Tag Archive: discussion

Worth a look: The Photography Post

The Photography Post

The Photography Post

Sort of an Arts and Letters Daily for the photography set, the Photography Post aims to “bring you interviews, columns, [and] a visual aggregate that’s updated every 15 minutes,” all about what’s going on in photography. With Rachel Hulin as an editor, you know it’ll be good, and the rest of the team (Danielle Franca Swift, Kate Steciw, and Henry Tam) seem determined to keep the world abreast of current discussion in photography of all sorts. For a taste of what the site does, check out the weekly top ten, or this post on the Dutch masters, or Go Here! Do This!, or What does being a PDN 30 mean?, or their Museum of Online Photography Collections. I could get lost for days.

From the mailbag: Two-Way Lens

Oliver Weber wrote in to tell us about Michael Werner‘s interesting interview project, Two-Way Lens. Weber wrote:


Two Way Lens is a project of interviews with international, contemporary photographers. Their answers to three simple questions about their career paths, presented in this project, should help, inspire and inform emerging photographers. The tips and advice provided will be of value to every young photographer. A new photographer/ interview is added to the project every month.

The interviews are short and sweet, but have some good information. Among those interviewed: Zoe Strauss, Richard Renaldi, Martin Parr, Lori Nix, Alec Soth, and Amy Stein.

Update: conversation on race, diversity, and photography

There have been two prevailing attitudes toward the proposed conference/symposium dealing with issues of race and diversity in photography:

a) That it is absolutely necessary & b) It is a terrifying prospect.

The first point speaks for itself, and the second point becomes clear when one considers the kerfuffles, misunderstanding and (dare I say it) vitriol that has accompanied much online discussion.” -Prison Photography

Following up on earlier talk of a conference on race and photography, Pete Brook has spearheaded the effort to create an online symposium covering the subject, and the momentum is building. A great mix of potential contributors have already responded positively to the idea, and the work behind the scenes is moving quickly. Read about what we have up our sleeves over at Prison Photography. And get involved!

Skin color and the photography industry

[I held off on posting this, thinking we wouldn't be adding much to the discussion...but after a week or so, there still hasn't been much mention of organizations working to change the demographics of the photography industry]

There are a lot of white faces at all levels in the photography industry: in the editorial offices, in the business offices, behind the cameras, and in front of the cameras (well, in photojournalism it’s often dark suffering faces in front of the cameras, but that’s another conversation; rarely do black models feature prominently in fashion magazines, for instance.). What started as an observation at Reciprocity Failure turned into an incendiary accusation and “contest” at Duckrabbit and then blossomed into a conversation in the photography blog echo chamber. Prison Photography, Politics, Theory & Photography, APhotoADay, Conscientious, Photo Business News & Forum, and APhotoEditor all weighed in, and I’m sure there were others. Duckrabbit’s now added more fire to the flame…. Some of the best discussion I’ve seen on the topic occurred on lightstalkers and in APhotoEditor’s comments (though APE’s discussion got a little out of hand and comments have since been closed). I was also interested to read John Edwin Mason’s perspective about the lack of diversity at the just-finished Look3 festival in Charlottesville. This is a conversation that needs to happen. Photo District News started out as the target of the accusations of passive racism, and they have responded in the PDNPulse post “On Lack of Diversity in Photography, and in PDN.”

As some have pointed out, this is a problem far more pervasive than the jury for PDN’s Photo Annual. Looking at the jury for this year’s POYi, for instance, or the names of the BOP judges, the contests are controlled, primarily by white people (update June 23: thanks to a reader for pointing out that BOP counts a few African-Americans and latinos among their judges). World Press Photo, on the other hand, boasts a remarkably diverse roster of jurors. Here, I should say that I do not mean to impugn any of these talented judges or these contests; the work they reward is often well-deserving and the lack of the diversity, I think, indicates not a pernicious white supremacist power grab, but rather a passive exclusion of people of color endemic to the European and American mass media industry. That’s still a significant hurdle, but perhaps it’s better than it could be. Also, there’s a raft of black media organizations (old list, found in a suspect comment in APhotoEditor’s discussion), and I don’t want to disparage their efforts by suggesting the western media is only white. That list, too, suggests that the majority-white media world does not fill the market need for black Americans, and one suspects it doesn’t for other minorities in the US, either. That isn’t necessarily a problem either; media perhaps shouldn’t be all things to all people, and a multiplicity of publications aimed at varied audiences begets a broader and better perspective on the world than would a few magazines aimed at “the masses.”

The simple fact is that there needs to be more diversity throughout the photo industry at all levels. Programs such as the Angkor Photography Festival’s free workshops for young Asian photographers, the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop (interview about the workshop), Aina (a nonprofit geared toward creating a well-trained independent local media in Afghanistan; interview about the workshop), the Gordon Parks Center for Culture and Diversity (their photo contest deadline is today, by the way), the Young Photographer in the Caucusus Award (deadline June 15), and minority journalism programs and professional organizations (yes, they do matter!), begin to address the need for an entry point to photography to those from different backgrounds than the middle class white males dominating the industry. Programs such as Women in Photojournalism or the Photobetty collective (sadly, now seemingly defunct) begin to address gender disparity in photography. Organizations such as Majority World exhibitions such as ICP’s Snap Judgments, and blogs such as Asian Photography Blog, begin to show the world as viewed and photographed by its many cultures. And grant competitions such as National Geographic’s All Roads Photography Program begin the process of rewarding high-caliber photography by indigenous photographers. But this is only a beginning.

Sunday reading: Interviews with Steacy, Diefenbach, Holdt and others

My RSS reader has been full to the brim with photographer interviews of late.  Here’s a few worth checking out to fill a lazy Sunday afternoon:

John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing”

I can’t believe I’d never heard of John Berger‘s 1972 four-part BBC series and book “Ways of Seeing” before. Each episode–”Ways of Seeing,” “The Female Nude,” “Oil Painting,” and “Advertising“–is available on youtube, though I only managed to watch halfway through the second episode before China blocked youtube. The series, which I’m told replays on the BBC every couple of years, starts from a position very relevant to the world today: we’re awash in images, and each of those images, intentionally or not, pushes an agenda which may not readily present itself to the viewer. Berger advocates a critical engagement with all images, from contemporary advertising to the oil paintings of the European masters and beyond, and his series gives viewers the language and tools to do so.

Berger’s inquiry moves slowly and critically, dissecting images, their contexts, and what viewers themselves bring to the dialog between picture and viewer. The book, “Ways of Seeing,” has played a role in contemporary feminist thinking through its exploration of depictions of women in advertising and classical painting. The second episode of the series, “The Female Nude,” takes on the subject most directly, calling into question the whole of classical images of women. Berger’s conclusion, as well as that of those he interviews in the series, is that the paintings of nude women hanging in the great museums of Europe are nothing more than pornography. The women in the paintings are objects to be violated or consumed, and nothing more. I’ve rarely heard someone speak so forcefully against this branch of the western canon, and it’s refreshing.

The series is not without its faults. In the first episode, Berger appeals to oil painting as the highest of visual forms. Perhaps, but likely not. My timeline of photographic art history is a bit fuzzy, but this series likely appeared around the same time that photography as art was making its way into the great galleries and museums of the world. Photography now stands alongside other visual art forms as almost an equal. Berger’s reliance on his own opinions and arguments, too, presents problems. Halfway through “The Female Nude,” John Berger realizes he hasn’t had a single female critic discuss the subject; he quickly fixes the problem with an all-female discussion panel, but the anxiety he feels here runs throughout the parts of the series I’ve seen.

And yet, there’s a lot of value to the series. Speaking or writing about visual subjects is notoriously difficult. While we’re forced to watch Berger stare at paintings more than is necessary, “Ways of Seeing” adeptly weaves the visual with discussions about the visual in straightforward and jargonless language. Berger’s presents his views clearly, making careful observations about the visual without delving into art school discussion-style solipsism, tautology, ambiguity, or equivocation.