” The work is going up outside, on the walls in Bangalore, India, to riff on the Bollywood posters she is satirizing. This video shows the process of displaying work that was made recently in response to the horrific Delhi rape.

    20

    Feb 13

  • Getting to the emotional core


    A friend recently attended a portfolio review event for photographers. In reporting back on her experience, two things were very apparent. First, her work was very well received, which was a “pleasant surprise” to her. While the reviewers varied in terms of exactly which images they were drawn to, there was near unanimous agreement about one problem with her presentation, which is what I am going to build this week’s blog entry around, a lesson every photographer should heed.

    02

    Nov 12

  • Feedback through instant editing

    Last week I blogged about what I now call “instant editing.” The idea was to share the top forty or sixty images from one day’s shoot with about ten peers right at the end of the day’s photographing in order to get some input on how to improve when photographing the next day. Last week, I talked about how I started this process (and why I hope to use it more in the future.) This week I want to share some of the comments that I received from my “reviewers.” What I found so interesting was not just what they said about the work, but how they said it. Their thinking is so compelling that I wanted to share it in order to possibly help others edit sets of images in the future.

    30

    Mar 12

  • About ongoing, on-line critique groups

    The photography world is often dominated by the rage for the latest camera, software or accessory. We all know that (and I am as guilty as the next person in terms of talking those up.) Long after the latest/greatest photo “toy” has been forgotten, there is one timeless thing that will make every one of us a better photographer, which is feedback. There are many ways to give and get that all-important feedback, much of which I have blogged about in the past. In my experience, one of the very best ways to get that is through an ongoing, on-line critique group.

    30

    Dec 11

  • Crowdfunding for better or worse

    Some of what shows up in my e-mail box makes me feel like I am getting old fast (or at least becoming old-school in my thinking.) A couple recent e-mails triggered this reaction again, but something in me pushed back and made me say to myself, “…maybe I am right and the change swirling around me is wrong.” Since this whole internal tug-of-war involved photography, it seemed like a natural topic for a blog entry.

    10

    Jun 11

  • What’s in a name

    I am in California, working on my project “Foreclosed Dreams,” where I have been photographing inside foreclosed houses. I am also teaching a series of classes. I am spending a lot of time on my new MacBook Air, running my photography business from the road. In between all this, I am working on building Photo Synesi ( http://photosynesi.com ), a new on-line critiquing system that connects serious photographers around the world. Through Photo Synesi, we help aspiring photographers get better through personalized feedback of their work. The title of one of the projects that was recently reviewed caught my eye because it perfectly described what we try to do.

    01

    Apr 11

  • Introducing Photo Synesi!

    Photography has been one of the constants in my life since I fell in love with the medium back in high school.  In the nearly forty years since then, I have been continually experimenting with different ways to both photograph just the way I want while making a living at it.  Along the way, I have worked selling cameras, done portraiture, weddings, studio work, fine-art photography, university teaching, etc. Of course, I have also done a lot of the editorial photography that has sustained me for the last decade.  During the last couple years I have finally come to appreciate the upside of what once looked like an helter-skelter, ever-changing career path.  

    27

    Nov 10

  • Late summer snippets

    After six fascinating weeks in India I flew home and I plunged right into a workshop in street photography at ICP (International Center for Photography) in New York City. Then I returned to Providence, to complete the sale of my house, move out of that and into a new apartment. Next week I am off to the Maine Media Workshops to teach another workshop. So, I have been busy! I have also been gathering snippets to share as the summer nears its end.

    20

    Aug 10

  • How do you critique photographs?

    How do you become a better photographer? That’s the big question isn’t it? In my experience, the best way is to take a lot of pictures and then get serious feedback on those same photos. (The second best way is to look at the work of other photographers.) With that in mind, then how exactly how do you critique photographs? As I say in my classes, “Saying wow, neat or cool is not critiquing photographs.” To seriously give (and get) feedback on photographs, we need a common, serious, analytical language for critiquing photographs.

    16

    Apr 10

  • Critics and controversy

    There is a new exhibition of the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. I look forward to seeing it in person in the near future. I have long been a fan of Cartier-Bresson’s work. His was some of the first important work I saw when I was studying the history of photography. The work showed me how photography could be so much more than just a representation of the scene in front of the camera. Up to that point I had learned most of what I knew about photography from a commercial photographer turned photo teacher. Starting from that point, Cartier-Bresson’s work was a paradigm shift for me. In the recent review in the New York Times of the new Cartier-Bresson exhibition, the reviewer is attempting to similarly shift the paradigm of how we should consider the work of Cartier-Bresson. His approach struck me as almost absurd (and his review had factual errors.)

    12

    Apr 10

  • An introduction to critiquing photographs

    This podcast introduces a clearly delineated set of criteria to use in critiquing and analyzing photographs, regardless of the type of photograph.

    30

    Dec 09

  • An editing exercise – part two of two parts

    This podcast takes you through the second section of a two part process of editing a large number of images down top a select few.

    02

    Dec 09

  • An editing exercise – part one of two parts

    This podcast takes you through the process of editing a large number of images down top a select few.

    18

    Nov 09

  • An impromptu course in design of web-sites for photographers

    These days, all photographers, from commercial/documentary to portrait/fine-art, live and die by their web sites. That should mean that most websites for photographers would be built with the same goal, showing the photographer’s work to its best advantage. You also would think that an equally important goal would be making those same sites easy to navigate and very user friendly. Based on my recent experience reviewing 13 photographer’s web-sites, those assumptions would be largely wrong.

    09

    Nov 09

  • Learning the language of photography

    Besides teaching workshops around the world, I run a few small on-line critique groups. These usually arise out of workshops where the students in the group have bonded and do not want to end the critiquing/dialogue that is at the core of any good workshop. So we meet in a conference call approximately every six weeks, catch-up on photography happenings and review work together on-line. Some interesting dialogues are born in these meetings. One particular thread of discussion from one meeting is well worth sharing.

    19

    Oct 09

  • Why photographers need editors

    There are numerous aphorisms about what separates the serious/successful photographer from the amateurs/posers. Great quotes, such as: “Hobby photographers worry about equipment; Professional photographers worry about money; Master photographers worry about light” are already out there. In this blog entry, I propose to add one more to the list.

    18

    Sep 09

  • How photojournalists frame issues, for better or worse

    I recently read an article by Steve Raymer, a former National Geographic photographer who now teaches at Indiana University. He was discussing how photojournalists “frame” issues. He was not talking about the literal framing of images or the composition, but rather how concepts and ideas are organized and presented by photojournalists. That got me thinking about my own work and how I had “framed” different issues that I had explored over the years. I also started to wonder if the way I framed things had helped or hurt my career.

    21

    Aug 09

  • The importance of portfolio review events (part two)

    In the first part of this two-part posting, I explained the basics of organized portfolio review events. Today, I am writing to share some of the things I learned having been on both sides of the portfolio-reviewing table, as a reviewer and a review-ee. Many (but not all) of the errors I allude to are mistakes I actually made at one point or another.

    11

    May 09

  • The importance of portfolio review events (part one)

    A portfolio review is when you show your work to another person (duh).  A portfolio review event is a more formalized event where reviewers (editors, curators, image buyers, agents, etc.) gather in one place with explicit plans to look at the work of the review-ees (in our case, photographers.) Portfolio review events have a long and important history in the world of photography. They have also recently turned into something of a big business.  Having been both a reviewer and a review-ee, I can offer perspectives from both sides of the portfolio-reviewing table.

    08

    May 09

  • One photographer’s career path

    This podcast explores my career path, from student photographer to established professional. As I tell my story, I show photographs from the many phases of my career.

    28

    Jan 09

  • Photographs as mirrors and windows

    I often tell my students that their best photographs are the ones that reflect their personalities, life experiences and outlooks.  I was recently giving a presentation, when an audience member’s question stopped me cold and forced me to articulate how that same idea has played out in my own work.

    26

    Jan 09

  • How I learned to critique photographs

    I was reviewing another photographer’s work recently. Left and right, I was tossing off suggestions for improving the images. Though I was thinking intensely about the work, I was largely unaware of my own process, as I critiqued the work. When she asked me how I had learned to critique images so fluidly, I was stopped in my tracks.

    19

    Jan 09

  • Where I learned the most about photographing

    I recently realized that if I carefully look at my career as a photographer, I can pinpoint where I learned the most about the act of photographing.  It was not in high school, where I learned the craft of photography.  Nor was it in college, where my study of the history of photography taught me about the art of photography.  It was in a different place, one that I fear is fast disappearing from the photographic landscape.

    16

    Jan 09