New Yorker Article: On Photography and Loneliness

...if love belongs to the poet, and fear to the novelist, then loneliness belongs to the photographer. To be a photographer is to willingly enter the world of the lonely, because it is an artistic exercise in invisibility. In the course of its relatively brief history, photography (and, by extension, those who take photographs) has been accused repeatedly of constituting an act of predation, as if the street is a savannah and the person with a camera a large cat, silent and hungry, ready to sprint after its next meal. In reality, though, the person with the camera is not hiding but receding. She is willfully removing herself from the slipstream of life; she is making herself into a constant witness, someone who lives to see the lives of others, not to be seen herself. Writing is often assumed to be the loneliest profession, but solitude should not be confused for loneliness: one is a condition we choose, the other is a condition that is forced upon us. A writer creates a world, and she is the ruler of it; the photographer moves through the world, our world, hoping for anonymity, hoping she is able to humble herself enough to see and record what the rest of us—in our noisy perambulations, in our requests to be heard—are too present to our own selves to ever see. To practice this art requires first a commitment to self-erasure.
— Hanya Yanagihara, The New Yorker

Quote 15: On Photography's True Strength by Joerg Colberg

In photography, we never see a before or after. We only see a moment, a carefully selected moment, and we are given the gift of being able to look at something we never get to experience in real life: Time stopped, death told to wait. Photography’s limitation, the fact that it’s a moment gone already, turns into its true strength, confronting us with our own desires, and our mortality.

Source: Essay by Joerg Colberg, Meditations on Photographs: Jacob Israel Avedon, Sarasota, FL May 17, 1971 by Richard Avedon

Quote 14: On Seeing by Fred Herzog

Take street pictures because it hones your instincts for speed and for quick composition. But above all what you bring in your mind to the scene is what makes your picture. If you don’t read, if you don’t have discussions with enlightened friends, you do not get there. There is a saying about seeing: Only a few people can see but most people don’t even look. And that says a lot to me. You can only see if you have something in your mind to bring to the picture. The camera is just the least important adjunct to your ideas. Your observations are important because they’re you. The camera is just a gadget you can carry on in your hand or around your neck or on a tripod.

Source: Fred Herzog, Flaneur not Voyeur. Street Reverb Magazine

I Don't Feel So Bad

My research shows that an MFA doesn't give you an advantage in getting into commercial galleries or museums, making a living as an artist or getting grants. It's very expensive and saddles you with student debt that you have very little chance of paying off by working in your chosen field. Save your money, live your life, read, travel, pay attention, learn to think for yourself. Work hard, look inside yourself and make yourself the best artist you can be.

Source: Jane Chafin at Offramp Gallery Blog

The Quiet Work Gets Buried

The reason this matters to photography is that it can lead to a situation where we are constantly consuming and never digesting. The danger with the infinite accessibility of the web is that we can find ourselves only looking at photographs that are immediately seductive or simply popular in the networks around us. Work that might be deemed quiet, challenging or even just off-putting can get totally bypassed. Moreover, if our interaction with photography is limited to a ‘Like’ button or the 140-character equivalent, we run the risk of never getting beyond the surface of images and of not developing an understanding of why we like or dislike something. Given the demise of arts criticism in traditional media, this kind of critical thought is arguably more important than ever.

Source: Eyecurious, You Like This.

Quote 08: Bruce Davidson

What’s great about looking at your work is the emotion comes back. The rhythm of what you were photographing comes back. It’s almost like a musical score.

What I’d like is to be rediscovered. One of the reasons I did the book before engaging any institution in showing my work is that I knew it would stay. (No one was beating down my door, anyway.) I thought: “I want the curators to see. I don’t think they know me. I want them to see me, to see what I’ve done and what I could be doing.” I didn’t play the art world at all. I didn’t even play the fashion world. I could have easily become an incredible fashion photographer. I threw it aside because I felt a calling. It seemed real to me.

Source: NYTimes Lens
More of Bruce Davidson's work at Magnum Photos website.

The crux of the matter: It’s too simple

Indeed, straight photography contains no inside information, does not require an MFA to understand nor big words to describe. It does not make the viewer feel superior for having understood it. What fun could the cognescenti possibly have by embracing such a low art form?

What straight photography can do, when practiced at a high level, is describe the essence of the time in which we live in a way that any person with functioning eyes and a brain can connect with and draw something from. It is simple, and often, simple can be very hard to do well.

Mike Peters

Source: La Pura Vida comments section

Great photography comes from seeing

An excerpt from Myles at Heather Morton/Art Buyer blog. He writes:

"Great photography does not come from being good on a computer - it can help, but unless you know how to see your computer is only a trick. Nor does great photography come from riding the same wave as every other photographer in that market.

You can argue with me until you are blue in the face but the simple fact remains: Great photography comes from seeing. Interpret how you will.

And right now I feel there are a whole lot of shooters out there who are wearing the same dark sunglasses."


Rodney Smith on composition

Welcome to the blogosphere, Mr. S.

The second thing—which has to do with photography in general, not only this one photograph—is composition. Composition is to photography what rhythm is to music. It is about symmetry and proportion, resonance between the photographer and subject; where everything fits just so. Almost like iambic pentameter in poetry, or natural cadence and body rhythm. To me this picture represents not only everything in its right place, but also the right proportions, the right relationships, the right cadence. Composition is seriously lacking in most photography in the 21st century. It has been abandoned—whether due to lack of skill or lack of interest I’m not sure. It seems to me losing a sense of composition is synonymous to having an irregular heartbeat.