Phillipe Jusforgues

Monday, August 31st, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Phillipe Jusforgues
Phillipe Jusforgues

I’ve been clicking around and slyly chuckling to myself on the site of Phillipe Jusforgues.  He creates collages the old-fashioned way and on the computer leading to some interesting and amusing results.

Natascha Libbert

Friday, August 28th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Natascha Libbert
Natascha Libbert, from “Men and Orchids”

Her work has popped up all over the place (see her news page for where, exactly), but I stumbled across the site of Natascha Libbert while searching for something else.  Go check it out.  A project I especially like is Men and Orchids which I find to be an almost sarcastic treatment of the male gaze in photography…

Ryan McGinley

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Ryan McGinley
Ryan McGinley, from the series “Moonmilk”

There’s some nice new stuff by Ryan McGinley over on Tiny VicesCheck it out. [via What the Jackanory, A Photography Blog]

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.

Photography and Film

Friday, August 14th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

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Robert Wright, it being August and sort of quiet, has posted a long article on the end of photography.  I urge you to head to his site and read it as it deals with alot of the things that we’re trying to confront over here:

Photography is dead. Slowly dying since the 70’s, on life support the last decade or so, I think you will see motion film (video) in many of the applications where the still was used formerly. And I believe the internet is the natural home of the video as print was to the still image. Stills on the internet are not as compelling as motion is. Bandwidth is the only obstacle, otherwise we’d be there now. With youtube, we mostly are there.

The first counter-argument that comes to me is that photography is visually and aurally silent – Text is still the quickest way to absorb large amounts of information, and this becomes increasingly hard if a video is vying for your attention.  It’s one thing to go to a Youtube page and see one video playing, but imagine if every ad you saw on the internet was animated.  I think my head would explode.

And I do think that it’s in that silence that photography draws it’s strength.  It doesn’t demand attention like moving images do, but instead waits patiently for the viewer to come to it.  “Photography,” as someone recently said to me, comparing photography and film, “is concerned with subtleties.” It is hard, as a photographer, not to envy the emotional power of film, with swelling chorus, linear (if occasionally disjointed) story, and characters who develop and change over time.  Film and video is a medium of grand sweeps, but photography one of details

Still, though, I think the grand point, that last century was photography’s century, may still be valid.  It’s hard to imagine photography alone bringing information to the world like it has.  Indeed, it’s telling that the last major world event (the Iranian elections) was represented almost equally in images and film, but it was a film (don’t click through if you don’t want to watch it again!) that became iconic.

Totalitarian Kitsch

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

gallery-billnoko5

The Wall Street Journal has a short piece on the recent photo (shown above) of Kim Jong Il and Bill Clinton which I find weirdly fascinating.

This week the world’s eyes were on the extraordinary photograph of former President Bill Clinton seated next to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il—an official picture taken at the end of talks that led to the freeing of two imprisoned American journalists. Mine, I confess, were elsewhere, continually diverted to the photo’s dramatic backdrop, an enormous mural of crashing seas and fluttering birds rendered in lurid greens and brilliant whites.

You can find a wider shot of this picture here and a bunch of other portraits taken here (at the bottom).

I wonder what kind of photo-education the state’s official photographers recieve:  Do you think they get photo history?  If you asked them, who do you think they would state their greatest influences are? Don’t forget, these photographs are produced for an international audience, not just a North Korean one so there must be some sort of styling – these aren’t purely utilitarian photographs, like a police lineup.  Someone chose the background and the arrangement, and someone makes visual decisions for all of the photos the Korean Central News Agency (more info here) releases…

Cameras II

Monday, August 3rd, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Tokyo Camera Style
From Tokyo Camera Style

I stumbled across this piece of photo-equipment porn recently: Tokyo Camera Style. I love that they have so much Contax – you don’t see that that much these days…