Docupedia

Monday, September 20th, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott

Dutch Doc is a (surprise, surprise) Dutch website and blog specializing in documentary photography.  They run essays and blog posts and their twitter feeds all on the main page, but barring a major upgrade in google translate, the site is pretty much uninteligible unless you speak Dutch.

That being said, however, one aspect of the site which is in English is the Docupedia, a project begun to catalogue many of the different photography institutions and prizes all over the world.

Obviously, there are areas (Europe) where they are much stronger than others (Africa and South America don’t have a single entry for example, which is obviously not the case), but it’s the beginning of a valiant effort to provide a one-stop reference to the various photographic scenes.

The lack of coverage of some areas, though, highlights an interesting point – I highly doubt that the people behind Dutch Doc are intentionally or unintentionally excluding photographic organizations in non-western countries.  Much more likely is that they simply don’t know about any. Which is a bit of the problem – as most of the readers of this blog are probably avid internet photography viewers, we probably know plenty of Western photo organizations – they are, after all, the most likely to be plugged in and the most likely to have a website or to appear on a blog. So, the failure of this map (so far, it must be said – it’s an ongoing list) is its very lack of African, Asian, and Latin American institutions.  These institutions are the most likely to benefit from a map such as this, and they are also the most likely to show us something we haven’t yet seen in a way that we have equally not seen (see this graphic for a sense of this), which one might say goes some way to explain the very appeal of photography.

[Randomly, check out 'A Japanese Book' via Eyecurious Books...]

On that topic, Greater Middle Eastern Photo recently posted a timely essay as a response to Perpignan:

Congratulations to Frédéric Sautereau who has won the International Daily Press Award at Visa Pour L’Image for his work on Gaza which appeared in La Croix.

Sautereau is no stranger to the area and has bodies of work including Jerusalem (and other divided cities), the wall separating Israel and the West Bank, Gaza and Hamas. It is a deserving win, though I look forward to the time when photographers from the region lead the way in producing award winning work about their homelands.

Why they don’t go on to greater glory is the crux of the matter, and the author goes on to provide some explanations.  Read more here.

Facebook

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott


from American Suburb X’s Jules Shulman Archive on Facebook

So, posting slow as I’m working on a redesign of the site that will make the archives more accessible and conversations and comments more visible. It’ll be up this week or next.

In the meantime, check out… Facebook?  Yes, Facebook, that massive social networking site that has been adapted by businesses the world over for reasons of dubious (at best) marketing trends.

Dubiousness aside, there are quite a few photo resources on Facebook, many of which you can find by searching through the profiles of various well connected photo personalities.  Most of them use the site as another website – announcing the occasional news item, keeping the profile up to date, adding friends, but little else but maintaining a presence on the site.

An exception to this has been the always excellent ‘blog’ American Suburb X, which has really outgrown the blog form and instead become a repository for scholarly essays on huge swaths of the photography world.  They maintain a huge amount of their content on their Facebook site, rendering a friending well worth it…

Others I like – The Photography Post, Foam Magazine, nofound, Lay Flat, Little Brown Mushroom, etc.  Let me know if I’m missing anything in the comments…

Kopoba

Thursday, February 25th, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott


From the book ‘Entropie‘ from kopoba.de

I recently received a cryptic e-mail pointing me towards the website Kopoba.de.  On the site itself, there’s absolutely no context except for an address in Berlin and some links to ‘friends,’ of which only 2 ring a bell to me (Lina Scheynius and Yanniv Waissa).  Upon entering the site, though, you’re confronted with images of 17 books, arranged in a grid.  Each book is (it appears) handmade and browsable and contains tipped in photographs.

I must admit, I’m not a fan of every book in the grid (some I find a bit too sentimental for my taste), but some are really nice, and I must admit that I was exceedingly charmed by the presentation as a whole… Worth a browse.

Old Books

Monday, December 21st, 2009 - admin


Alexey Brodovitch

I hate deadlines – keeps me from blogging.

Anyways, I disappear from the internet for just a couple of days and Larry Sultan goes and passes away.  I never had the fortune to meet him, but he was and will remain to be one of the few photographers who I like without condition.

Also, check out this Blake Andrews post regarding his publishing of the original show catalog for New Topographics.  George Eastman House contacted him about taking it down (in a respectful and sincere way, it must be said), which just highlights the problems to having some kind of online resources to look at alot of books like this.  I’m fortunate to live in a city that has a phenomenal photobook library (with a terrible, terrible website) accessible to all, but it’s a shame not to be able to share books long out of print that we’d all be dying to pass on and/or see.  In that spirit, you’ll find below all the spreads that I had the good fortune to photograph a few years ago from Alexey Brodovitch’s Ballet (note: it’s not the complete book – I didn’t shoot all the spreads).  It’ll be up indefinitely (I hope) as I can’t even seem to find who owns the copyright: the book was self-published (as I understood it), Brodovitch himself is long gone, and the estate, as it, is doesn’t really exist.  So why not?

Follow Up

Saturday, November 28th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Nicholas Calcott
Nicholas Calcott

A quick follow up on this, my working Saturday.

Mrs. Deane celebrates their(? her? its?) 1000th post with more follow up from Paris photo and a reflection on what we do, and whether we can get paid for it.  Hippolyte Bayard, in turn, posted his own reflections on the blogging medium

The trouble with posts on this subject is that they are essentially one sided: From blogger to reader and not vice versa.  I know this may seem like one of my innumerable calls for comments, but it’s not:  The fact of the matter remains that the vast majority of people who pass by this page and this site do so silently, and I understand that to be the case for most blogs.  I may occasionally get a comment or feedback from another blogger or hyperactive internet user, but blogging (at least in the photo context) has become a rather one sided affair – a heated conversation is one with 5 or more comments, and even that is rare.

The long and short of it being that, in no small part, the importance of this blog to me (and, I suspect, the importance of most blogs to whomever writes each) lies more in the suspicion of its impact on readers than any concrete evidence of that impact.  Of course, there are the statistics, but how reliable those are is anyone’s guess. I noticed at some point that most of the search terms that were bringing visitors to this site were largely unrelated to most of the photography featured and skewed towards posts with naked girls (Olga and Bettina, Richard Kern, and Helmut Newton are all popular [and I probably just increased the skew]).  I wonder how many of these visitors are interested in a serious conversation about photography and the nature of the medium (which is really what I hope this blog is about)?

So this self-reflection on blogging and our own place in the minds of others, and how to put a hard quantitative number on that (i.e. monetizing the content) strikes me as a little bit forlorn.  You readers may be out there, and this blog may matter to you in a small way, but I’ll never know.  For me, blogging is, and will probably remain to be, a solipsistic affair with the expectation of an audience.

State of the Photoblogosphere

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Enami
Stereo image of Hikono Park by T. Enami. Via Mrs. Deane.

As I and some of my peers have mentioned, there was a European photoblogger meeting on the sidelines of Paris Photo, organized by Laurence Vecten of LOZ.  You can find a full list of participants on Hippolyte Bayard’s Paris Photo roundup.

As you might expect, it was a bit odd to meet a series of people that you know only through their blog voices – the first few minutes were taken up by introducing ourselves until we realized that our real names meant nothing to anyone else and that we should be introducing ourselves by our blog names.

Once that was aside, though, we actually launched into a pretty vibrant discussion of the state of the photoblogosphere – What we do right, what we do wrong, where we fit in in the wider photo ecosystem.  I’ll relate a few of the main points from the discussion and from other conversations I had during the past few days as I feel it’s actually pretty instructive. I do feel, despite my clear conflict of interest, that blogs have come to occupy an important spot in how we approach and speak about photography.

That, I suppose, is the first point: As the initial blogging fervor that caused so many of us to start our own blogs has died down (now you’re more likely to see a new web magazine than a linear, largely text based blog), the blogging form has matured and the blogs that remain active and popular have diversified to fill a few roles.

There are feeders, which provide us all with a steady dose of new work;  news-y sites, which function to highlight and note important issues and events; review sites, somewhat scientifically going over books and shows to note what’s good and what’s not; essay sites (like, for the most part, I hope this site is), casting a longer and more critical eye at contemporary photography), and sites which are pure artistic flights of imagination, featuring text and quotes and photos with no obvious link to one another save the topic of photography. Most sites are not any one of these things, of course, but rather a mix of some or all of them – But, for better or worse, that’s what we do.

What we could do better is another issue altogether.  Diederick Meijer of the Black Snapper made the point that blogs, in general, are maddeningly free of facts – I’m not sure that we can really be held accountable to the standards of journalism given that we aren’t paid or trained for that, but blogs do function as the closest things to newspapers the photo world has. Should we function more as hard news sources, or at least have some solid grounding in facts when we state our opinions? I’m sure we all agree to the latter point, but I’m not sure it’s really fair to expect me to call up a source to get the full story on an article I’m writing – I have, simply put, a limited amount of time.

But, as several people pointed out, blogging should be a value added activity, not simply ‘so-and-so saw this, go check it out.’  We aren’t required to be servicey, of course, but none of us got into photography to be selfish bastards who couldn’t care less about the wider community – digging up new work that hasn’t been widely seen is an essential function of what we do – I believe that we should be really making an effort to make accessible to others photography that would not normally be seen.  Just to take one example: It’s pretty much a given that 90% of work you come across on blogs is work made in North America and Western Europe, for a variety of reasons, not least because we have websites that you can link to. But take this for example. That is awesome.  I approve.  We should dig up more things like that.

But as long as we’re on the topic of my personal approval we come to my main gripe: There simply isn’t enough (constructive) negative criticism on the blogs.  There are reasons for this: Why would I waste time writing about something I don’t like?  Old media critics, on the other hand, have a beat – they go to a certain number of shows and they review the shows, both the exceptional and unexceptional ones.  We, for the most part, don’t have an impetus to write even when it’s not a resounding endorsement of something we’ve found, but I do think we’d benefit if we did – negative criticism is clearly a healthy part of discourse: I think we’re missing out on it.

A final note: Alot of the problems I highlighted above have to do with time and money, a subject touched on but not deeply discussed at the meeting. Would it be possible for photobloggers to come up with some kind of funding mechanism, or are we fated to always remain a group of amateurs (in the non-professional sense of the word), albeit deeply committed and knowledgeable amateurs?  And, I wonder, how many of us would want to pick up the extra time commitment and responsibility that would come with any serious monetization of a blog?

P.S. If you were there and I forgot about anything important we spoke about at the meeting, let me know in the comments.

Portraits

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

VideoMate
Still from VideoMate montage

Sorry – Another throwaway post before a longer one on Friday…

Anyways, AFC had a link, recently, to Ethereal Others, a web art project that I absolutely absolutely love, by Harm van den Dorpel.  Ethereal Others is the counterpart to Ethereal Self, a site that inputs an image from your webcam and outputs it as a weird, faceted kaleidoscope.  Little do the users know, but the webcam also captures an image which is then sent on to Ethereal Others and archived there.  The result is a huge survey of portraits.  More than all that, though, Ethereal Others is the internet version of people-watching – you can scroll while comparing faces, backgrounds, etc., checking out cute girls/boys, trying to figure out what this is an accurate sampling of: Internet users, art school students, AFC readers, those interested in net art?

The second link I’d like to direct you to is a phenomenal video on Ian Alexander Adam’s blog.  I won’t spoil it by describing it to you, but please go watch it.

Both Ethereal Others and the sources from which the video is taken are interesting takes on portraiture – One assumes that you can relate something essential about oneself through a screen and the other seems to assume that all that is relatable is one’s appearance, or, at most, socio-economic info gleaned from one’s clothes and background…

P.S.  Also, Hippolyte Bayard tracked down one of those Downfall videos, this one on Kodachrome.  I think it may be the best way of addressing that subject.

Web Design, etc…

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

A quick update on the previous post -

Things Magazine recently published a list taken from Blogs : Mad About Design of blogs with notable design.  Worth a look…

I’m not clicking through every link tonight, but I don’t see any of the photoblogs…  I wonder if that’s their omission, or would one really say that there aren’t any blogs dedicated to images worthy of inclusion in such a list?

UPDATE: Wait, except for Another Something, the new home of Joachim Baan’s Another Company…  Any others?

Looking at Pictures…

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Junior Bazaar
Junior Bazaar, January, 1947, with art direction from Alexei Brodovitch

Fred Ritchin writes frequently on how photography, and specifically concerned photojournalism, is and has changed on the web and in the era of digital.  A recent post caught my eye:

When one looks at great magazine design there is almost nothing like it on the Web. The era of mass picture magazines started with magazines like Vu in France where the covers were as graphic and stunning as posters. Inside pages for Vu and other early magazines like Regards and Picture Post were used to experiment with all kinds of juxtapositions of images, text and other graphic elements. But what we end up with in terms of design at the beginning of the Web era is much like what we have in desktop publishing — clean sites that look professional but are almost never transcendent.

Clearly, a lot of this has to do with the technology – In print, it’s one thing to, for example, overlay text and image, and in code it’s an entirely different and much more complicated thing.  Which is not to say the technology isn’t there, because it is, in Flash, which is an entirely different ballgame in terms of ease of use and loading times on a site.  As it is, Flash sites tend to be overdesigned, not underdesigned, frequently suffering from the seductiveness of whizzing, moving images and text, not an unwillingness to experiment with the medium.

Anyways, even within the limitations of technology, there are few people willing to push the limitations of text and image on the web.  I can think of one, off the top of my head – i heart photograph, with it’s seemingly endless list of photos of the day and willingness to ignore the conventions of blog interface in order to give the reader an endless way to explore it’s particular corner of the photography world.

Words Without Pictures site is one (recently back online with the publication of their book) even though it’s dialogue between text and photos is defined by a self-conscious absence of the latter. A commenter on Ritchin’s original post points to three other super-flashy sites: http://www.sobluesoblue.nl; http://www.go-no-go.nl; and the really, really excellent accompaniment to the book of the same name, http://www.whymisterwhy.org.

Who knows of any others that bear a special mention?

P.S. I wasn’t able to track down an decent images of Vu, but you can find a couple here and here and some more with a google search.

Paris Projects

Monday, September 7th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Georg Parthen
Georg Parthen
, from his project ‘Beaugrenelle‘ and submitted to the mus-mus ‘@Paris’ project.

The mus-mus@Paris project has debuted on their site – go have a look if you haven’t already.  The project has been fairly well reported around the photo-blogosphere, and the list of photographers contains some familiar names; Alec Soth, Stephen Shore, Sylvia Plachy, Bertien van Manen, Simon Roberts, Linus Bill, Richard Renaldi, Vincent Debanne, etc.  Closer to home (the internet), Hester Keijser and Norman Beierle (Mrs. Deane), Shane Lavalette, and yours truly all participated.

The @Paris project was, if you recall, a call for pictures of Paris from photographers from all parts of the world.  From the call for submissions:

It is fitting that Paris, lovingly called “The City of Light” should have been one of the first and most thoroughly photographic and photographed places on earth. The list of Paris’ photographers runs from Daguerre and Nadar to Brassai, Doisneau, Cartier-Bresson and from Atget to Man Ray, Kertez and Klein and many more, a remarkable number of photography’s greatest artists made their mark ‘a travers’ Paris. Their photographs and publications have fixed in our mind’s eye a vision of Paris that is beautiful, often as edgy as elegant, and always complex.

The results, as you can see for yourself, are impressive.  But as Marc Feustel, another expat based in Paris, writes on eyecurious:

I did find a lot of interesting material (Céline Clanet’s image above is a favourite), but overall I felt slightly frustrated. Paris has become a difficult city to photograph because of its past, but for me, as a group, these photographs did not sufficiently get under the skin of the city.

I certainly struggled with this when I first moved here (it took me about 6 months after arriving before I could even pick up a camera again in this city), but having resumed photographing again, I frequently ask myself how would one best depict this city?  Paris is a city of mythology, more so than New York.  New York is a lived-in myth whereas much of Paris’ mythology derives from the past or from a fantastical view of the city that never really existed (see Amelie Poulain).  Indeed, every year there are groups of tourists who so idealize the city that when confronted with the actual city they go into shock, a phenomenon known as Paris Syndrome.

I think one must be sly about shooting in this city: You have to acknowledge the history, but at the same time completely ignore it when actually working.  If you don’t, you run the risk of sliding right past what’s directly in front of you and instead capturing only the surface of metropolis as least as complex as any other.  Paris work should always be more than just an archaeology of objects, architecture, and types, more than the reflection of the allure of the city…