Category Craft

Images With Value

What is the purpose of a photograph? In our field, we have several standard answers – to tell a story, to inform our community, to evoke a response.

To me, I use a camera not to make pictures but to share ideas, to raise questions and, hopefully, to answer some. I make pictures of things I don’t understand or haven’t seen before. I try not to make photos of things that others have photographed often, but that doesn’t mean I don’t photograph what is around everyone – as a trained observer of the human condition, I try to photograph things that are present but not necessarily known.

Over at The Online Photographer, Mike Johnston writes about the types of images he wants to look at – which is sometimes different than the types of images he makes.

I suppose the most telling question I would ask of a photograph is, why should I look at this? Why should this picture interest me? Or, to put it the correct way ’round: why should anyone else look at this? Why should this picture interest someone else?

Dorothea Lange and Her Role Developing Modern Photojournalism

Well worth reading: Alice Gregory at The New York Times’ Style Magazine takes a look at the role of Dorothea Lange in the growth of photojournalism as the Museum of Modern Art opens their second retrospective on her.

Sigh … I may have to go to New York again …

Her contemporary Ansel Adams called her pictures “both records of actuality and exquisitely sensitive emotional documents.” She was an artist under the guise of a journalist and an activist under the guise of a dispassionate civil servant, and it would be impossible to think of any of these roles today without her influence.

And this section, written about her final months:

Lange was only eating soft foods by this point and rarely ventured outside. She kept a camera around her neck, though, “for health,” and continued to take photographs — of her house, of her family.

A Sense of Interiority

There are many great quotes in this interview with Dawoud Bey, but this resonated deeply with me:

African-Americans in photographs have very often been viewed through a lens of social pathology. So, I wanted to respond to that kind of representation by making photographs that conveyed a deep, complex humanity.

I want there to be real sense of interiority, to go beneath the surface.

We talk about making images with intentionality quite a bit, now I’ll add interiority to the conversation.

“That’s My Profession, To Look”

Robert Frank died in September of 2019 and he made The New York Times Magazine’s end of year retrospective, The Lives They Lived.

This is an interesting look at his work, moving well past his seminal book, The Americans, and into some of the other work that helped pay the bills inlcuding promotional work for the Times.

All these pictures had such loose, grainy softness that the lack of concern for formal composition suggested Frank was after something else: essential human feeling extracted from the blur of life. “I saw a lot of things other people didn’t see,” Frank said. “The eyes were always fine and could always find a place of interest and zoom. That’s my profession, to look.”

More Photographs of Notes

This is becoming a trend … Getty Images photojournalist Mark Wilson walks through his image of the president’s notes.

Pay attention to his thinking behind the gear he was carrying – being prepared is key.

The Pelosi-Trump Photo

Good discussion over at the Chatting the Picture podcast about the Nancy Pelosi – Donald Trump image that the White House released last week.

A lot of analysis in the first six minutes, but they didn’t go into the sourcing issue which raises all sorts of other ethical questions – do you treat this differently because it’s a hand out photo? Does that factor into the discussion?

The Importance of Design in Cameras

The designed Luigi Colani died recently. While that New York Times obit deals with many things, it doesn’t do justice to the work he did with Canon in the 1980s – he is credited with the design of the T90, the first truly modern SLR camera.

Look at that camera – introduced in 1986, almost every DSLR of today owes a debt to its purposeful, organic and humanist design. That was the camera that truly moved manufacturers away from the dedicated dials and knobs and started to take full advantage of microprocessors.

In the mid-1980s, that was one of the cameras we all lusted after. A beautiful piece of kit that was truly revolutionary.

Over at The Online Photographer, Adam Richardson has a nice tribute to Colani.

Turning Dust Into Stories

I’m going to be ordering another book … photographer Jessica Wynne’s project on the chalkboards of professors was written up in The New York Times and I’m fascinated by this. There’s an evidentiary nature to this work, the residue of work … I just love this and have encouraged The Red & Black to think about this sort of a project on campus.

Photographing Apollo 11

This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen online, if you’re a space geek, you’re about to lose part of your morning.

American Masters: Garry Winogrand

PBS’ American Masters took a look at the life and work of Garry Winogrand and I highly recommend this – it gives a fascinating insight into his street photography and acceptance into the art world. It’s available online through May 17.