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Tagged With « history »

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • The Constitution, Catholicism, slaves and guns

    I am going to out on a limb here and I may risk offending a few readers but the recent killing of in Connecticut of twenty seven people, mostly school children, should be offensive to all Americans. Yes, I am a liberal and I live in the North Eastern liberal-belt between Boston and Washington. On the other hand, I am a former gun owner who knows and respects plenty of gun owners.

    21

    Dec 12

  • The all important copyright registration process

    The NPPA (National Press Photographers Association) has a great tag line they used to use with many of their promotions that goes “Our Images Are Our Legacy.” I believe that same idea applies to all kinds of photographers, not just photojournalists belonging to the NPPA. (I would argue that this idea is true for any creative practitioner who wants their work to be their legacy.)

    09

    Dec 11

  • What 9/11 did NOT change in my photography

    Last week I blogged about how the terrible events of 9/11/01 changed photography. (Or maybe more accurately, how the photography that came out of that day highlighted the changes in the culture of photography that were just picking up speed at that moment.) That essay was written from the perspective of a blogger first and a photographer second. This week I approach the same topic the other way, as a photographer first and a blogger second.

    23

    Sep 11

  • 9/11 changed the world (of photography)

    The tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 has come and gone. I listened to, watched and read many of reports on the commemorations. I was equally interested to read the many commentaries exploring the long-term impact of those horrible events on our nation and on the world. Throughout that process, I never read a commentary that explored the way that 9/11 has impacted the world of photography. With that in mind, this week I will explore my reaction to the events of 9/11 as a blogger/photographer.

    16

    Sep 11

  • Lazy Artists Rip-Off

    In last week’s blog, I started with an quote attributed to Picasso, who is supposed to have said: “Good Artists Borrow, Great Artists Steal.” I explored the importance of inspiration and how most artwork is built on work that precedes it. The stealing that Picasso referred to, in my opinion, was stealing the core idea behind a great piece of art but making new and uniquely authored work building on that “stolen” core. That essence is the only thing that should be “stolen” from other artists. A recent on-line controversy left me thinking that a new line needs to be added to Picasso’s quote, which would be something like “Lazy Artists Rip-Off.”

    15

    Jul 11

  • Good Artists Borrow, Great Artists Steal, Lazy Artists Rip-Off

    That idea has been floating around in my thinking in one form or another for as long as I have been a photographer. Studying the history of photography, or the history of any creative medium really, is a pretty explicit way of embracing that idea. I have been following a controversy on line involving a photographer I know, copyright rules that I value, an on-line lynch mob that prompted me to wince and the larger question of influences, appropriation and finally flat-out theft.

    08

    Jul 11

  • Memory and photographs in the “twice promised” land

    I am winding up my time in Israel and the West Bank. Having spent time in both places, I can safely say I am more confused then ever. So much so, that I will not be blogging about the politics of the conflict. I am not sure I can add anything to what is already a very heated and complex debate. I will be blogging this week about the one topic that I can speak about comfortably, photography. I want to think out loud about the interesting role that images and memory play for both “sides” here. My thinking is derived from my recent experiences here, my years working here as a photojournalist and my larger interest in the history of photography.

    27

    May 11

  • Remakes in film and photography

    Having studied history of photography in college, I am perfectly comfortable with the idea that many (most) of my photographs, to this day, are shaped, consciously or unconsciously, by the work of photographers I have previously seen. On the other hand, photographers rarely, if ever, do conscious remakes of the work of the predecessors, unlike musicians who are known for “covering” or performing the work of their predecessors. Filmmakers are perfectly comfortable doing remakes. The new movie, True Grit, is just the latest example of artists revisiting a story and reinterpreting that in their own way. I recently encountered a couple prize-winning photo projects that were remakes of sorts, which resonated very strongly with a project I did twenty-eight years ago.

    18

    Mar 11

  • Musings on developing a style

    I have been back in India for a few days after a week in Singapore. Returning reminds me how the chaos of India contrasts dramatically with the order of Singapore. As a street photographer, that same unruliness is one thing that makes India so compelling. On the other hand, as a person who thrives on efficiency and order, Singapore holds an equal attraction. I wrote in the first of these three blog entries about the “journey” that Singaporean society as a whole is trying to take as it moves up the economic ladder. As I see it, such progress will only be made when individuals embrace the more unruly aspects of the creative processes. In this blog entry, I will answer the query of one Singaporean who has taken on that challenge.

    26

    Jul 10

  • The power of paper

    If all goes well, this will be the last blog entry prompted by the discoveries that I made during my recent spring-cleaning. As I was reviewing, editing and purging old documents, files and papers, I had a few more flashes of wisdom worthy of one last blog entry. Those insights reminded me of the value of my having studied the history of photography in college. Although I make my living as a commercial photographer, that education, focused on the liberal arts, rather than on a specific skill, continues to serve me well, thirty-odd years later.

    25

    Jun 10

  • Technologies, necessary and otherwise (part three)

    This is the last of three blog entries, for the moment, exploring my thoughts on technology. The entire set came from things swirling through my head lately. Events, especially e-mails, prompted me to organize those thoughts into the first two e-mails. This entry explores the starting point for all three posts, which was the fairly non-technical process of spring-cleaning.

    26

    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

  • Problems and possibilities: Considering photography’s limitations

    I was reading the New York Times recently and encountered an article, with photos, that really struck a chord with me. The article was interesting but the photos were unexceptional. It took me a while to figure out why I was so moved, but once I did, it also lead me to think about the power and the limitations of still photographs. I am not sure that still photography (or today’s multi-media) can ever fully get past those limitations. But the more I understand the question, the better equipped I will be to at least try to address it.

    19

    Mar 10

  • Covers in music (and photography)

    I have often pondered the similarities, differences and connections between music and photography. The former is something I have no talent for, other than the ability to enjoy it. The latter is something that I continually find both challenging and rewarding. I have considered these two media throughout my life, initially, as a toe-tapping teenager and now as a working, creative professional. Some recent reading spurred me to sit down and try to make some sense out of the jumble of ideas that I have about photography and music. Some of what I settled on is more philosophical and some is more practical, resulting in two separate blog entries, of which this is the first.

    05

    Mar 10

  • Reflecting on Vietnam

    This podcast takes you on a very short and personal trip to Vietnam.

    10

    Feb 10

  • My long-time “project” on Communism

    During my recent trip to Vietnam, I put to rest the lingering anxieties, stereotypes and misconceptions that I had held on to concerning that country. On that same trip, I also “finished” a long-standing (and rather informal) “personal project” that I had been working on for a couple decades. Since I was eighteen I have been subconsciously trying to “understand” Communism. The project was not an overtly photographic one, but photography certainly helped me in my pursuit of better understanding of that ideology.

    22

    Jan 10

  • Vietnam as a war, Vietnam as a country

    When I told my seventeen-year old daughter I was going to Vietnam, she was very impressed. I ostensibly went to visit a friend who lives there and to try to see the country through his eyes. I also went to photograph (and scout locations for a potential photo workshop.) I am pretty sure my daughter thinks of Vietnam in connection with the TV show, the Amazing Race and maybe the musical, Miss Saigon. For American men of a certain age (like me,) Vietnam conjures up something very different.

    18

    Jan 10

  • How do we think about the “age” of a photograph?

    I have been thinking/writing a lot recently about how photographs “age.” I do not mean physically, though that is an important question. I mean in terms of how we experience them as old or new. Recently, I blogged about my wife’s current project, photographing three or more generations of Indian women and turning those portraits into animated, multi-generational family portraits. Last week, I wrote about the importance of making actual, physical prints in order to preserve important memories. More recently, I was corresponding with a friend about his images, which were made decades ago. We were trying to figure out when an image changes from something contemporary (even if not recent) into a historical document. Since most photographs capture a moment in time, all this pondering makes some sense. On the other hand, it may just as likely be that I am extra sensitive to the passing of time, having just had a birthday.

    11

    Jan 10

  • One small history of Indian photography – Part two

    (In the first chapter of this blog entry, I introduced Prabhu Photo, a state-of-the-art photo lab in Bangalore, India where I had my E-6 slide film processed for merely a decade. The changing business climate for Prabhu photo is a bellwether for the changing imaging landscape in India.) I was such a regular at Prabhu that I kept my own loupe (magnifier) at the lab and I also had my own set of cotton gloves for handling the film without fingerprints. The young men who worked for Prabhu ended up knowing the drill as well, including knowing not to cut my film and what kind of coffee to bring me half ay through my edits to keep me awake. Those sessions at the light box alternated between exciting and heart-breaking, depending on how well or badly I had done in capturing on film what had been in front of my camera.

    08

    Jan 10

  • One small history of Indian photography – Part one

    I have been spending a lot of time at Prabhu Photo, a state-of-the-art photo lab in Bangalore, India. Back in the day, in the last century, (hah,) when I was shooting color slides, I used to have them processed at that same lab. Now that I have gone digital, I am going there to have color prints made from digital files. These prints are mostly for the various Indians I, or my wife, have been photographing. In the time I have known and worked with the proprietor, Allama Prabhu, I have seen his business grow and grow and more recently contract and contract. The change in the business of Prabhu Photo is something of a microcosm for the history of photographic processes in India. The amazing thing is that I am only talking about a short, thirteen year “history.”

    04

    Jan 10

  • Indian odds and ends

    My time in Calcutta, India, has ended and I am now in Bengaluru, (formerly Bangalore,) with my wife’s family. Considering how bad the weather is in the U.S. right now, I am particularly pleased to be here where it is warm and dry, working in familiar territory. This trip to India has been a bit of a whirlwind, with five-day stops in both Chennai (formerly Madras) and Kolkatta (formerly Calcutta.) Now I am starting a longer stay in Bengaluru. All this moving about has left me with bits and pieces of things to think about, which will make up this blog entry.

    28

    Dec 09

  • Thinking about photographs, not photography

    I spend a great deal of time thinking about photography (duh.) Recently, I had some encounters where I was pressed to think about the photograph itself. As I was thinking about that, I noted that most of my energy is concentrated on the process of photographing, rather than on the outcome of that process, the actual photograph. As I listened to other people talking about actual photographs, I had a “chicken vs. egg” moments, where I was unclear, which came first, the process of photography or the product?

    27

    Nov 09

  • From “mad cropper” to full-frame perfectionist

    I almost never crop the photographs that I make. For me, the best images are captured by careful composition in the camera, and not ‘saved” by cropping after the fact. I will be the first to admit that I was not always so disciplined. In tracing my evolution from mad cropper to full frame perfectionist, I realized the idea of not cropping went from technical objective to moral imperative to aesthetic goal and now is a philosophical mission.

    20

    Mar 09

  • “Hitting the wall” when it comes to learning new technologies

    I was having a conversation (via e-mail) with a friend/photographer in California, named Michael. It quickly grew from a personal discussion to something much more philosophical. It started on photography but ended up being about much larger issues.

    12

    Jan 09

  • The history of photography of California farmworkers

    In politics there is the so-called “Washington read” which, according to Word Spy is: “The perusal of a book in a bookstore that consists of checking the index for references to oneself and reading only those parts of the book.” I never thought I would live to see the day when I did my own version of the “Washington read” of a book, but that happened recently.

    01

    Dec 08

  • Alone on the water: the last Rhode Island Quahoggers

    This enhanced podcast takes you on a journey into the lives of Quahoggers (Rhode Island’s shellfishermen,) exploring their traditional (but threatened) way of life.

    05

    Nov 08

  • My favorite photography book

    One of my favorite photography books of all time is a remarkably simple book called On Being A Photographer.

    29

    Sep 08