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.

Le Garage

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott

So, I’m happy to announce a call for submissions for Le Garage, “an itinerant exhibition project born out of a common love for photography-related books and publications.”

In actual fact, Le Garage will be an exhibition of photobook dummies by both known and unknown photographers, held off-program at the opening week (10 days, actually) of this year’s Les Rencontres d’Arles photography festival. I’ll let you all check out the details on the website, but I will say that it promises to be alot of fun and good exposure too – Arles is always jam packed with photographers and photography lovers that week, and I can promise you that we’ll be putting together an exhibition that will attract them all (or at least the good ones)…

More details later as the project comes together.

More North Korea

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott

Noko Jeans
, ‘By Train to Pyongyang’

A brief update on the previous post – right after I published it, I came across a more photographically interesting gallery of North Korea photos taken on a business trip to Pyongyang.  There’s also a small photobook!

It’s short but interesting and brings to mind pictures of the eastern block right after it crumbled; work by Luc Delahaye, Lise Safarti, innumerable others, work that, to some extent, is still being done today.  Can you imagine the tidal wave of photographic coverage if the reclusive regime falls and access opens up to the country…  Tools like North Korea Uncovered, however, lead me to think that this time around coverage would be a bit different.  The former USSR was such an interesting subject because it was so… opaque to Westerners.  I suppose that will, to a certain extent be true in this hypothetical case, but things like the smuggled video cameras in Burma and the limited photographic work already being done in the DPRK make me think that all it would take to radically transform the story from a fingerpointing look-what-sorry-state-this-country-is-in to a much more nuanced and interesting view is a couple dozen digital cameras given to people who have likely never known that such tools even existed…

North Korea

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010 - Nicholas Calcott

Tongil Street in Winter‘ by Kernbeisser

Via Photography Prison, I came across this interesting Flickr set of Pyongyang in winter by Kernbeisser (who has alot of other North Korea Photos, too) which launched me on this extended internet recollection of interesting things I’ve recently read on the reclusive North Korean regime. Yes, I know, none of this is strictly photo related, but, of course, photography is all about building relationships between otherwise unconnected subjects, so I think you’ll forgive me for this.

Due to the general prohibition on journalistic access to North Korea, the only real way to get a look at the country is via tourist photos, like the Pyongyang set, or via satellite photos, available to us on Google Earth.  If you’d really like to spend some time trying to figure out the country, the North Korea Uncovered add on is invaluable.  Pieced together from news reports and tales from defectors, it provides a map key to the country’s infrastructure, military installations, and the yawning divide between how the country’s tiny elite and the great mass of the population live. [Found via a fantastic On The Media story]

It’s also worth noting, at this point, the excellent 3-part series on North Korea, shot by Shane Smith.  The thing culminates at the Arirang Mass Games, a massively creepy demonstration of autocratic power. Definitely worth watching if you haven’t already seen it.

But the limited access provided to tourists in North Korea, like the tour that Smith took, is not the only diplomatic effort the regime engages in. Besides blackmailing foreign governments by returning kidnapped foreign citizens in return for visits by high profile politicians, North Korea has also opened a series of restaurants in places popular with South Korean Tourists…

But the best recent thing I’ve read on North Korea was a several page article in the always excellent Cabinet Magazine (whose most recent issue has a photo by Alessandra Sanguinetti on the cover, incidentally) on the kidnapping of Choe Eun-hui and her ex-husband Shin Sang-ok. Entitled “All Monsters Must Die,” by Magnus Bärtås and Fredrik Ekman, it tells the story of the couple’s kidnapping by the agents of Kim Jong Il and how the film obsessed dictator built a studio and forced them to create films intended to rival the best that South Korea had produced. Unfortunately, the article is not available online, but I was able to find a telling of the story by the BBC, though I assure you it’s worth tracking down a back issue of Cabinet to read all about it.


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…


Monday, October 19th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Gagh, I’m sorry!  I’ve come down with something and can’t concentrate long enough to give you all a decent post.  Sorry, but you’ll have to wait a day or two more…

A decent, well thought out, full post tomorrow.

Photography and Forgetting

Saturday, October 10th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Still from Chris Marker’s ‘Sans Soleil’

A big subject.  Some resources in a specific order:

1. “We describe the course of our “false-memory implantation” research, and review recent work showing that photographs can sometimes increase—while other times decrease—false memories.” Source here.  More here. And here. And here. Or just hit the search button on “Photography false memory“.

2. Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil.  See the entire thing here if you speak French or Spanish.  Or buy the Criterion diskIncredible.

3. Taryn Simon’s TED talk.

4. Eidetic memory

(Also, I stumbled across this…)

How Big?

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Early this month DLK Collection wrote a post estimating the approximate number of serious photography collectors there are in the world:

So let’s begin with photography fair attendance numbers. All of the estimates coming up are made with a mind to make the numbers as large as possible, to estimate on the outer edge of what the number might really be. I’ve got three data points from the most recent versions of each fair: AIPAD New York 2009: 8000 visitors, Paris Photo 2008: 35000 visitors, Les Rencontres D’Arles 2008: 60000 visitors. AIPAD is I believe a collector heavy show. So while there are clearly curators, professionals, artists, press and general photo enthusiasts in the crowd, a good portion are real buyers. My estimate is approximately half might fit into the $5000+ category (4000 people), and perhaps three quarters in the $1000+ group (6000 people). The two shows in France have a much larger portion of local photo enthusiasts in the crowd. For Paris Photo, let’s go with as much as 15% of the attendees in the $5000+ group (5250 people), and 25% in the $1000+ group (8750 people). Since Arles is mostly expositions, the percentages need to be even lower: at most 10% for the $5000+ crowd (6000 people) and 15% for the $1000+ crowd (9000 people).

They come up with around 5000-10000 collectors worldwide with a collector defined as spending $1000+ in a calendar year.  These numbers strike me as really really vague (and are acknowledged as such) and necessarily inaccurate, but they’re a good place to start on a bigger question: how big is the serious photography world in general?

That is to say, how many people are seriously interested in contemporary art photography?  That excludes the occasional dabblers and those that go to the blockbuster shows and little else; and, of course, having a Robert Doisneau poster up in your dorm room does not necessarily qualify you. This then, is all of us actively reading the photo-blogosphere, the photogs, the gallerists and collectors, the museum departments and critics, and those passionate about and otherwise engaged in what’s happening in photography now.  To how many people, then, does photography really matter?  How big is our potential audience?  How many people are paying attention? What audience would always be there if the art-market all of a sudden unceremoniously dumped photography?

Given that everyone I’ve ever met in the photography world seems to be separated from me by, at most, two degrees, my gut feeling is that it’s not very large.  Informal conversations with other photographers and bloggers regularly turn up numbers in the tens of thousands – 20,000.  30,000. At most, 50,000.  Which would be in line, I think, with DLK’s numbers, which included both contemporary and vintage collectors, and which represents a subset defined by ability to spend and desire to collect.

Some other figures that might help define this number – Subscription (and sales) numbers from Schaden and Dashwood‘s e-mail newsletters; average attendance numbers for Jeu de Paume‘s contemporary photography shows (Alec Soth, Martin Parr, Sophie Ristelhueber, etc.); MFA’s awarded in photography every year; reader numbers for some of the more widely read photoblogs and online showcases; Print run and selling numbers for the Badger/Parr Photobook book;  some real numbers for some of the estimates tossed around in the comments here.

Incidentally, my research on this subject dug up an estimation of $144 million for the size of the photography print market in 2006 as well as a fascinating article on the development of these markets, all available for francophones here.


Monday, July 27th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Tom Sachs
Tom Sachs, ConEd NASAblad, 2008

Just a little note – Tom Sachs is showing some work at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum.  Sachs is well known for reconstructing, from scratch, well known symbols and objects, frequently adding new features that were not part of the originals.  Previous projects have included the McDonald’s arches, Hello Kitty, and the entire Apollo space program.

The work showing at the Aldrich, however, is a little closer to home: Cameras.  This includes reproductions of the Haselblads brought to the moon, as well as Leicas, Nikon SLRs, and other well known camera symbols.  Check it out if you can.


Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

After that last post, I just couldn’t help posting an Ezra Stoller photo on this one

So I got back from Arles about a week ago, but getting back into the swing of things has proven a bit difficult.  We had a great time down there, but you’ll have to read more about the festival elsewhere.  In the meantime, however, my folder is overflowing with things to post, so I’m just going to have to clear away some of the more miscellaneous ones now: