Sunday, January 18, 2009

Photography and the eyes of the beholder

by Liz Jobey @ The Guardian

For anybody interested in the changing nature of photography over the last 30 years, Michael Fried's Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before is an important book. The reputation of its author – one of the leading art historians and critics of the past half-century – is guaranteed to capture the attention of photographers and artists alike. Its size and thoroughness, over 400 well-illustrated pages in a large art-book format, distinguish it from the many volumes of critical theory that contemporary photography has spawned in recent years. And the title unambiguously states that photography matters as art, which settles one long-debated question at a stroke.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Twilight of the color photo

As printed snapshots vanish, we're losing more than shoe boxes full of mementos

By Dushko Petrovich @ Boston Globe

ONE HUNDRED YEARS ago, one of Paris's richest men had a quixotic dream. Returning from a personal trip to China and Japan, the banker Albert Kahn decided to build a huge visual archive of the planet. Kahn believed that mutual misunderstanding was the source of world conflict, so in 1909, he began funding scores of photographers as they set out across five continents. By the time the Great Depression finally bankrupted him 22 years later, Kahn's intrepid op??rateurs had managed to document almost 50 countries, returning to France with 120 hours of film footage and 4,000 black-and-white pictures. This alone would have been a remarkable legacy, but the real jewels of the collection were printed on glass, in a full spectrum the world had never seen. The recently invented technique of the autochrome - which made portable color photography possible - meant that Kahn's emissaries could also amass a staggering total of 72,000 color plates.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A haunting memorial in 'Library of Dust'

Photographer David Maisel became fascinated by canisters of cremated remains at the Oregon State Hospital. They spoke to him of secrets, transformation and loss.

By Leah Ollman @ LA Times

The first photograph in David Maisel's new book presents a view into a storeroom that clearly doesn't get a lot of foot traffic. An old wooden desk with no chair is parked in the corner. Bits of debris have gathered on the stained linoleum floor. The walls are what give this room, and Maisel's book, its name: "Library of Dust."


Friday, January 02, 2009

In Photography, What Puzzles the Eye May Please the Mind

By KEN JOHNSON @ New York Times

NEW HAVEN — Photographs are shameless. They’ll do anything to get your attention. They’ll show you celebrities in and out of their clothes, exotic creatures and objects, places and events that you would never otherwise see.

Another, paradoxical strategy for captivating viewers is to show them something they can’t immediately understand. Whether because of its visual complexity, its oblique perspective, its lighting, its degree of abstraction or the unfamiliarity of its subject, it’s the kind of photograph that makes you stop and think, “What the heck is that?” And it keeps you looking until you’ve figured out what it is you’re looking at.