What should a photography magazine be? This question propelled a long conversation at Aperture Foundation about how we can navigate the next chapter of photography’s evolution and make a vital contribution as a print publication. The new Aperture was created with two steady assumptions in mind: First, that in a time when photography is abundant on digital platforms, images in print—ink on paper—continue to offer a uniquely actual experience.
This is an image of a state-of-the-art camouflage technology. The cloak has embedded in it a tiny imaging system that projects onto its outer surface a photographic picture of that which lies beyond the wearer. The effect is to render the wearer nearly invisible, although in this phase of development it works only from certain vantage points.
A mobile-phone video clip provides the most powerful new evidence of war crimes taking place in Libya following the capture and killing of Muammar el-Qaddafi. The rudimentary video clip filmed by opposition militia members shows a large group of men, captured with Qaddafi's convoy, held in detention and being cursed at and abused by anti-Qaddafi rebels.
Long before the words "climate change" were part of daily discourse and our understanding of our destiny, Robert Frost wrote a short poem that told us what to expect: "Some say the world will end in fire,/ Some say in ice." Those lines leapt to mind when I saw this fantastic picture—at once operatic and existential—and got to thinking about how Jonas Bendiksen harnesses Instagram, the most to-the-minute smartphone technology, to depict indelibly the primal line humankind is walking (individually and as a species) between varieties of apocalypse.
What matters now is Instagram. It's intoxicating. I've recently become hooked. It's nectar for visual people, like having a poem in your pocket. Just the act of looking for Instagrammable pictures has opened my eyes more widely. I see all kinds of things I didn’t see before: from the big landscape to the tiny, intimate moment, it encourages a closer engagement with the world —tiny visual meditations throughout the day.
The great drive and desire fueling a vast range of photography has always been the belief that the entire world, in all its glory, misery, and complexity, could be captured in images if only enough cameras were snapping all the time. The belief in a one-to-one correspondence between the Earth, our world, and its photographic model found its first expression in panorama picture modes that emerged alongside the earliest cameras.
"Literature," Susan Sontag once said, "is writing one wishes to reread." Works of art, one might extend, are images or objects or performances one wishes to re-view. Early in his long career, in 1973 to be exact, the artist-writer Victor Burgin offered a slightly different definition: "A job the artist does which no-one else does is to dismantle existing communication codes and to recombine some of their elements into structures which can be used to generate new pictures of the world."
It's been a year now since I drove from Scranton, Pennsylvania, to San Francisco and let the air out of the tires. My wife was given a yearlong fellowship here to work for an idealistic nonprofit that creates new technology for city governments.
I acquired this photo from my wife, who took it at the famous photography festival in Arles, France. That's me with my back turned, and those are my children on the floor. It wasn’t posed, though it kind of looks like maybe Jeff Wall was involved.
There's a pleasure proper to the almost antique technology of the photobook. There are things possible in a photobook that digital dissemination cannot hope to emulate. That was certainly how I felt when I received my copy of based on a true story, published this year by Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey.
I keep these postcards, which I bought at an artists' multiples shop in Toronto, on the tall bookshelves near my desk. One is on one shelf, leaning against a row of books; the other on another shelf, leaning against some more books. These vintage postcards were found by the artist Sandy Plotnikoff, then foil-stamped with Toronto.
I found this poster at an antiques shop in Maine. I'd invited my daughter and her friend along as my shopping enablers. They did not fulfill their mandate. They counseled me not to buy the poster. I tried to sell them on selling me on buying it. "Why do you like it?"
Environment is a reflection of one's identity, and vice versa, and this is nowhere made clearer than in Takashi Homma's 1999 series and book Tokyo Suburbia. Homma's project asked what it means to be Japanese to a generation entrenched in an alien fast-food culture and living in apartment blocks in the city's outskirts—housing for Tokyo's large commuter workforce.
Contemporary art photographers are opening up new ways of thinking about the medium. Are institutions ready for this wave of photographic innovation?
It has been nine years since I wrote The Photograph as Contemporary Art (Thames & Hudson, 2004), my survey of photographic practice over the previous five years.The slow cumulative battle to validate photography as contemporary art had long been won by the time we went to print.
Jeff Wall's photographic work made over four decades has opened up the parameters of the medium to issues long understood to be outside its provenance. At the same time, his prolific writing has been an important factor in the development of a much-needed critical vocabulary. Wall's contributions in both arenas provide conceptual underpinnings for contemporary artists. He requires photography to do the work of reflecting not only the world, but also the terms of that engagement. And his explicit relationships to both painting and film have opened new paths of understanding photography's possibilities and place in the world. Wall makes use of a form of "cinematography" to pry photography from the narrow confines of technique and definition. His coinage phantom studio proposes that any given location can be imbued with the intentionality of the studio. These concepts and others have shaped the way we think about photography. In the conversation below, Wall speaks with Lucas Black about the current state of the medium, his recent work, and the freedom of the artist.
Lucas Blalock: Considering the changes that photography has undergone in the past decade, how might we consider it as a "medium" in its current situation? I mean here not the physical support, but the set of conventions or historical uses that act as a ground, making the decisions of the photographer legible.
Observing by Watching: Joachim Schmid and the Art of Exchange
With billions of networked images flowing through social media, how can we understand what photography looks like today?
It is surely telling that in the same month—January 2012— Eastman Kodak declared bankruptcy and Facebook, the world’s largest online social-network site, moved toward becoming a publicly traded company valued at $100 billion.The following April, Facebook spent one of those billions acquiring Instagram, a startup offering mobile apps that let people add quirky effects to their smartphone snapshots and share them with friends.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help: Thoughts on Recent Scholarship on Photography
Structural Division and Exchange
Materiality and Bodily Trace
Community and Ritual
Revelation and Absence
Sin and History
What new debates and ideas are occupying scholars of the medium? Photography historian Robin Kelsey outlines the key ideas animating research today.
Scholarship on photography is so abundant and varied today that discerning trends is no easy task. But perhaps photography itself can assist us. In particular, Our Lady of Perpetual Help (2008), one of a series of photographs by S. Billie Mandle of compartments for penitents in confessionals, may serve as a helpful touchstone.
"The camera has offered us amazing possibilities. [...] We are only beginning to exploit them; for although photography is already over a hundred years old it is only in recent years that the course of development has allowed us to see beyond the specific instance and recognize the creative consequences."
Akram Zaatari, a founder of the Arab Image Foundation in Beirut in 1997, has emerged as one of the most prominent commentators on photography of the Middle East. Overseeing AIF's mission to preserve and study the photographic culture of the region, Zaatari has, as both an artist and a cultural critic, pushed for more experimental approaches to understanding this collection. Through books, installations, and videos, Zaatari's visual studies provide new ways of seeing and thinking about images. This work parallels his long-term engagement with "the state of image making in situations of war," highlighted in his book Earth of Endless Secrets (2009). More recently, Akram Zaatari: The Uneasy Subject (2011) explores the way photography and other imaging practices capture vernacular expressions of masculinity and sexuality. The following interview with anthropologist Mark Westmoreland took place last October via email correspondence.
Westmoreland: You have played a fundamental role in the establishment and direction of the Arab Image Foundation. Today, AIF is one of the most interesting and significant photographic archives in the region. Can you talk about how this collection came to be?
Decolonizing the Archive The View from West Africa
Across the world archives of photographs are disappearing, but does preservation pose its own problems?
A museum director and friend in Saint-Louis, Senegal, once said to me when I asked her if it was true that large numbers of negatives had been dumped into the Senegal River: "Si ce n'est pas de poissons, c'est des clichés" (There may not be fish, but there are negatives).Her comment refers to the contemporary crisis in the local supply chain caused by overfishing in Atlantic coastal waters.
Penelope Umbrico in conversation with Virginia Rutledge
In 2008 Patrick Cariou brought a copyright infringement suit against Richard Prince. Prince had used images of Rastafarians photographed by Cariou and published in a photobook to create a series of collage paintings. At the trial level, Prince's use of Cariou's images was ruled infringing, and the case is now on appeal.
In 1960 the Dresden firm of Ihagee Kamerawerk brought out the third version of its Varex Ila model of the Exakta brand, the world's first 35-millimeter single-lens reflex camera. The initial model, marketed in 1936, expressed the link between still and movie cameras—reified through shared use of 35-millimeter film—in its name, the Kine Exakta.
Philip-Lorca diCorcia in conversation with Leo Rubinfien
For many years, an aura has surrounded the Garry Winogrand archive. The photographer, who died in 1984 at age fifty-six, left behind more than six thousand rolls of unedited film and numerous photographs that had been marked on his proof sheets but never printed.
Michele Abeles wondered out loud to me recently: "Besides street photography, what photograph isn’t arranged?" That's a loaded question, especially coming from a graduate of Yale University's MFA photography program, the mecca for setup photography.
Walking with Jason Evans—through city streets, across a university campus, or even around his own home—one realizes that he is a truly voracious looker. His eyes will frequently light up, a camera will appear in his hand, and the journey will veer in a new direction, even as the conversation maintains a steady flow.
A decade ago, documentary photographers and visual journalists relied for production funding on their agencies and representatives brokering a path to primary (assigning) and secondary (resale) markets. Now publishers' ability to invest in visual storytelling or pay re-use fees is seriously diminished, while photographers increasingly reach their audiences directly.
Anouk Kruithof works with photography: she works through photography, around photography. The stand-alone image is rarely, if ever, the point. More critical are the events that result in photographs —actions that lead to photographs, which lead to installations, books, and videos; projects like Lang Zal Ze Leven/ Happy Birthday to You; Playing Borders: This Contemporary State of Mind; and Untitled (I've Taken Too Many Photos/ I've Never Taken a Photo).
Andrew Norman Wilson's ScanOps project examines the systems, people, and processes behind Google Books. Here he speaks with curator Laurel Ptak about the project. Laurel Ptak: Tell us about your recent photographic series ScanOps. How did the project develop?
To Photograph the Details of a Dark Horse in Low Light
It is said that she (or rather her first incarnation) worked at the Kodak factory in Rochester, New York, in the 1950s— though the story has never been verified. Her name is Shirley, and she is something like an embodiment of photography's tendency to dodge and blur distinctions between the generic and the particular.
Phil Chang's unfixed photographic prints disappear in the light required to view them. Here he speaks with photographer James Welling about genre, the performative dimension of his work, and algorithmic realism. James Welling: Will you talk about how you view genre?
In the late nineteenth century, magnesium flash powder literally brought dark scenes to light. Pull the trigger on a device like this one—metaphorically styled as the Chelsea Flash Pistol, with which to "shoot" subjects— and an electrical current sparked a chemical reaction in the bowl containing magnesium powder and potassium chlorate.