“Corn Along a River” Marion Post Wolcott, 1940. Library of Congress.
My overview of American government goes generally like this: (1) Something happens. (2) The government passes some laws in response to it, adds on a few pork projects, and raises taxes to pay for the laws and the pork. (3) The laws (or pork) cause an entirely new problem. (4) Repeat.
The usual outcome of this cycle is that every year we have more laws and higher taxes. But every so often, some accidental side effect occurs and something awesomely good happens. So it was during the alphabet-soup days of New Deal government during the Great Depression. The accidental side effect was the Golden Age of American Photography. How it happened is rather interesting. Read more…
Editor’s note: This is a piece by photographers Bryan Formhals and Blake Andrews on how famous photographers’ styles are copied over and over again. Please do not read or comment if you take things too seriously.
There’s nothing wrong with not being any good at photography. Everybody started out bad and none of us does all aspects of it well. But it’s a crying shame to want to be good at it, to spend time and money trying to be good at it, and not getting any better.
This isn’t like teaching a child to read. Positive reinforcement is your enemy. Your Facebook friends, your Twitter followers… hate you. Instead of taking ten seconds to say. “This doesn’t work. You need to do better”. They readily push that “like” button, because it’s easy and they hope to get the same from you, but also because they’re cowards.
His advice? “Seek out great photography. Devour it, and be suspicious of any undue praise.”
The Economist has a fascinating piece looking at the similarities and differences between Kodak and Fujifilm, two juggernauts of film photography that took different paths when digital photography came around:
While Kodak suffers, its long-time rival Fujifilm is doing rather well. The two firms have much in common. Both enjoyed lucrative near-monopolies of their home markets: Kodak selling film in America, Fujifilm in Japan. A good deal of the trade friction during the 1990s between America and Japan sprang from Kodak’s desire to keep cheap Japanese film off its patch.
Both firms saw their traditional business rendered obsolete. But whereas Kodak has so far failed to adapt adequately, Fujifilm has transformed itself into a solidly profitable business, with a market capitalisation, even after a rough year, of some $12.6 billion to Kodak’s $220m. Why did these two firms fare so differently?
It seems like everyone has access to some kind of camera these days, but will the digital images captured survive long enough to become part of the historical record of our time for future generations? John Naughton at The Guardian writes,
[...] while digital technology has generally been very good for photography as a mass medium, it has also made the resulting imagery much more fragile and impermanent. Of the billions of photographs taken every year, the vast majority exist only as digital files on camera memory cards or on the hard drives of PCs and servers in the internet “cloud”. In theory – given the right back-up regimes and long-term organisational arrangements – this means that they could, theoretically, endure for a long time. In practice, given the vulnerability of storage technology (all hard disks fail, eventually), the pace at which computing kit becomes obsolete and storage formats change, and the fact that most people’s Facebook accounts die with them, the likelihood is that most of those billions of photographs will not long survive those who took them.
That’s a startling thought — while it’s true that digital photos can last for quite some time if you’re tech-savvy enough to preserve them well, how many people in the general population actually do so? For the ordinary photo-taker, making a print will likely last much longer than their haphazard — or non-existant — backups.
Anyone who says they aren’t frightened during war is either lying or a fool. It’s about finding a way of dealing with the fear – you have to be very calm. You’re not there to get your rocks off; you’re there because you feel your pictures can make a difference.
– Tom Stoddart
It’s amazing the kinds of dangerous situations photographers place themselves into to serve as the world’s eyes during wars and conflicts.
Boston news station WBZ-TV stirred up some controversy recently after airing a piece titled “Downtown Crossing ‘Street Photographers’ Crossing The Line?“. Apparently a viewer sent in some video showing a group of six or seven older men who regularly visit a particular crosswalk to photograph pedestrians on the street, saying that they see the men “aggressively hunting down and photographing women and children nearly every day”. The station then decided to air a piece and publish a story from this perspective, questioning the intentions of the photographers and quoting other pedestrians on the sidewalk disturbed by their behavior. Read more…
“I Am Sitting in a Room” is one of the best known works of experimental music composer Alvin Lucier. In the piece, he records himself speaking, plays it back while re-recording it, and repeated until the words become unintelligible and simply “the pure resonant harmonies and tones of the room itself”.
YouTube user canzona decided to pay homage to Lucier, and “covered” the piece in his own room using YouTube as the medium.
I started this project exactly 1 year ago, almost to the hour. The final version is a lot different than I thought it would be, I was expecting a lot more digital video noise, and a lot less digital audio noise. Let this be a lesson, though, always be careful how you convert your digital media!
An homage to the great Alvin Lucier, this piece explores the ‘photocopy effect’, where upon repeated copies the object begin to accumulate the idiosyncrasies of the medium doing the copying. Full words: I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice as well as the image of myself, and I am going to upload it to YouTube, rip it from YouTube, and upload it again and again, until the original characteristics of both my voice and my image are destroyed. What you will see and hear, then, are the artifacts inherent in the video codec of both YouTube and the mp4 format I convert it to on my computer. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a digital fact, but more as a way to eliminate all human qualities my speech and image might have.
Here’s the original video before the 1,000 copies: