LANDSCAPE PERSPECTIVES:PROJECTING PHOTOGRAPHY’S FAVOURITE GENRE
By Isobel Taylor
Once considered a secondary subject in painting, landscape imagery now dominates our visual media as a vista of its own. Often the word ‘landscape’ is interchanged for words such as nature, place or space. Each concept is duplicitous and makes engaging with landscapes on a critical level all the more challenging. Landscapes in photography are mostly considered to be factual and therefore ideas about realism must be considered too. 
'Nature’, as a concept, has now become alien to us and even our understanding of the landscape genres (romanticism, picturesque imagery, etc) has become a managed and manicured version of nature. Representations of the landscape have changed throughout history and are now influenced not just by art movements but the way we have changed our external world through urbanisation and virtual reality. 
In particular European landscape photography, which in the shadow of American landscape photography, is often overlooked. The legacy of colonialism is present in both the European depiction and understanding of landscapes as a whole. Practitioners of the genre in Europe today are often pigeonholed as those who explore identity, for example in ‘Sense of Place: European Landscape Photography’, an exhibition curated by Liz Wells at Bozar. Photography is used to understand the external world, to control it and also to place ourselves within it. By taking a photograph we provide a solid viewpoint from which we can take information. This approach is also used to handle the devastating loss of the natural world. 
As previously mentioned romanticism, picturesque and nostalgia are unfashionable in postmodernist landscape photography so taking a critical and balanced view of environmental problems is popular. Instead the sublime, a concept that is constantly developing is often used in contemporary practice.
An untraditional use of the sublime is seen in the work of Mishka Henner [’Coronado Feeders, Dalhart, Texas’, pictured top]. He uses Google Maps to reveal the not so hidden corners of the world through appropriation. Areas that are meant to be secret or classified may not be accessible physically but aerial images of it are often readily available. This is a uniquely flat form of landscape photography. It still holds true to traditional ideas that demonstrate our dominion over nature but the structure of the image has changed. 
European power has left its remnants not just over nature but people too in Corinne Silva’s ‘Imported Landscapes’ [pictured bottom left] and this demonstrates the similarity of fauna and flora on both sides of the Mediterranean; Spain and Morocco. Our expectations of these countries are contrasted to create multi-platform conversations on how to deal with attitudes, in particular, to migration.
These three artists approach landscapes differently not only in the content of their images but also the way they work. At a time where we are constantly overloaded with images, to be able to distinguish themes and make sense of it all is crucial. To make a coherent and meaningful exhibition can be more challenging with the amount of artists and images available. Wells work with ‘Sense of Place’ is a pinnacle exhibition, cementing this as a topic within landscape photography, allowing for critical debate and the continued wave of artist focusing on these ideas. 
Much like Henner and Silva, Wells too can create political conflict within the image. She mentioned in a talk that she had chosen a photographer from Latvia, Alexander Gronsky [’The Edge’, pictured bottom right], that was actually considered an immigrant as part of Russian influence and she was confronted by a Latvian student who felt offended that Wells suggested this man could represent her country. Wells acknowledged this but also said this conflict was part of the debate she wanted to create with this exhibition. 
It is said in photography that by being specific, taking a very personal or unique situation is often a key to helping a wider audience empathize or connect with the image. Landscape photography does this very well, Gronsky’s work being one example. However, the landscape also causes us to think about ourselves not just about our personal lives but about ourselves as a species. The future of landscape photography may not just be to acknowledge that nature constantly threatens our existence and present to the world but explore solutions to our rapid growth in both technology and population that causes us to doubt identity, nature and our humanity.

LANDSCAPE PERSPECTIVES:
PROJECTING PHOTOGRAPHY’S FAVOURITE GENRE

By Isobel Taylor

Once considered a secondary subject in painting, landscape imagery now dominates our visual media as a vista of its own. Often the word ‘landscape’ is interchanged for words such as nature, place or space. Each concept is duplicitous and makes engaging with landscapes on a critical level all the more challenging. Landscapes in photography are mostly considered to be factual and therefore ideas about realism must be considered too. 

'Nature’, as a concept, has now become alien to us and even our understanding of the landscape genres (romanticism, picturesque imagery, etc) has become a managed and manicured version of nature. Representations of the landscape have changed throughout history and are now influenced not just by art movements but the way we have changed our external world through urbanisation and virtual reality. 

In particular European landscape photography, which in the shadow of American landscape photography, is often overlooked. The legacy of colonialism is present in both the European depiction and understanding of landscapes as a whole. Practitioners of the genre in Europe today are often pigeonholed as those who explore identity, for example in ‘Sense of Place: European Landscape Photography’, an exhibition curated by Liz Wells at Bozar. Photography is used to understand the external world, to control it and also to place ourselves within it. By taking a photograph we provide a solid viewpoint from which we can take information. This approach is also used to handle the devastating loss of the natural world. 

As previously mentioned romanticism, picturesque and nostalgia are unfashionable in postmodernist landscape photography so taking a critical and balanced view of environmental problems is popular. Instead the sublime, a concept that is constantly developing is often used in contemporary practice.

An untraditional use of the sublime is seen in the work of Mishka Henner [Coronado Feeders, Dalhart, Texas’, pictured top]. He uses Google Maps to reveal the not so hidden corners of the world through appropriation. Areas that are meant to be secret or classified may not be accessible physically but aerial images of it are often readily available. This is a uniquely flat form of landscape photography. It still holds true to traditional ideas that demonstrate our dominion over nature but the structure of the image has changed. 

European power has left its remnants not just over nature but people too in Corinne Silva’s ‘Imported Landscapes’ [pictured bottom left] and this demonstrates the similarity of fauna and flora on both sides of the Mediterranean; Spain and Morocco. Our expectations of these countries are contrasted to create multi-platform conversations on how to deal with attitudes, in particular, to migration.

These three artists approach landscapes differently not only in the content of their images but also the way they work. At a time where we are constantly overloaded with images, to be able to distinguish themes and make sense of it all is crucial. To make a coherent and meaningful exhibition can be more challenging with the amount of artists and images available. Wells work with ‘Sense of Place’ is a pinnacle exhibition, cementing this as a topic within landscape photography, allowing for critical debate and the continued wave of artist focusing on these ideas. 

Much like Henner and Silva, Wells too can create political conflict within the image. She mentioned in a talk that she had chosen a photographer from Latvia, Alexander Gronsky [The Edge’, pictured bottom right], that was actually considered an immigrant as part of Russian influence and she was confronted by a Latvian student who felt offended that Wells suggested this man could represent her country. Wells acknowledged this but also said this conflict was part of the debate she wanted to create with this exhibition. 

It is said in photography that by being specific, taking a very personal or unique situation is often a key to helping a wider audience empathize or connect with the image. Landscape photography does this very well, Gronsky’s work being one example. However, the landscape also causes us to think about ourselves not just about our personal lives but about ourselves as a species. The future of landscape photography may not just be to acknowledge that nature constantly threatens our existence and present to the world but explore solutions to our rapid growth in both technology and population that causes us to doubt identity, nature and our humanity.

ASSEMBLING MATTERS OF CLIMATE CHANGE

By Stephen Hughes

These are stills from an RTÉ (Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Ireland’s public state-owned public broadcaster) news report on the 13th of April 2014 on climate change, in response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released the same day. This was the report that showed how global emissions of greenhouse gasses grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades. The scientific consensus on this issue is that climate patterns of temperature and precipitation are evolving alongside a slow rise in sea levels, and that humans are very likely responsible for it – primarily through the emission of greenhouse gases and transformations of the Earth’s land surface. This is the reality of the situation. As a public-service broadcaster, RTÉ is tasked with conveying this reality to its citizens. A problem arises however, when we confront the fact that the reality of climate change is not identical with representations of the reality of climate change.

The reality of climate change is constructed in labs through the assemblage of geological samples, air particles, greenhouse gas measurements, theoretical studies of climate processes, modelling tools, simulation programs, and lots and lots of data. This is the reality of climate change; not some transcendental realm outside of it that these theories and observations point to – the assemblage of these measurements, simulations and empirical observations are what we understand as climate change. There is no external observer that can see climate change abstracted from these particulars. The combination of these scientific activities with our networks of communication are what define climate change. It is here that we learn of the dangers facing civilization and of our destructive relationship with the environment. And yet these articulations of climate change are not identical with the articulations of climate change we see represented elsewhere, like in the first RTÉ image above.

This is not science, but news-media; a very different representation of climate change. Gone are the complex reams of data, endless samples, and modelling tools; instead we are given a succession of images to indicate climate change. Rather than referring to an abstract concept of climate change that exists somewhere out there, these images formulate a specific articulation of it.This is also climate change, but what is it?

The first image above is one manifestation of climate change in our news media. There are many others. There are many others within this one news segment. This is climate change. It is the industrial chimneys belching smoke, indexically linking our waste to the problems “up there”. But does this mean that we are in a state of denial? That we are tricking ourselves into thinking that it is only waste that is the matter, and not the other end of production – desire? It does now. Now that this discourse has been assembled it can compete with other apparatuses of interpretation. What of the frame around the image? Is this also to be included in the visual reality of climate change? Certainly. The dangerous smoke from the stacks is cut off and contained by the vibrant and secure electric blues of commerce. The imagery might suggest disaster, but surrounding it – in the real of the RTÉ studio – business, enterprise, professionalism and the everyday are alive and healthy, promising safety and stability. We can relax in the knowledge that we are looking at a screen, an imaginary representation of climate change safely contained within the active reality of the RTÉ studio. That is climate change; an assemblage of image, referent, aesthetic, memory, and scientific knowledge. Not to mention the software I used to isolate this image and present it shorn of its original dimensions of sound and movement.

The second image above is also climate change. No more screens, we are now immersed in the sun-bathed reality of melting ice; somewhere like Greenland, the North Pole or an Antarctic. Does this mean that our previous reading was mistaken? No – it is also climate change. This is a different assemblage of discourses, material objects and social constructions. In this network, climate change is melting countries made of ice. Reporter George Lee leads us through this assemblage, comforting us with the fact that climate change is just another environmental story, ancillary to agriculture, the human practice of controlling the earth for our bodily reproduction. What could be more important than that?

The point here is not to try and provide a definitive visual reading of climate change, nor is it an attempt to relativise truth. Rather, it is an attempt to indicate how vast climate change really is. Each of these images overflows with meaning. They also indicate nothing to those not reading this. They didn’t exist before I assembled them for the purpose of this article, and yet they are still, unquestionably, climate change. The phenomenon of rising earth temperatures resulting from greenhouse gas emissions is constantly in a process of construction and reconstruction. This post, the images contained within it, and the original news stories from where they came are all a part of this phenomenon. The extent to which they are acknowledged, reproduced, contextualised and reassembled have direct impact on the reality of climate change. Following Bruno Latour, images matter; in fact and in concern.

ACCIDENTAL PHOTOGRAPHIC DEMOCRACY:  THE MASS APPROPRIATION OF GOOGLE STREET VIEWBy Alex Sinclair In May 2007, Google launched their ‘Street View' campaign; an ambitious project documenting the various sights that could be seen when navigating five major US cities (New York, Miami, Denver, Las Vegas and San Francisco). The aim was to replicate the sensation of exploring these cities yourself. The product at the time was seen as an extreme version of urban mapping and an extension of the popular Google Maps and Google Earth applications. With Maps and Earth, the idea was to give you an aerial view of whatever you wished. The programs comprised of thousands of satelite imagery stitched together and aside from some potential security concerns from government officials regarding secure locations and important buildings, the impact felt on cultural and societal levels was minimal.  One of the first things we learn about photography is that it’s about selecting what is important and framing it appropriately. It’s difficult to view Street View as art because of how broad its scope is. There is no defined aesthetic to be seen when you can see everything and make no mistake “everything” is the key word here. Art is selective and surveillance is all-encompassing. To both Google’s credit and detriment, Street View lacks the interruption.  In 1969, photographer Stephen Shore created a simple series of photos entitled ‘Circle #1’. This is a sequence of still images in which the camera rotates to the 8 directions on a compass from a single point. In each frame, a man faces the camera. This is typical of Shore’s early work in which he aimed to decontextualise the photograph from the photographer’s decision making principles. There were no choices regarding framing because the compass dictated where the camera was aimed. The man was not given modelling instructions other than to face the camera in a deadpan manner. The shots, when viewed correctly, are reminiscent of the user interface with Street View. There was nothing exceptional about the location in which Shore created ‘Circle #1' and its bland lack of emotion was its intention. Subjective documentation as objectively as possible was the overall goal.  I’m sure Google had a similar sentiment in mind when they began their project documenting cities. By using semi-automated cameras designed to capture a 360º view every few metres, Street View is easily viewed as Shore’s ‘Circle #1' on a massive scale. If you cut forward to today, Street View is now available for cities and regions in 48 different countries. Two years ago (when only 39 countries were available), they listed their data usage at 20 petabytes (20,000 terabytes). The project has covered over 5 million miles of road. It is the most ambitious photography project in history yet we rarely talk about it as such because its sheer breadth makes it unexceptional.  In 1976, William Eggleston (a contemporary of Shore’s) coined the term “democratic camera” as a title for his solo show at MoMA. If the term can be used to describe Eggleston’s everyday subject matter shot with a commercial affordable camera then we can definitely apply it nearly 40 years later to what is basically open-source tourism. Google have given the user access to a sizable portion of the world from the comfort of their couch, bed, or if you’re the toilet-iPhone-browsing type, even your lavatory.  Society’s interest in the importance of experience has declined drastically with the importance of documentation and those who argue otherwise probably haven’t attended a live music event in the last five years. Shaky videos of a U2 cover band is something you just *have* to upload to YouTube, and not just one song either, make sure you get the whole set or people will think you went home early like a square. And take a selfie while you’re there too but also include a friend because if it’s just you in the picture, then you probably don’t have friends. The ethics and methodology of visual social-media will always baffle me.  Although, unlike YouTube, Google have created both the platform and the content. With such a huge volume of images readily available to consume by the general public, it was only a matter of time before the project was exploited by appropriation-happy visual artists. Some searched for the most picturesque views, some for the most interesting, and some even scoured endlessly in the hope of finding the glitches. These are all common tropes that have been unpacked within Street View appropriation as of late. You find your spot, you take a screenshot and for the most part, the onus is on the artist to leave intact the little digital signifiers to show that this was a screenshot and not a photo of their own. Instead of travelling to extraordinary places to create an original work, open-source tourism is available and these artists are sampling the vast library to form a selection or narrative. And that’s all right, because the greatest marketing tool Google could ever have is to infiltrate society on a deeper, more aesthetic level. It’s already the king of information, could they have also accidentally created the first truly democratic camera? Instead of all travelling to the same place and taking similar pictures, we’re taking identical ones, or close to identical (only hardware irregularities such as platform and screen resolution will differ in what you see). You post your findings on Facebook or Tumblr or even your portfolio site.“Here’s a picture of when I went to Brazil on my laptop.”  “Yesterday, I was in Honduras on my phone, today it’s Helsinki.”  “It sure is great to be able to see Roswell, New Mexico while I take my morning crap”.

ACCIDENTAL PHOTOGRAPHIC DEMOCRACY:
THE MASS APPROPRIATION OF GOOGLE STREET VIEW

By Alex Sinclair

In May 2007, Google launched their ‘Street View' campaign; an ambitious project documenting the various sights that could be seen when navigating five major US cities (New York, Miami, Denver, Las Vegas and San Francisco).

The aim was to replicate the sensation of exploring these cities yourself. The product at the time was seen as an extreme version of urban mapping and an extension of the popular Google Maps and Google Earth applications. With Maps and Earth, the idea was to give you an aerial view of whatever you wished. The programs comprised of thousands of satelite imagery stitched together and aside from some potential security concerns from government officials regarding secure locations and important buildings, the impact felt on cultural and societal levels was minimal.

One of the first things we learn about photography is that it’s about selecting what is important and framing it appropriately. It’s difficult to view Street View as art because of how broad its scope is. There is no defined aesthetic to be seen when you can see everything and make no mistake “everything” is the key word here. Art is selective and surveillance is all-encompassing. To both Google’s credit and detriment, Street View lacks the interruption.

In 1969, photographer Stephen Shore created a simple series of photos entitled Circle #1. This is a sequence of still images in which the camera rotates to the 8 directions on a compass from a single point. In each frame, a man faces the camera. This is typical of Shore’s early work in which he aimed to decontextualise the photograph from the photographer’s decision making principles. There were no choices regarding framing because the compass dictated where the camera was aimed. The man was not given modelling instructions other than to face the camera in a deadpan manner. The shots, when viewed correctly, are reminiscent of the user interface with Street View. There was nothing exceptional about the location in which Shore created ‘Circle #1' and its bland lack of emotion was its intention. Subjective documentation as objectively as possible was the overall goal.

I’m sure Google had a similar sentiment in mind when they began their project documenting cities. By using semi-automated cameras designed to capture a 360º view every few metres, Street View is easily viewed as Shore’s ‘Circle #1' on a massive scale. If you cut forward to today, Street View is now available for cities and regions in 48 different countries. Two years ago (when only 39 countries were available), they listed their data usage at 20 petabytes (20,000 terabytes). The project has covered over 5 million miles of road. It is the most ambitious photography project in history yet we rarely talk about it as such because its sheer breadth makes it unexceptional.

In 1976, William Eggleston (a contemporary of Shore’s) coined the term “democratic camera” as a title for his solo show at MoMA. If the term can be used to describe Eggleston’s everyday subject matter shot with a commercial affordable camera then we can definitely apply it nearly 40 years later to what is basically open-source tourism. Google have given the user access to a sizable portion of the world from the comfort of their couch, bed, or if you’re the toilet-iPhone-browsing type, even your lavatory.

Society’s interest in the importance of experience has declined drastically with the importance of documentation and those who argue otherwise probably haven’t attended a live music event in the last five years. Shaky videos of a U2 cover band is something you just *have* to upload to YouTube, and not just one song either, make sure you get the whole set or people will think you went home early like a square. And take a selfie while you’re there too but also include a friend because if it’s just you in the picture, then you probably don’t have friends. The ethics and methodology of visual social-media will always baffle me.

Although, unlike YouTube, Google have created both the platform and the content. With such a huge volume of images readily available to consume by the general public, it was only a matter of time before the project was exploited by appropriation-happy visual artists. Some searched for the most picturesque views, some for the most interesting, and some even scoured endlessly in the hope of finding the glitches. These are all common tropes that have been unpacked within Street View appropriation as of late. You find your spot, you take a screenshot and for the most part, the onus is on the artist to leave intact the little digital signifiers to show that this was a screenshot and not a photo of their own. Instead of travelling to extraordinary places to create an original work, open-source tourism is available and these artists are sampling the vast library to form a selection or narrative. And that’s all right, because the greatest marketing tool Google could ever have is to infiltrate society on a deeper, more aesthetic level. It’s already the king of information, could they have also accidentally created the first truly democratic camera?

Instead of all travelling to the same place and taking similar pictures, we’re taking identical ones, or close to identical (only hardware irregularities such as platform and screen resolution will differ in what you see). You post your findings on Facebook or Tumblr or even your portfolio site.
“Here’s a picture of when I went to Brazil on my laptop.”
“Yesterday, I was in Honduras on my phone, today it’s Helsinki.”
“It sure is great to be able to see Roswell, New Mexico while I take my morning crap”.

THE STATE OF CINEMATIC TELEVISION
By Stephen McCabe"Amazing direction happened on TV all the time before cable but almost nobody recognized it as such because we were told that art was an anomalous in television as wildflower in a toxic waste dump"- Matt Zoller Seltz Television as a medium, produces much that could be in direct opposition to ‘having qualities characteristic of motion pictures’. The visual language of television staples like soap operas would not be considered cinematic at all, the same can be said for some of the output of television at the moment. As we progress through the so-called ‘Golden Age of Television’, there has been a shift towards television as a more cinematic medium. With the continued rise of content streaming services such as Netflix or Video On Demand, the lines between cinematic television and cinema itself are becoming considerably blurred.  The question I am posing is whether a television show being ‘cinematic’ in its style is integral to its success. Much of the presence of cinematic visuals in television has been placed on certain authorship that can be found in show. As Matt Zoller Seltz noted in his New York Magazine article 'How to Direct a TV Drama', this authorship is not only designated to directors, unlike in film where the concept of the ‘auteur’ proposed by Cahiers Du Cinéma has maintained a popular concept where the director is the key authorial voice of a film. The authorial voice of a television show is often attributed to the writer, creator (or showrunner as they have become known) and director are often put in the position to follow already an already in place visual tone and style and in order to adhere to the consistency and continuity that audiences have come to recognise as a significant trope of television dramas. If there are fewer distinctions between television and film, what is to be made of shows which take a less cinematic approach? Shows such as HBO’s The Wire or AMC’s Mad Men are two of the most celebrated television shows of all time but often both shows don’t look cinematic. The Wire, as a great depiction of the hierarchies of American society, took to a more plot driven cinéma vérité style of visuals that fit perfectly with the story being told. This still has not stopped critics hailing it as the finest television show ever made. As for Mad Men, it differs greatly from The Wire’s documentary-like approach but often resembles something like an Edward Hopper painting in motion or as Seltz notes ‘A Classic A-picture’. Due to this, when a show like Mad Men uses a technique that would be considered more cinematic, it is often praised more so for it. An example being the musical number that brought the mid-season finale of Mad Men to a close. A song and dance number by a recently deceased character brought a necessary stylistic flourish that not only added to the plot but opened up a treasure trove of possible meanings to be picked apart by audiences in its song choice.  It could be argued that much of the cinematic visuals that are coming to television are down to the directing talent that are getting involved with television. Directors like Martin Scorsese (Boardwalk Empire), Rian Johnson (Breaking Bad), Michael Mann (Luck) and David Fincher (House of Cards) have brought their distinctive authorial voices to their respected shows, with Scorsese, Mann and Fincher each laying the visual foundations for the series to move forward with.  For Fincher, with developing and directing the pilot of House of Cards, he helped establish the visual tone for the series and for those familiar with his work with notice the muted colour palette, stylish but subtle camera work that has been synonymous with his work ever since Se7en. With House of Cards, Fincher has established overtly cinematic visual tones that have continued throughout its two season run. If one were to look at the shows that have brought about this “Golden Age of Television” moniker, some of these shows would be more minimal in their direction and less stylistic, allowing for the story to take precedence. After all, television as a long-form medium caters more towards plot-driven shows than director driven ones. With House of Cards being the first television show not to air on television but rather as a Netflix exclusive where every episode is available at once, this has changed how television is consumed. This approach, in turn, is impacting how it is being crafted.Upon their respective releases, many viewers (including myself) simply binge-watched both seasons of House of Cards in one weekend.  In order to assess the state of the cinematic television show, I believe it best to examine what would be considered the most critically acclaimed television shows of the past year. With such a wide variety of critically adored television airing at the moment, it would impossible to assess the cinematic value of each but to take a selection of shows from a variety of sources, not simply cable or premium networks and assess their cinematic value would create a more accurate, albeit still incredibly broad, answer for whether or not the cinematic quality of a television show attributes to its success as art.  For shows like FX’s Louie and HBO’s Girls, each are driven by their respected stars and creators, Louis CK and Lena Dunham. Cinematically, they fit within that of American independent American film. Though both differ greatly in content, with Louie’s influences seemingly to be that of Woody Allen with the occasional dick joke and the distinct visuals of an American independent film that can be traced back to Cassavetes. Both it and Girls can be seen to be quite messy in their plotting, tone and continuity but regardless of this chaos, both shows are considered to be part of this crop of important television shows of this “Golden Age”, Girls critical praise and the many words written about it seem to come more from its significant representation of the female but this has not stopped the show from having several near-perfect episodes. These two demonstrate that the need for huge budgets to give authorial voice to television is not necessary.  It would seem that television has begun to showcase its true potential with not only the shows mentioned here but with many others too. Television’s evolving landscape has opened some exciting doors to tell stories and make art in a way that cinema couldn’t allow. This increase in varied cinematic styles found is proving that television time in the toxic waste dump is over.

THE STATE OF CINEMATIC TELEVISION

By Stephen McCabe

"Amazing direction happened on TV all the time before cable but almost nobody recognized it as such because we were told that art was an anomalous in television as wildflower in a toxic waste dump"
- Matt Zoller Seltz

Television as a medium, produces much that could be in direct opposition to ‘having qualities characteristic of motion pictures’. The visual language of television staples like soap operas would not be considered cinematic at all, the same can be said for some of the output of television at the moment. As we progress through the so-called ‘Golden Age of Television’, there has been a shift towards television as a more cinematic medium. With the continued rise of content streaming services such as Netflix or Video On Demand, the lines between cinematic television and cinema itself are becoming considerably blurred.

The question I am posing is whether a television show being ‘cinematic’ in its style is integral to its success. Much of the presence of cinematic visuals in television has been placed on certain authorship that can be found in show. As Matt Zoller Seltz noted in his New York Magazine article 'How to Direct a TV Drama', this authorship is not only designated to directors, unlike in film where the concept of the ‘auteur’ proposed by Cahiers Du Cinéma has maintained a popular concept where the director is the key authorial voice of a film. The authorial voice of a television show is often attributed to the writer, creator (or showrunner as they have become known) and director are often put in the position to follow already an already in place visual tone and style and in order to adhere to the consistency and continuity that audiences have come to recognise as a significant trope of television dramas.

If there are fewer distinctions between television and film, what is to be made of shows which take a less cinematic approach? Shows such as HBO’s The Wire or AMC’s Mad Men are two of the most celebrated television shows of all time but often both shows don’t look cinematic. The Wire, as a great depiction of the hierarchies of American society, took to a more plot driven cinéma vérité style of visuals that fit perfectly with the story being told. This still has not stopped critics hailing it as the finest television show ever made. As for Mad Men, it differs greatly from The Wire’s documentary-like approach but often resembles something like an Edward Hopper painting in motion or as Seltz notes ‘A Classic A-picture’. Due to this, when a show like Mad Men uses a technique that would be considered more cinematic, it is often praised more so for it. An example being the musical number that brought the mid-season finale of Mad Men to a close. A song and dance number by a recently deceased character brought a necessary stylistic flourish that not only added to the plot but opened up a treasure trove of possible meanings to be picked apart by audiences in its song choice.

It could be argued that much of the cinematic visuals that are coming to television are down to the directing talent that are getting involved with television. Directors like Martin Scorsese (Boardwalk Empire), Rian Johnson (Breaking Bad), Michael Mann (Luck) and David Fincher (House of Cards) have brought their distinctive authorial voices to their respected shows, with Scorsese, Mann and Fincher each laying the visual foundations for the series to move forward with.

For Fincher, with developing and directing the pilot of House of Cards, he helped establish the visual tone for the series and for those familiar with his work with notice the muted colour palette, stylish but subtle camera work that has been synonymous with his work ever since Se7en. With House of Cards, Fincher has established overtly cinematic visual tones that have continued throughout its two season run. If one were to look at the shows that have brought about this “Golden Age of Television” moniker, some of these shows would be more minimal in their direction and less stylistic, allowing for the story to take precedence. After all, television as a long-form medium caters more towards plot-driven shows than director driven ones.

With House of Cards being the first television show not to air on television but rather as a Netflix exclusive where every episode is available at once, this has changed how television is consumed. This approach, in turn, is impacting how it is being crafted.Upon their respective releases, many viewers (including myself) simply binge-watched both seasons of House of Cards in one weekend.

In order to assess the state of the cinematic television show, I believe it best to examine what would be considered the most critically acclaimed television shows of the past year. With such a wide variety of critically adored television airing at the moment, it would impossible to assess the cinematic value of each but to take a selection of shows from a variety of sources, not simply cable or premium networks and assess their cinematic value would create a more accurate, albeit still incredibly broad, answer for whether or not the cinematic quality of a television show attributes to its success as art.

For shows like FX’s Louie and HBO’s Girls, each are driven by their respected stars and creators, Louis CK and Lena Dunham. Cinematically, they fit within that of American independent American film. Though both differ greatly in content, with Louie’s influences seemingly to be that of Woody Allen with the occasional dick joke and the distinct visuals of an American independent film that can be traced back to Cassavetes. Both it and Girls can be seen to be quite messy in their plotting, tone and continuity but regardless of this chaos, both shows are considered to be part of this crop of important television shows of this “Golden Age”, Girls critical praise and the many words written about it seem to come more from its significant representation of the female but this has not stopped the show from having several near-perfect episodes. These two demonstrate that the need for huge budgets to give authorial voice to television is not necessary.

It would seem that television has begun to showcase its true potential with not only the shows mentioned here but with many others too. Television’s evolving landscape has opened some exciting doors to tell stories and make art in a way that cinema couldn’t allow. This increase in varied cinematic styles found is proving that television time in the toxic waste dump is over.

MEET THE NEW DIGITALFAUN WRITING TEAM!

After five years of working on this myself, I’ve opened the space up to some new writers. Over the coming weeks, you’ll see fresh content from new faces. I purposely selected people who I thought represented the ethos of DigitalFaun but could perhaps bring a new viewpoint to the table. 

During the application process, I asked anyone interested in joining the team several questions including things like “If you could have 5 people, dead or alive, at a dinner party, who would you choose?” and “Pitch one article in less than 75 words” but the question which yielded the most interesting answers was when I asked if the applicant thought that artists should feel obligated to communicate their ideas in a secondary format to their original work (i.e. should photographers have to talk about their images, should painters have to write). Below, as an introduction to each new writer, I have provided their answer to this question.

Alex Sinclair (that’s me!)
I don’t think the writer themselves should have to express their ideas through a secondary medium, however, I feel that they should be open enough in their demeanour to allow others to create a reading of the work through an analysis of the artists’ intentions. Artists should be open enough to allow scrutiny, but not so open that there is no room for interpretation. 

Stephen McCabe
I would, for the most part, be of the opinion that it is not the artists obligation to communicate what their their ideas in formats that are secondary. Of course, sometimes it is necessary for an artist, in any sort of medium, to have to examine their work. Whether due to a controversial topic being addressed or political, etc. messages the art is trying to portray, sometimes it is quite central for the art to function as intended. This question brings up what exactly it is people expect from art. If one is just looking for beauty or truth in art then it is not necessary for artist to need to explain themselves. Of course, the pop culture sphere that art is now produced in does not make things that simple. With mediums like film and television, it is seems like writers and directors spelling things out for people is a necessary function for their survival as artists.

Stephen Hughes
I think that not only is it necessary for artists to communicate outside of their primary media, but it is impossible not to. To think that artists can somehow abstract their work from wider networks of genre, language, representation and materiality makes no sense. Context is the key here, and whether the artist likes it or not, their work will always be situated within a web of signifying contexts. The architecture of the building that hangs a painting; the colour of the walls inside a photo gallery; the name of the gallery, the part of town it’s situated in, the type of people attending an exhibition – these networks of signification are already working overtime to translate the meaning surrounding the representation itself. What grants art its power is not the autonomy of the aesthetic, but the fact that art is simultaneously material and symbolic. The function of a photograph is not its signifying potential alone, nor its reference to an actually existing place or situation, its unique perspective comes from a simultaneous manifestation of representation and reference. Art does not exist in a contextual vacuum – its network of signification ought to be recognised and embraced by the artist.

Isobel Taylor
An artist may reject other formats of communication as they find it impossible to use them; hence they resolve this inability to articulate ideas by producing the artwork in question. Explaining work may also be, an albeit petulant, rebellion against having to do so in education. However, in many cases staking claim to a specific intent could make the work reductive and alienate certain audiences, lest we forget the ambiguity of Mona Lisa is its allure. On the other hand, Edward Burtynsky had been quiet about his intent until he began to lose his audience. They believed he favoured the sites he photographed. It lead to Burtynsky conducting more talks, which quelled doubts that he was colluding with ‘the bad guys’. It can be easier to leave work for the critics to decipher and the artist may feel as if their work is already established it does not need their own input. However, more often than not it is an essential tool to guide your work where it needs to be and ensure success. Conducting affiliated work is also a way to support practice financially therefore the most sensible option but not suitable for everyone.  

Matthew Flores
I think it’s crucial for artists to have the skills to communicate their ideas in any range of formats, because its precisely those skills that are required in order to create concise, intelligent art with a purpose. If you can’t speak fluently and intelligently about your own art, I think the art itself is flawed. Art is nothing if not expression, and expression naturally should flow through any conduit that is most appropriate. My favorite artists are the ones who can jump from media to media without losing a beat and without the action feeling contrived. 

Luke Winter
“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture” being one of those too-glad put-downs which fail to grasp the matter at hand: a matter can neither be grasped nor appear at hand. Metaphor is the power of all art. Whilst it might seem cruel to ask an artist who has spent a career trying to describe something with photos, to communicate that truth with words instead, if words can bring a richer meaning to an audience, a kind artist should be eager to engage with that other medium. For meaning matters; feeling matters. Mystery has some part in prompting those, but if the barriers of mystery, through aloofness, through refusing to engage beyond the limited faculties of a visual work, are raised too high, no meaning or feeling will be derived. To add context to a work is a recognition of its limits. But the work is the start of a conversation only. In the words of Valery: “art is never finished only abandoned”. A kind artist should want to initiate an audience into their language. To do that, they should use any means necessary. Of course artists have a choice. But to remember Henry James: “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

A LITTLE, NOT TOO LATE
The highly acclaimed institution that is the British Journal of Photography decided to opt for a ‘Women Only’ issue this April. Photography is a boy’s club and this seemed like a logical step towards addressing that problem. BJP have decided to tackle their own gender imbalance with an issue dedicated solely to the minority. 
The book is filled with liberating projects detailing what it’s like to be a women in today’s world. I won’t pretend that I can relate to even half of these. It’s filled with inspirational stories of courageous females who are undeterred by the probability that they will never be seen as important as their male counterparts. This is capital-A Artworld after all and BJP is a part of it. 
And I’m flicking, and scanning, and reading, and just generally trying to absorb what they’re trying to achieve. I stumble across a great line in it by Brett Rogers, director of The Photographers’ Gallery in London. "There is a tendency for women to belittle their achievements, but as an institution, it’s our job to seek them out". 
This is an important moment in my reading. The magazine doesn’t dwell on Rogers long, in fact he’s only a small part of one article, but this moment carries a lot more weight than some of the more predictable elements that follow. 
Perhaps BJP are hamstrung by their sponsors or afraid to alienate the male side of their audience but I’m left underwhelmed. This could have busted an important issue wide open and knocked us all on our backs gasping for air. But it doesn’t. It’s idle threats. The opening address by Deputy Editor Diane Smyth is aspirational and ambitious but then it all goes a bit limp. 
There is a lengthy feature on Cass Bird and Susan Meiselas gets an in-depth profile and nothing strikes me as all that groundbreaking. I can’t help but dwell on that Rogers quote. What needs to be spoken after it is on the tip of our collective tongue. "It’s our job to seek them out … but we don’t". 
I’ll never claim to know even half enough about feminism but surely, there could have been smarter ways to tackle gender imbalance without having to be so on-the-nose about it. If the problem is integration then open-label segregation isn’t the way forward. I would have liked to have seen this magazine publish this without the ‘Women Only’ title and see how it was received. Tip the scale the other way until someone notices and adopt a practice that better reflects the ideals set out by Smyth in the opening. Now that’s change. This is just reparations. 
This magazine doesn’t work as a solution in the same way a once-off women-only meeting in parliament isn’t the cure to a lack of women in high ranking government positions. This magazine is treating the symptom not the disease. But it’s a start.

A LITTLE, NOT TOO LATE

The highly acclaimed institution that is the British Journal of Photography decided to opt for a ‘Women Only’ issue this April. Photography is a boy’s club and this seemed like a logical step towards addressing that problem. BJP have decided to tackle their own gender imbalance with an issue dedicated solely to the minority. 

The book is filled with liberating projects detailing what it’s like to be a women in today’s world. I won’t pretend that I can relate to even half of these. It’s filled with inspirational stories of courageous females who are undeterred by the probability that they will never be seen as important as their male counterparts. This is capital-A Artworld after all and BJP is a part of it. 

And I’m flicking, and scanning, and reading, and just generally trying to absorb what they’re trying to achieve. I stumble across a great line in it by Brett Rogers, director of The Photographers’ Gallery in London. "There is a tendency for women to belittle their achievements, but as an institution, it’s our job to seek them out".

This is an important moment in my reading. The magazine doesn’t dwell on Rogers long, in fact he’s only a small part of one article, but this moment carries a lot more weight than some of the more predictable elements that follow. 

Perhaps BJP are hamstrung by their sponsors or afraid to alienate the male side of their audience but I’m left underwhelmed. This could have busted an important issue wide open and knocked us all on our backs gasping for air. But it doesn’t. It’s idle threats. The opening address by Deputy Editor Diane Smyth is aspirational and ambitious but then it all goes a bit limp. 

There is a lengthy feature on Cass Bird and Susan Meiselas gets an in-depth profile and nothing strikes me as all that groundbreaking. I can’t help but dwell on that Rogers quote. What needs to be spoken after it is on the tip of our collective tongue. "It’s our job to seek them out … but we don’t". 

I’ll never claim to know even half enough about feminism but surely, there could have been smarter ways to tackle gender imbalance without having to be so on-the-nose about it. If the problem is integration then open-label segregation isn’t the way forward. I would have liked to have seen this magazine publish this without the ‘Women Only’ title and see how it was received. Tip the scale the other way until someone notices and adopt a practice that better reflects the ideals set out by Smyth in the opening. Now that’s change. This is just reparations. 

This magazine doesn’t work as a solution in the same way a once-off women-only meeting in parliament isn’t the cure to a lack of women in high ranking government positions. This magazine is treating the symptom not the disease. But it’s a start.

FOUR ESSENTIAL THEORY BOOKS FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS

There is a mass of literature out there just ready for photographers to consume but the problem is finding an opening. Starting points are perhaps the hardest thing to nail down when analysing a topic so I’ve outlined four books that have helped me in countless ways over the years. I’ve returned to these texts for nearly every project I’ve had to tackle. These are not going to be sources you use as primary texts and it might not be wise to write a dissertation on them but as a tool for getting an initial critical insight into the nuances of photography, these are the books for you. 

1. The Photography Reader
Edited by Liz Wells - 496 pages - Routledge

This is a compendium of essays from other authors edited by Wells. It’s a weighty book but the segregation into topics allows the reader to jump right in wherever needed. The index at the back is quite extensive and should be utilised when possible. Some extracts dealing with the relationship between photography and technology haven’t aged well but the points they raise remain relatable today. 

2. On Photography
By Susan Sontag - 224 Pages - Penguin Books

Approaching this text, it appears almost like a novel. While the book was released in 1977, it still remains as relevant today as at the time of writing. Ruminations on the balance of power between photographer and subject are explored in depth and on a more personal level than one might expect from academic writing.
"To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them that they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed."

3. Camera Lucida
By Roland Barthes - 144 pages - Various Publishers

People in college hated this book by the time graduation came around. There were a lot of jokes about him being obsessed with his mother but among the so called “weird bits”, there is a story of a man coming to understand the limitations of photography. Much like Sontag’s ‘On Photography’, this has a very personal tone and is very accessible for new readers.

4. Photography: The Key Concepts
By David Bate - 224 pages - Berg

This is by far the book I recommend to the most people. I talked about it so much in college that other students suggested I had a man-crush on Mr. Bate. Joking aside, this book is an indispensable tool. It operates like a dictionary of concepts. Core principles are defined with brevity. Numerous times I used this book as a starting point for an essay, both for college and for here. If you can only afford one of these four books, get this one.

I SAW RICHARD TURLEY GIVE A TALK

He said that the world is ruined by men. Anything with more than four men involved is probably terrible. Richard Turley, Bloomberg Businessweek's creative director spoke with no doubts or misconceptions about his job on Sunday. He was invited to speak at OFFSET, an annual arts conference in Dublin and he arrived on the little island by himself. He said that sometimes he would just Google an idea and copy whatever comes up in an image search. He looks younger than what you expect of someone with that title. Turley says he gets paid a lot of money to do what he does. He’s definitely young though. He doesn’t appear small on the stage by any means. There is no hiding behind the podium and he uses his clicker with confidence. It’s clear he knows this presentation well, yet, like his Businessweek covers, nothing ever appears too polished. Conversational would be the right word. He said that sometimes with design it’s difficult to tell what’s good and what’s bad. There are flecks of grey in his hair that don’t suggest aging as much as they suggest wisdom. He said that women’s bodies are boring and complicated. A man’s body is funny. After his talk, he had his portrait taken upstairs where he sat with his knees together and toes turned in. He looks young in those photos. He told us, an audience at a conference highly geared around design, not to take offence but he doesn’t like being around designers. After the photos, he sat by himself downstairs in the lobby, narrowly missing a group of people discuss how his lack of polish is all an act. He looked up from an iPhone that sports a red-and-yellow plastic cover resembling a portion of McDonalds' fries. I agreed with him when, towards the end, he mentions briefly that content is more interesting than systems.

THE MODEL CURATORS OF MOSSLESS MAGAZINE
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I’m always going to be pretty outspoken against the idea of using loose concepts to bind huge volumes of art together. If you travel into any city centre right now, it wouldn’t be hard to stumble into a poorly curated group exhibition. These artists, in an effort to band together, force their square images into round holes, ruining them in the process.
Curation is an under-regarded aspect of contemporary work. Many artists consider the role something they should be adept at in order to streamline the entire process. It’s often considered a rejection of a DIY ethic to consult a third party for such services. The DIY movement is often the victim of its practitioners adopting its views as literal rather than conceptual. Shortcuts for art don’t work.
And yet, the curator role gets self-assigned quite often in the digital world. Outside of the big-name-blogs, we see few working artists observe the need for good curation. So-called important sites have begun to act as battlegrounds in which to carve some sort of reputation. “Internet-famous by association” is the new best thing to have on your résumé.
The role of the modern curator is still adjusting to its new found independence. Unlike artists, the new curators have to make a name for themselves outside of an established system. As often as artists like to complain about the burdens of networking and ass-kissing, they have it easy. New curators have to build their own platform. They have to build the grid in which they want to display themselves within.
And so it’s understandable why so many people who wish to follow the path of curatorship end up starting out as websites and blogs. Unfortunately, most of these lack the discipline to become anything other than aspirational tastemakers. So often the message becomes muddled. Sometimes it gets lost in poor vision. Sometimes it’s a shortage of content. There is a common misunderstanding that curation is about publishing personality rather than work. Like all good art, show don’t tell.
A great example of the right way to approach this is Mossless, a small photography magazine from New York. Romke Hoogwaerts and Grace Leigh are the face of the publication. Over time, they transformed a strong web-based presence into the real world through earnest work and discipline. In doing so, they are now set to radically change the game. Their Kickstarter aims to fund issue three of the magazine and has far surpassed its goal of $25,000 and now has less than 48 hours left. This latest foray into publishing is not really a magazine at all. Instead, it has evolved into a broad-scoped anthology spanning a decade of the North American aesthetic. I backed the project based on my trust in the previous work that has come out under the Mossless title. Though, I must admit in the early days of funding, the numbers didn’t look too optimistic. I got a bit nervous that perhaps the couple had bitten off more than they could publish. My quiet faith was rewarded and now come summer, I’m set to take delivery of this mammoth publication.
Perhaps the biggest achievement of Mossless has been differentiating itself from the concussive noise. It would have been easy for Mossless to have remained online. They could have kept their a solitary voice interviewing artists in a formulaic manner. However, the internal pressure to evolve is showing dividends now. We’ve all ended up here, with possibly the largest independently-funded photobook in history.

THE MODEL CURATORS OF MOSSLESS MAGAZINE

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I’m always going to be pretty outspoken against the idea of using loose concepts to bind huge volumes of art together. If you travel into any city centre right now, it wouldn’t be hard to stumble into a poorly curated group exhibition. These artists, in an effort to band together, force their square images into round holes, ruining them in the process.

Curation is an under-regarded aspect of contemporary work. Many artists consider the role something they should be adept at in order to streamline the entire process. It’s often considered a rejection of a DIY ethic to consult a third party for such services. The DIY movement is often the victim of its practitioners adopting its views as literal rather than conceptual. Shortcuts for art don’t work.

And yet, the curator role gets self-assigned quite often in the digital world. Outside of the big-name-blogs, we see few working artists observe the need for good curation. So-called important sites have begun to act as battlegrounds in which to carve some sort of reputation. “Internet-famous by association” is the new best thing to have on your résumé.

The role of the modern curator is still adjusting to its new found independence. Unlike artists, the new curators have to make a name for themselves outside of an established system. As often as artists like to complain about the burdens of networking and ass-kissing, they have it easy. New curators have to build their own platform. They have to build the grid in which they want to display themselves within.

And so it’s understandable why so many people who wish to follow the path of curatorship end up starting out as websites and blogs. Unfortunately, most of these lack the discipline to become anything other than aspirational tastemakers. So often the message becomes muddled. Sometimes it gets lost in poor vision. Sometimes it’s a shortage of content. There is a common misunderstanding that curation is about publishing personality rather than work. Like all good art, show don’t tell.

A great example of the right way to approach this is Mossless, a small photography magazine from New York. Romke Hoogwaerts and Grace Leigh are the face of the publication. Over time, they transformed a strong web-based presence into the real world through earnest work and discipline. In doing so, they are now set to radically change the game. Their Kickstarter aims to fund issue three of the magazine and has far surpassed its goal of $25,000 and now has less than 48 hours left. This latest foray into publishing is not really a magazine at all. Instead, it has evolved into a broad-scoped anthology spanning a decade of the North American aesthetic. I backed the project based on my trust in the previous work that has come out under the Mossless title. Though, I must admit in the early days of funding, the numbers didn’t look too optimistic. I got a bit nervous that perhaps the couple had bitten off more than they could publish. My quiet faith was rewarded and now come summer, I’m set to take delivery of this mammoth publication.

Perhaps the biggest achievement of Mossless has been differentiating itself from the concussive noise. It would have been easy for Mossless to have remained online. They could have kept their a solitary voice interviewing artists in a formulaic manner. However, the internal pressure to evolve is showing dividends now. We’ve all ended up here, with possibly the largest independently-funded photobook in history.

Printing The Internet: How My Dad Accidentally Caused a Pokemon Micro-Economy

I’ve always liked pictures in some way or another. I scribbled when I was really young. Eventually, those scribbles started looking like things. Then I intentionally drew things. Pencil always. Pen was difficult and I made lots of mistakes, or things I would consider mistakes. I went through junior school drawing anything and everything that interested me. One day at my Aunt’s house, I managed to work in some red pencil while colouring in a field and felt the need to point it out to everyone. “See, I even threw a little red in there”, I’d say, holding up my drawing of a local mountain for inspection, “You have to look closely though. It’s very subtle.” I was a weird kid. Weird, but I knew what I loved.

One Friday morning in Summer1, my brother and I caught a new cartoon on TV. It was intense, bright and instantly fascinating. It was Pokemon, which at the time was just a little known Japanese show about minitature creatures with crazy powers and whose owners made them fight each other.2 Regardless of the moral implications of glorifying animal violence, the vibrant characters and crazy battle sequences gave me an instant motivational boost for my daily drawings. Like a lot of kids that eventually discovered Pokemon too, I was obsessed. I began trying to draw characters as much as I possibly could from memory, but that approach lacked a lot of the nuanced detail work that I loved to put into my drawings, the red in the grass for example.

I tried taping an episode and drawing from what I saw on screen but that too yielded minimal success. There was a lot of poor off-brand looking Pokemon drawn that summer. Several Pikachus without red cheeks.3 Some misproportioned Charmanders. A Squirtle without a tail. It was difficult but man, I had so much fun. It reminds me of this thing comedian Demetri Martin said on ‘You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes’, a podcast I recently started listening to. He said something along the lines of “Over time, you can get better at something but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ever going to get good”. I think that’s how I’d sum up my early Pokemon drawings. Their progress developed from ‘Poor’ to ‘Not Horrible’.

My Dad, unaware of what the hell his 10 year old son kept making pictures of, decided to look online for any helpful information. He printed off a simple webpage that contained a brief description of Pokemon and a thumbnail image of Pikachu. At dinner that night, my Dad showed the piece of paper to my Mom to explain that he had looked up what it was his children seemed so suddenly fixated with.
“Where did you get that?” I asked.
“Get what?”
“That.” I answered, grabbing the piece of paper to study further, “Jody, that’s a picture of Pikachu. Dad has a picture of Pikachu. Dad, why do you have a picture of Pikachu?”
My brother seemed non-plussed, but I was rapt. This was an actual paper image of that thing I had yearned so much for just hours earlier when I was frustratedly erasing yet another warped Cubone head.

I spent that night tracing the lines of the Pikachu thumbnail onto thin sheets of A4 paper along with several sketch attempts that, despite a lack of perfection, were at least a little more comparable to the actual image than those previously drawn from memory. Working from another image, my drawings were suddenly upgraded to “Unremarkable”. I was proud.

I brought the paper into school the next day and unsurprisingly, the other kids who shared my common interest in Pokemon were also fascinated by the printed image. You have to consider that this was a couple of months before the trend really hit Ireland, so this was kind of a cool under-the-radar thing to like at the time. Kids didn’t really understand the broad scope of the internet the way we can assume most kids now do. The availability of images online for this niche interest was something that totally baffled me as a 10 year old and I think that this is a signature experience that was only available to a very specific generation. Growing up in a world based around online culture is the standard right now, irregardless of if you consider social media or not, and that experience is simply a lot different to growing up in a culture just discovering there’s an online world at all. I fully maintain that what was about to unfold was something that couldn’t have happened at any era other than Web 1.0 and is unlikely to happen again now that the democracy of visual language is so readily available to all those who can afford it.

Myself and the other kids all drew Pikachu that day and sat around for a while during lunch break comparing whose iteration was best. It was like a life drawing class for kids who just discovered they could draw from something other than memory or imagination.4 It was a crazy unexplainable experience. Naturally, we were all hooked.

In the days that followed, I bothered my Dad asking could he get me more “internet sheets”, the term we adopted for paper with webpages printed on it. The other kids caught on soon too and within no time, there was a big market for a product5 that most people had never considered and may not ever consider again. The abstraction of the internet was materialised into this tangible object that kids could bring into school and show off. It became important for kids to get good folders, the kinds with the plastic pockets, and keeping sheets creaseless with tidy corners becme top priority. My folder was bright blue and had permanent marker drawings of that weird S shape drawn from six lines that people did in the 90’s while my brother’s was black and lacked drawings but held plenty of decoration in the form of free stickers he had gotten from a band that played on the seafront that summer.

Much like the Bible, you could derive different versions of a similar story depending on whose internet sheet collection you were looking at. Due to the canonical nature of the original sheet printed by my Dad, I’d like to think my blue folder was the ‘Gospel According to Mark’ of St. Cronan’s Boys National School.6

Every night I’d wait for my Dad to come home from work and annoy him until he told me he’d get me some more internet sheets tomorrow. Even after one time when my Aunt Lisa was visiting from America7 and brought over a haul of Pokemon merchandise for my brother and I as gifts. There was a talking Pikachu and bouncy balls with little plastic figures embedded in them but, and I felt bad about it even then, but I was more excited about the 5 pieces of paper my Dad brought home because one of them contained a tiny picture of every single Pokemon. That sheet gave me a reference point for all possible character drawings. I was totally engulfed with this quest to obtain images of Pokemon, which, turns out, is not unlike the show’s catchphrase, “Gotta catch ‘em all”.

My friend Joseph had a dream set up for his collection. He had a dial-up connection that he was allowed to use after 6pm, which was unheard of really for kids my age but he came from a family that didn’t drink tap-water and always had Sunny Delight in their fridge. The connotations of stating that make my childhood sound a little poorer in comparison but it wasn’t really. He was just a lavish bottled water drinker.

He and I were good friends, around this period especially, and some days when I was at his house (which seemed so distant at the time but is definitely closer than the train station I now regularly walk to) we would be able to use his computer to surf the internet for what all preteen boys biologically crave, that’s right, Pokemon.

I don’t remember if it was Joseph’s doing or not but the Holy Grail of internet sheets ended up being a full page colour print of a character rumoured to be called PikaBlu8 and that sometimes kids would swap sheets just to be able to have a loan of the PikaBlu image. My brother got it to bring to our house one Friday. That was a wild weekend.

Other boys in my school adopted a cheekier approach. One kid, Niall, had most of the underpinnings of what could have made him a legend in certain circles. He had full, unrestricted access to a family computer and inkjet colour printer. Unfortunately for Niall though, this did not include an internet connection. Nothing even close to Joseph’s post-6pm information superhighway. Undeterred and eager to make a name for himself, Niall arrived in school with folders full of printed material. He would approach kids and offer ten of his internet sheets for one of theirs and upon opening his ring binder, the kid would find dozens of pages of misspelled WordArt Pokemon names. What Niall had done, in the absense of an internet connection, was open up a word processor, spell out names of the most popular characters, and apply a colourful layout to the document. The word “Charissard” written in fire. “Cleferry” in kind of a metal looking font. “Side Duck” cascading across the page in rainbow colours. His early work was flawed but as it went along it got better. ‘Poor’ to ‘Not horrible’. In the later stages of the craze, he had sheets typed up with fake web-addresses and ‘Page 1 of 1’ in an attempt to seem more legitimate. Like all good counterfeit artists, he evolved his craft through study. I think after college Niall got a job as a journalist somewhere. I know for certain he used to write for the local paper.

When we all grew up and grew out of Pokemon, which admittedly probably took a little longer than it should have, we were in a world where the internet wasn’t as mysterious. Most of us, by our mid-teens, had significant experience with the web. That isn’t to say I wasn’t still completely obsessed by the quest for images, it was merely that the interests in question evolved.9 The post-millenial me once spent 45 minutes downloading a single high-resolution (for the time) front-on image of a 2001 Subaru Impreza WRC10 because, yep, I wanted to draw it and needed a front-on image to draw from as wheels are still something I’d find impossible to sketch today so for about three years my parents found hundreds of drawings of front-on Subaru Imprezas scattered around the house. I was still weird kid. I still I knew what I loved.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***


Endnotes:

1.
[I remember it being summer because I would have had school on Friday otherwise]

2.
[The morality of this, now as a vegetarian a decade and a half later, I can assure you is not lost on me but to which my younger self was most certainly oblivious.]

3.
[I always forgot the cheeks for some reason, sometimes I accidentally added whiskers too but mostly just forgot the red cheeks]

4.
[While these are two traits that are absolutely crucial in the understanding of what makes a kid’s drawing great, the ability for a kid to feel freed from those elements and somewhat more professional and accurate in his creative works is something that any working artist today can relate to.]

5.
[in this case the product was the internet sheets, not Pokemon itself]

6.
[A large, for Ireland, all-boys Catholic school that required uniforms. In addition, no students were allowed wear shoes indoors on account of the management didn’t want the new floors getting wrecked so kids either had to learn about long division wearing socks, or wear these weird almost-ballet shoe type things called plimsoles that were predominantly soft fabric and rubber and were the only shoe permitted inside the building.]

7.
[She and her husband have three kids and live in New Orleans. Altogether, that family are my clear cut favourite relatives, which is really saying something as my Mom had 15 brothers and sisters, most of which had/have families and kids.]

8.
[The name was derived from its colouring and resemblence to Pikachu, and was thought to be somehow related though it was later discovered to be a separate unconnected character named Marill. The revelation of this caused a dramatic reduction in the value of the PikaBlu sheet and became looked upon purely as an aspiration of form due to its colouring and full-page print]

9.
[I guess you could say somebody used a Moon stone on my brain, but you also wouldn’t/shouldn’t laugh at that because it’s a dumb joke and my girlfriend says not to encourage my dumb jokes. I guess that’s why it’s down here in the footnotes.]

10.
[World Rally Car]

A LOOK AHEAD TO THE BEST PHOTOBOOKS OF 2015
—
Life in Everwood - Ryan McGinley
This groundbreaking book contains the signature colourful portraits of pretty twenty-somethings with some forest animals thrown in for good measure. McGinley’s incessant romanticism of nudity and the empty landscape is yet again further expanded on to the point where we begin to wonder if this is a test of endurance. “How much of the same thing can we tolerate?” becomes a question that is suddenly retro-actively applied to previous projects as he unfolds this new interpretation of his career work. 144 pages, hardcover.€50.00
—
The Obelisk - Gregory Crewdson
This goliath of a book measures in a 32x45 inches and details Crewdson’s journey to photograph a series of self-constructed underwater cityscapes. By far his most ambitious project to date, the Amazon-funded work is as vast as it was expensive, though the structuring of the contract behind the series allowed Amazon to recoup most of its investment before the launch date thanks to the record-high sales (€750k per print) through their in-house art-auction department, DRUID. Notably, these ethereal images were rumoured to inspire Baz Luhrmann’s dramatic retelling of The Little Mermaid which is due out next summer. 196 pages, woven seaweed hardcover, comes packaged with fossilised seahorse suspended in rosewater. €250.00 (Amazon Only)
—
Retrospective - William Eggleston
Much was made of the court case regarding Apple’s right to do whatever they wanted with their recently purchased Eggleston Collection, however, this much sought-after limited edition app puts new life into the grumpy genius’ work and coming in at 10,997 images, you certainly get your money’s worth. €12.99 (Download from App Store only)
—
The Venus Diaries - James Franco
Franco’s decision to document his year living as woman was too much for VICE to pass up and the pairing of publisher and content seemed like a perfect match from the outset. While hit-and-miss in terms of reviews, this book has at least gotten everyone’s attention, which is exactly what you’d expect from a VICE book. 220 pages, softcover.€33.00
—
Misfigurement - Joan Fontcuberta
Fontcuberta’s falsified archive of wounded Vietnam veterans undergoing radical limb regeneration experiments maintains the visual acuity that previously earned him the Hasselblad Award. While this book initially requires the viewer to consent that this was a JFK-authorised experiment and that the subsequent assassination of the president came as a result of this, it’s hard to flaw the substantial amount of work that went into this book. 377 pages, hardcover with metal plating and dog tags. €79.00
—
Collected American Selfies 1999-2007 - Taschen (Edited by Martin Parr)
This glimpse into the early days of web-based self-portraiture provides a snapshot of the American zeitgeist in a predominantly post-9/11 and irony obsessed world. The massively mediated and manipulated task of the taking a self-portrait is highlighted through Martin Parr’s selection of appropriated portraits collected through the GoogleGrab program. The book’s main focus seems to be on the secondary representation of self through the barrier and distortion of mirrors. It’s a clever element to include and really ties the narcissism of the medium together in a way a lot of self-portrait projects fail to reference. 310 pages, hardcover.€20.00
—
Brandon Stanton vs. The World - Michael Pemulis
This book traces the journey of Brandon Stanton from his days working under the name ‘Humans of New York’ to an attempt at realising his impossible dream, beginning with the cataloging of the North American population. We see a sleepless Stanton hard at work preparing the prototype full-body photobooths that he had planned to install on street-corners across the US, Canada and Mexico before the much publicised budget blow-out the project suffered as a result of the photobooth recall just days before the project went live. Pemulis’ images grant the viewer unprecedented access to the man behind the lens and we’re treated to a depiction of the exhausted Stanton as an almost Howard Hughes-esque figure. 196 pages, hardcover. €55.00
—
Porn.0 - Noah Kalina
Blurring lines between hardcore pornography and high-art, Kalina delivers a book that is remarkably self-aware of its subject matter. Given that it’s one of the most grossly misrepresented areas of interest, even in the “documentary” genre, this refreshing take on the dirty secret of America is generated mostly due to the hiring of well-known adult industry film stars to perform for the camera. This is certainly a book that initial reviewers misunderstood as an excuse for male gaze but it’s hard to justify such narrow viewpoints with the understated yet rich narratives that are contained here. Kalina’s willingness to let the viewer observe the presence of the camera, whether it’s through reflections, flashes or equipment left in the shot, Porn.0 maintains a feeling that this book is neither documentary, nor fiction, but something else entirely. 175 pages, softcover. €69.00
—
Credit:Original image by Justin Sullivan was taken from here.

A LOOK AHEAD TO THE BEST PHOTOBOOKS OF 2015

Life in Everwood - Ryan McGinley

This groundbreaking book contains the signature colourful portraits of pretty twenty-somethings with some forest animals thrown in for good measure. McGinley’s incessant romanticism of nudity and the empty landscape is yet again further expanded on to the point where we begin to wonder if this is a test of endurance. “How much of the same thing can we tolerate?” becomes a question that is suddenly retro-actively applied to previous projects as he unfolds this new interpretation of his career work.
144 pages, hardcover.
€50.00

The Obelisk - Gregory Crewdson

This goliath of a book measures in a 32x45 inches and details Crewdson’s journey to photograph a series of self-constructed underwater cityscapes. By far his most ambitious project to date, the Amazon-funded work is as vast as it was expensive, though the structuring of the contract behind the series allowed Amazon to recoup most of its investment before the launch date thanks to the record-high sales (€750k per print) through their in-house art-auction department, DRUID.
Notably, these ethereal images were rumoured to inspire Baz Luhrmann’s dramatic retelling of The Little Mermaid which is due out next summer.
196 pages, woven seaweed hardcover, comes packaged with fossilised seahorse suspended in rosewater.
€250.00 (Amazon Only)

Retrospective - William Eggleston

Much was made of the court case regarding Apple’s right to do whatever they wanted with their recently purchased Eggleston Collection, however, this much sought-after limited edition app puts new life into the grumpy genius’ work and coming in at 10,997 images, you certainly get your money’s worth.
€12.99 (Download from App Store only)

The Venus Diaries - James Franco

Franco’s decision to document his year living as woman was too much for VICE to pass up and the pairing of publisher and content seemed like a perfect match from the outset. While hit-and-miss in terms of reviews, this book has at least gotten everyone’s attention, which is exactly what you’d expect from a VICE book.
220 pages, softcover.
€33.00

Misfigurement - Joan Fontcuberta

Fontcuberta’s falsified archive of wounded Vietnam veterans undergoing radical limb regeneration experiments maintains the visual acuity that previously earned him the Hasselblad Award. While this book initially requires the viewer to consent that this was a JFK-authorised experiment and that the subsequent assassination of the president came as a result of this, it’s hard to flaw the substantial amount of work that went into this book.
377 pages, hardcover with metal plating and dog tags.
€79.00

Collected American Selfies 1999-2007 - Taschen (Edited by Martin Parr)

This glimpse into the early days of web-based self-portraiture provides a snapshot of the American zeitgeist in a predominantly post-9/11 and irony obsessed world. The massively mediated and manipulated task of the taking a self-portrait is highlighted through Martin Parr’s selection of appropriated portraits collected through the GoogleGrab program. The book’s main focus seems to be on the secondary representation of self through the barrier and distortion of mirrors. It’s a clever element to include and really ties the narcissism of the medium together in a way a lot of self-portrait projects fail to reference.
310 pages, hardcover.
€20.00

Brandon Stanton vs. The World - Michael Pemulis

This book traces the journey of Brandon Stanton from his days working under the name ‘Humans of New York’ to an attempt at realising his impossible dream, beginning with the cataloging of the North American population. We see a sleepless Stanton hard at work preparing the prototype full-body photobooths that he had planned to install on street-corners across the US, Canada and Mexico before the much publicised budget blow-out the project suffered as a result of the photobooth recall just days before the project went live. Pemulis’ images grant the viewer unprecedented access to the man behind the lens and we’re treated to a depiction of the exhausted Stanton as an almost Howard Hughes-esque figure.
196 pages, hardcover.
€55.00

Porn.0 - Noah Kalina

Blurring lines between hardcore pornography and high-art, Kalina delivers a book that is remarkably self-aware of its subject matter. Given that it’s one of the most grossly misrepresented areas of interest, even in the “documentary” genre, this refreshing take on the dirty secret of America is generated mostly due to the hiring of well-known adult industry film stars to perform for the camera. This is certainly a book that initial reviewers misunderstood as an excuse for male gaze but it’s hard to justify such narrow viewpoints with the understated yet rich narratives that are contained here. Kalina’s willingness to let the viewer observe the presence of the camera, whether it’s through reflections, flashes or equipment left in the shot, Porn.0 maintains a feeling that this book is neither documentary, nor fiction, but something else entirely.
175 pages, softcover.
€69.00

Credit:
Original image by Justin Sullivan was taken from here.

Trading Cards for the Artist Elite:

A Criticism of Photobook Culture

Yesterday, November 25th, I was scrolling through my various social media hubs and came across a lot of people posting links to ‘TIME Picks the Best Photobooks of 2013’, which I thought, despite sounding a lot like a declaration of self-praise, was a bit early to be something that existed on November 25th. I’m not quite sure why people continually sit down and write “Best of-” lists on any date before December 31st.

Anyway, I found myself, like probably a lot of other people when they saw the link, drawn in and clicking through each of the site’s selections. I’ll 100% reserve comment on any of their personal tastes in photography and how they may contrast or reflect my own opinions but what I did find interesting was how such a large selection, 32 books, ended up making it into their final list. This was a shockingly huge number for a “Best of-” list based on 11 months of a calendar year.

Before you read any further, I would like to make very clear that I am a huge fan of photobooks themselves. I have quite a collection of books that I love to look at to fuel my own creative thought processes and they sit proudly, and prominently, on my bookshelf before all else. What I’m worried about is that this caveat will come across as an indictment of the photobook as a product and read as “I’m not racist. A lot of my friends are *insert ethnicity here*” when really my intention is to present a criticism of the culture that has surrounded photobooks in recent years.

My main argument regarding contemporary photobooks, and it’s one that I’ve probably harped on about before, begins with my thinking that the fixation on the image-as-object in the digital age has spun out of control. The exclusivity of limited run printing is age-old practice but when the primary form of limited runs is exploited due to small batch publishing houses then the fortitude of the overall scheme loses value. A lot of publishers, and artists, don’t understand that second editions of books, softens the market for the originals. This screws over those who were banking on having picked up a piece of exclusive material from the Next Big Thing, though it’s difficult to blame the struggling artists for buying into a system in which they can make money from their art, but this is the economic equivalent of drinking seawater to cure thirst.

This is not to say that photobooks, per se, are dead, on the contrary, but their resurgence in a digital age as a form of fetish object, something to be collected in first edition form, reflects quite heavily towards an oncoming depression like that suffered by the trend of sports trading cards. A good condition T206 Honus Wagner card will probably get you enough to make sure your grandkids can afford college, but outside of the top end historic cards, the bottom has totally fallen out of the market. A previous generation valued these cards so poorly. Those kids drew on them, they stuck them on their bedroom walls, they generally just allowed the cards to get damaged. And now, when it came time for our generation to get our grubby little hands on them, we wore protective gloves and made sure every card was kept in a protective acid-free case. We kept them perfect, and as such, the market for trading cards totally collapsed and became worthless. Nothing in a given category is valuable when something in its new state is immediately cared for as if it was an endangered species.

There was a great point made on a new podcast I listen to called Soundings, in that the presenters Dylan Haskins and songstress Lisa Hannigan discuss an exhibition about London subcultures and in turn mention the possibility that the DIY movement didn’t necessarily revolutionise corporate business models, it simply reconfigured them. Instead of moving towards a system of self-support, we allowed businesses to shift their concerns away from selling us a product and instead, selling us the tools to create our own product. Understanding a consumer’s need for total control (especially in creative industries) allowed new business models to focus on letting you doing the work for them. This approach has been marketed as a feeling of self-satisfaction for yourself, when really it’s a basic discount in labour costs for them. Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Give a man the possibility of selling custom artisanal fishing rods, and he’ll eat modestly for a maybe a little longer than a day. Meanwhile, the fishing rod component factory chairman gets insanely rich and looks down on your peasant fish food.

So in steps the photobook. Here is an object in which you can place your images and, if you’re lucky, sell, or, if you’re even luckier, sell for a marginal profit. But photobooks have been stripped of their utility factor ever since the spread of digital media as a photographer’s primary form of showing work. Replacing pages with pixels is an incredibly cost effective way of reaching your maximum audience but the downside is that it becomes exponentially more difficult to make money on any non-commercial work and this leads to many artists force-feeding their projects into books; a format that in many cases the project was never intended for. There is suddenly a tragic feeling that a project requires a book to make money, or maybe that it is required to make money at all. The disconnect between projects developed as photobooks and projects adapted to become them is a subtle wording, a huge difference and an overwhelming dilution of the market.

The problem though is the process of how the general public have come to view these books. Instead of acting as a vehicle for displaying images, photobooks have become a symbol of aristocracy, trading cards for the artist elite. The desire to look at a photobook is often replaced by the need to covet it. Obtaining first editions of up-and-coming names has evolved from supporting young artists into a form of currency; an investment that hopefully may pay dividends at a later date. Nothing is valuable when everything is limited, much in the same way that nothing is valuable if nothing is limited. Value is determined by contrast, not constant, and the current system of having everything online or in batch production is not a successful model to base an industry on.

Now, why does this stand out as different from any other form of art collecting? What makes it different, or sinister, in comparison to the hundreds of years of institutionalised art dealing? The theory enforced behind making books and the rationale that this is important to one’s practice doesn’t hold up. The in-vogue notion of placing a focus on the physicality of photography is farcical. While people champion the need to make objects in an increasingly digital world, the photobook has flourished yet print sales have floundered. The print is an object of a bygone age. It’s consistently abandoned as a form of exhibitive media in favour of “online exhibitions”(which I’ll never understand) and books. Any already established artist can maybe rely on print sales of touring solo shows but the majority of practicing photographers have to rely on commercial work, or again, if they’re really lucky, book sales in order to get by.

The experiential and temporal nature of visiting exhibitions of selected images has been replaced by a preference for the permanence of a constant availability to large indexical bodies of work. This can only be provided by photobooks or websites, and it’s hard to argue why either of these options wouldn’t be preferred. After all, they’re the easiest, if perhaps laziest, way to enjoy images. The demand for permanence has been rammed down the throat of photography and it’s possible to argue that this outcome was likely deep-seated in the fundamentals of image replication systems from the outset.

This mechanism of replication that was inherent to photography’s popularity as a tool of “capturing” the past and sharing images sets it apart from other forms of art. The notion of the original, even in terms of negatives and exposures, has always been a contested area and it’s not one that painting or sculpture really has to concern itself with unless they wanted to purposefully diverge into the realm of editions and prints; something that comes as standard and cannot be avoided with photography.

The main fear is that the market is about to go the way of sports trading cards. Perhaps it already has and it’ll be a year or two before we realise it. I don’t imagine that people will stop making these high-priced exclusive books printed on lavish paper with rare bindings but I do imagine that the object itself could suddenly fall back to earth. Right now, it’d probably be fair to categorise this surge in the photobook market as the boom. We’re just riding this train to see where it goes, though, I do wonder if there’s someone at the front, frantically laying down track like something out of a Warner Bros. cartoon.

A N   I N T E R V I E W   W I T H   E D W A R D   C U S H E N B E R R Y

I don’t know that many artists like Edward Cushenberry. Take that however way you like. Maybe there are some unpolished points, some devil-may-care cavalier attitudes that invade his work from time to time, and for that I’m a little bit grateful.

No artist likes to hear that they don’t put thought or effort into their work, and that’s not what I’m saying about Cushenberry here, though nor am I singing his praises simply because I’ve decided to feature him on this site.

What exemplifies his images are how raw they are. That aforementioned unpolished nature of Cushenberry gives the viewer, or at least I feel gave me while viewing, a rare feeling nowadays. It’s a feeling that indicates maybe what we’re seeing is unrestricted, that there aren’t many shots that ended up on the cutting room floor. Not that this work is a bevy of poor self-editing, it’s more that his work has a certain flow of intentionality that indicates that every shot really mattered to this guy. At a time when the finnickity nature of photographers is most likely at its peak (or God forbid, still rising), it’s refreshing to get access to something a bit more real. This is a body of work composed without melodramatic flair or ironic mesh screen.

It would be easy to fall into all sorts of traps analysing Cushenberry’s images under archaic banners such as ‘the snapshot’ or ‘the family’ but none of that is interesting at this stage, not for fledgling artists still trying to find their footing. Nothing here is new, but what’s fresh about Cushenberry is a firm standhold in not dressing his images as something they’re not. And as an oversaturated viewer dealing with copious amounts of artist statements and vague declarations of departure from previous artistic institutions, it’s a bit nice to get something devoid of artificiality.

What are the people in your photographs to you?

On the surface the people in my photographs are just family and friends.

But on the whole, they play a big part of who I am and the work that I make. My work is extremely personal, invades peoples’ privacy, and allows me to live vicariously through my camera. I first started shooting this way when I was in school at Art Center College of Design. My friend Josh Schaedel and I were sneaking into an abandoned office at school to sleep because we both lived far away from school.

Soon I found myself being on campus 24 hours a day and seven days a week. I began taking pictures as a way to leave the office, and eventually the photos transformed into a way for me to share experiences with people who were close to me. I found myself living through my camera. The more I shot, the more intrusive I wanted to get because I was interested in others and the way they thought, behaved, looked, and how they lived and existed. A lot of my subjects gave more than others but I was able to get really personal and intimate, and create narratives that were a mixture of intense and quiet moments.

Right now, post­graduation, I pretty much shoot the same but I’m also looking for commercial work so I’ve been doing test shoots and shooting a lot of digital and a lot portraits. But I’m still interested in my friend’s lives, especially now because the majority of them are out of school and are in the same boat as I am. I’ve also been documenting my relationship with my girlfriend and my relationship with my friends who are women.

What are the challenges of photographing in your space?

One of the challenges of photographing in my studio is that after a while the work becomes very repetitive and constrained. I’m currently working on this portrait series that takes place in the corner of my studio only because that’s where the best lighting is.

But as of late, all of the portraits have been looking similar because I’m shooting at the same time and location. The goal of this series was to take very minimal portraits but at the same time trying to convey the personality of my subjects during these shoots. Some of them work, some of them don’t. So I’m finding myself using different areas of my studio, shooting at different times a day/night and using on camera flash with my point and shoot in order to have some variations to the project.

Watching for light in and around my studio has become a little easier but it’s still hard to get people’s schedule to match with the best lighting situations.  7am­-8am has beautiful lighting but it’s hard to find someone who wants to come to my studio that early, especially on a Monday.

Tell me about ‘The Weirdness’.

Man, The Weirdness was and is still weird.

It’s a documentary of my friendship with Emily who was also in the photo program with me. We had color theory class together and we eventually started spending a lot of time together. Soon I started shooting very intimate photos of her and it became this project about pushing the limits of what a friendship was. Even though the photos were sexual in nature, that’s the furthest it ever went and it never went past taking pictures. I’m not bummed about that part it, but I feel that it’s important to state that only because people always ask me that question.

On the other hand, in order to get some of the photos, limits were definitely pushed, there were nights I was questioning why or what I was doing with her and I’m pretty sure she thought the same thing too. I never intended it to be a separate project, for me it was experiencing something new- the majority of the project took place during my days in the office and it gave me something to look forward to when I was staying on campus. The Weirdness was shot over two years and began to slow down, especially when we started our own respective relationships. Besides the obvious, it was a fun project and very important part of my work. I called it “The Weirdness” because that’s the only way I could describe it, it’s some of my rawest work that I’ve made.

Even though the work has a lot of sexuality in it, I never meant for it to be anything more than just a documentation on a friend.  A lot of people like the project. I had a teacher tell me that I made being a pervert “beautiful”, in fact a lot of my teachers liked that body of work once it was finished. My mom and dad have seen some of the work, they get it.

Forgive me if this is an opportunistic question, or a leading question, but what are your views of minority representations in the Art World?

When I was at Art Center, I was lucky enough to have a few knowledgeable teachers and friends who introduced me to “different” artists. I’ve always been in a position where I felt somewhat under represented.

I grew up in the suburbs, went to private schools and that feeling didn’t go away when I went to art school, especially when I had teachers and students question my “blackness” and the majority of those teachers and students were white. I get really stoked when I see galleries that have group shows or solo shows by black and/or minority artists.I also get excited when I see black artists who have work that speak to my experiences of being black. Like I said, I grew up in the suburbs and I feel that my work is a result of living in Orange County.

So my idea of what it is to be black is different from others’ ideas of what it is to be black. So, as much as I’d love to be “I’m not a black artist, I’m an artist” I do get excited when I see artists who are like me. It gives validation to what I’m what doing. I still hate myself for missing Henry Taylor’s show at Blum and Poe, and the Blues for Smoke show at Moca Geffen Contemporary was amazing. Come to think of it, I always get stoked when I see black contemporaries.

grew up listening to Punk and Hardcore and I felt that Bad Brains made it okay for me to listen to that music without having to question myself. I also love skateboarding and I remember years ago there was an all­ Black issue of either Transworld Magazine or Skateboarding Magazine and every article was an interview with a black skater. I had torn out pages of the magazine and had them taped on my wall until my dickhead cousin took them and threw away the pages calling them “Whiteboys”. 

Getting to the point, 30 Americans is the best example I could give to answer that question. I love that book.

***********************

Edward Cushenberry currently resides in Los Angeles, CA and can be found online at the following:
Main Site | Tumblr

Identifying as a Grumpy Old Man who Shouts at Kids Who Play on a Digital Street

What passes for hip cynical transcendence of sentiment is really some kind of fear of being really human, since to be really human […] is probably to be unavoidably sentimental and naïve and goo-prone and generally pathetic.” - David Foster Wallace

I’m tired. I’ve been tired all summer and now it’s October. Almost November even. That’s not good. The post count here has dropped quite a lot in the past year as college wound down and I’ve tried to maintain a sort of balance between good content and consistent output. That’s about as difficult balance there is to strike for a single-person website, and as such, I’ve ended up with underdeveloped thoughts and half-written posts composed purely for the sake of the act of stringing together words. I’m still very much enjoying the writing. It’s not the writing aspect that’s hard. When I have a plan of action or something burning a whole in the back-pocket of my brain, then the concept clicks. But when it doesn’t click, when the thoughts don’t really know where they’re going, then, surprisingly, the words still come. It’s just not very coherent. It reads nicely and there’s as much of a rhythm to the words as I’ve ever been able to manage, but it’s purely that they don’t seem to instruct towards any sort of endpoint. The writing is good exercise of craft but it lacks on any kind of fulfillment. 

I think my main problem- yes mine, this is a personal issue more than anything else- is that I’ve been too plugged in to the system over the past year, too exposed to multiple streams of the same aesthetic. Winslow Laroche’s Je Suis Perdu and the MPDrolet stream are two of the best sources of contemporary photographic work but the problematic nature of image streams lies not with their curators but in the hands of the viewership. There’s an overexposure point (volume of content + frequency + time) at which all work seemingly blends together. Each project just becomes an amalgamation of several components already seen before. This is not to say that there are no longer new and exciting projects that should garner the attention they deserve, but mainly that it becomes difficult for the viewer to differentiate which projects these actually are.

So in the past month or so, as a remedy of sorts, I’ve tried to branch out of photography. I’ve been reading a lot more. I’m quite close to finishing Infinite Jest and I’d like to read Thomas Pynchon's Bleeding Edge at some point soon too. Really embracing a book is something I haven’t done in quite a while. For most of my college years, they’ve mainly maintained a background entertainment role; something to keep me from being bored while on the train, something to distract me from the rest of the unhappy commuters also trying to distract themselves from everyone else. Being challenged by a book was a new experience and a rewarding one at that.

I also tried my hand at graphic design. I created a custom copy of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan for my girlfriend’s birthday. I had some experience with design but it was purely as a tool of functionality, creating a vehicle for an existing project or laying out photobooks. This was a bit out of my comfort zone though. Sourcing graphic design styles for that book was exhilarating. I must have put over 100 hours into designing it and not one of which I feel was too much or poorly spent. 

And I’ve been trying to look at more traditional art. I’ve often felt ashamed about how little I know of art in a historical context. Simple things like looking at precisionist works by Ralston Crawford and Charles Demuth have made me really wish I could paint but also quite happy that I don’t have to.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve found that this expansion in creative scope has allowed me a great deal of relief from the fatigue I’ve been feeling when observing photography. I think it’s my lack of knowing what the rules are for these media, or maybe what’s popular, that’s letting me enjoy, truly enjoy, these works. It allows me to indulge creative impulses without hitting that big red button in the frontal lobe that reads ‘OVERANALYSE’.

It’s different with photography for me. A degree in any creative area has problems- the likelihood of landing a non-intern non-voluntary non-degrading job aside- but the fatigue and cynicism that have imposed themselves on my view of the medium have become remarkably destructive. The flaw in any particular work comes into mind long before I can acknowledge any of its merits.

And I think a lot of what has turned me off a good deal of new work is the mobilisation of an ironic rhetoric- though this is not an exclusive annoyance to just photography. The majority of these new line of works hide behind grandiose artist statements whose only function serve as a deference towards any line of questioning that may come an artist’s way should they end up getting any of that attention they so desperately crave. Artists should be held accountable for their work and these ironic works should under no circumstances be allowed speak for itself. I understand that the written word is merely a reference point for other media, that the days of it acting as a companion are over, but this level of micro-criticism of representational art have to be backed up in more readable manner than Jogging-grade jpegs. 

And I am no doubt, knowingly unalone in this experience. In fact, I presume it is embarrassingly archetypal of the newly graduated creative media student to be even talking about such things. I am an unoriginal and overused trope of the very sort that I am complaining about. It’s hard to separate which of my opinions seem clear and which seem unnecessarily callous, especially, again, for age 24. 

A N   I N T E R V I E W   W I T H   R O M K E   H O O G W A E R T S
I’ve interviewed Romke (pictured above with Grace Leigh) before. Back in 2011, when he was crowd-funding the the publication of the first physical issue of Mossless Magazine. I’d been following Mossless a little while online at the time, mostly drawn to its interviews with new artists that maybe I hadn’t come across before, or the words of those I had and most likely looked up to. 
In two years not much has changed. He’s still working on Mossless, albeit probably with a bit more confidence at this stage. He still lives in New York. Mossless continues to be a foundational springboard of emerging talent.
I say these things whole-heartedly, and with little time for the Mutual Appreciation Society that has become much of the artworld. With so many people vying to establish any form of legitimacy as a tastemaker, it’s refreshing to come across someone approach this by doing rather than talking. I’ve come to respect Romke’s opinion not because he says things that are important, but because it comes through in the work he does. 

DigitalFaun:On Twitter last week, you posted: “To think much of contemporary art is about the failures of mechanics and digital processes, so really about the fantasy of that failure”. How much of this do you attribute to photography and how much is relevant to broader art processes?
Romke Hoogwaerts: It’s more about contemporary art than photography. People like Wade Guyton make bank on fucking up their printer, for instance. People love it because computers are fucking terrifying. It’s like soft proof that we’re still superior. It’s not my thing, though. I like computers. At least they don’t try to play pretend.

When I read this tweet at the time, it sent me into one of those speedy-thought cycles that mostly accompany my anxieties but occasionally, like this time, help me with creative processes. I wanted to write about it. I wanted to use it as a jumping off point and write about how accurate it was in thinking about some of my favourite artists, but I found myself stumped, and instead, decided on asking Romke about it himself so that I could clarify it in my head before putting anything down in type. 
I think the words a pretty true, but not true in the I-Swear-To-Tell-The-Whole style of the word. I mean more in the vein of the unabashed honesty of fucking with ‘the system’ in order to make something of one’s self inside it.
The capital-I Interruption is nothing new to art. It’s been the primary source of income for post-modern workhorses and personally I think that’s because today’s work has gone past the stage of trying to shock its potential audience. The goal has now shifted towards independence and rather than systematic interdependence. I am fascinated by the idea that success might not be measured in how well one does in the artworld but how well you can do in spite of it. 

DF:Do you have any tips for getting over the feeling of having seen it all, that nothing is new anymore?
RH:The problem isn’t the makers of content, it’s the providers of it. So you have to think about where you’re getting your content from. The biggest issue is that the best of the best of most work is not getting seen. The most interesting news stories aren’t getting reported. The most fascinating people are not getting coverage. Good stuff doesn’t necessarily warrant pushy PR campaigns and the publishing industry has gotten exceedingly lazy. Trust me, you’re not alone in this frustration! One good way of circumventing impotent content publishers is to aggregate (and maintain) a feed of a lot of them, and balancing that with a good crowdsource content platform. Reddit has some brilliant subreddits, but they can be hard to find. Hubski is really small but is constantly good, though there’s not much art on there. As for art, well… that’s coming, I hope. The cool new sites aren’t doing it right yet.

I graduated from a four year B.A. in Photography in June. The exhaustion of creative spirit that is required to complete a college course in something one has pride in- rather than for monetary gain- is something I wasn’t totally aware of until i experienced it. I had heard from previous graduates that afterward they needed a break from the medium, a little bit of time to rebuild themselves, and in short, I had dismissed them as lazy. I thought that anyone who was tired of their chosen field before they had even started work in it wasn’t truly serious about their line of work. 
But now I find myself in this post-graduate state of flux and am really unsure of what comes next. Aside from the crippling fear of eternal unemployment - a fear that feels as if my rib-cage has suddenly been swapped out with one much smaller - I’ve become totally jaded as to whatever is going on with photography right now. 
College instilled a way of seeing, a very specific vista in which to compose your work, and all of us as students were pushed to make work in a certain way. Now that I’ve finished with the school, I look around and see so many copy-cat-practices at work. Soft-focused portraits of economically depressed areas and fruity photoshop-heavy still life is everywhere. It’s not that I think there is nothing new to photography right now, it’s just that I don’t know where to look to find it. 

DF:What do you think of guys like Bobby Doherty getting bigger jobs for mainstream media?
RH:Nothing gets me more excited. Bobby’s doing beautiful work for the New Yorker. Dave [Brandon Geeting]’s killing it too with his commissioned work. Brea [Souders]’s exploding onto the fine arts photography scene. It’s all really fantastic. I think it’s a really good sign that these mainstream magazines are bringing in these pretty radical aesthetics. It’s a gutsy thing they’re doing, but I’m glad they did. I think Richard Turley of Bloomberg Businessweek is responsible for much of this shift in magazine aesthetics. I met the guy at a job interview and his behaviour was frenetic, you can tell his energy is a lot higher than other creative directors. His style is unbeatable. It’s frenetic too—it looks a lot like the way society feels. I’m a huge fan of his.

I’ve liked Bobby Doherty since back when I was a kid with a point-and-shoot posting over-clarified jpegs on deviantArt. Doherty’s images were so much sharper than anyone else’s. He posted photos of his Dad and plaid shirts against plaid wallpaper. It was totally different to anything I had seen at the time. i remember mailing him asking him the most boring question anyone can ask any photographer - “What kind of camera do you use?” - and more importantly, I remember getting a genuine response, explaining how using medium format cameras and really small apertures are a recipe for perfect image sharpness. He totally could have ignored that question but he didn’t. 
Doherty was a featured photographer in the first issue of Mossless. Now he does editorial work for big New York publications. I couldn’t be happier for the guy. 

DF:Are there differences between developing a magazine and a photobook? How does narrative apply to the way you do things?
RH:Oh god, the differences depend on who you ask. I’m not a traditionalist, so to me the difference is just in the frequency of their publication. A magazine can come in the shape of a book. A book can’t really come in the form of a magazine though, because it comes out only once. Everything between is completely relative I didn’t focus on [narrative] much in our first issue, because the four books were supposed to instill a sort of democratic sampling of photographers, but for the second I worked hard to get a sort of flow through the pretty disparate artists, and to get a sort of philosophical arc along the various essays interviews, which I have to say were really pared down to those essentials.For our third issue we’re focusing hard on a sort of narrative structure. We haven’t sequenced them yet yet but it’s going to string hundreds of the best contemporary social documentary photographs from all over the US, and only by online photographers. So we have to think out of the box. To me, a good sequence is really important. I’m a cinephile, mostly on the front of cinematography and editing, so you could see how that’s affected my thinking of books. Our third is definitely going to feel a little cinematic.

Photobooks and magazines, to me, are a lot more difficult to classify than how Romke put it. I’ve never thought about working as an editor on a photobook of someone else’s work. I’d imagine the process would be a lot more comparable to producing a magazine than developing a photobook of my own - something at which I am very hard on myself.
I think it might be a lot easier, in terms of artistic works, to aim to please someone else than yourself, but that’s resulted in a lot of work which I wouldn’t hold much pride in. Developing someone else’s work into a format which fulfills both the artist and the editor is a really tricky balance. 

DF:Is there a role for the written word in photography? Has there ever been or is the lack of it more evident because of a growth in global image production?
RH:Yeah, but it’s more of a supporting role. But you’re right—it’s increasingly absent, or at least, good words on the matter are. The written word is more of an extra nowadays. But that’s the way it’s gotta be—the more that visual motifs are exploited in mass, the less we can rely on them, so as artists we go deeper. We go more complex, less recognisable, until there’s little left to say about these things. I embrace that work though, because I feel the pain of the raping of our visual language too. But having said that, I’m excited for our third issue because it’s pushing for the opposite.

I write about photography and image media in general. I write about it a lot, and aside from some NFL coverage for a different website, I write about it almost exclusively. I think, while it does only provide a supporting role, and I do wish it had a larger influence sometimes, the words are probably the only reason DigitalFaun has any sort of popularity. There are so many places people can plug into if they want a curated stream of images, but this is not one of them. 
It’s encouraging to see an approach such as Romke’s towards Mossless as the inclusion of text to apply editorial context to other people’s work really makes a publication one’s own. It’s a policy I’ve practiced for a couple of years now with DF and it’s not something I’m likely to give up anytime soon. 
***********************
Romke Hoogwaerts currently resides in New York, NY and can be found online at the following:Main Site | Mossless | Mossfull | Twitter
Image credit: Nicole Reber

A N   I N T E R V I E W   W I T H   R O M K E   H O O G W A E R T S

I’ve interviewed Romke (pictured above with Grace Leigh) before. Back in 2011, when he was crowd-funding the the publication of the first physical issue of Mossless Magazine. I’d been following Mossless a little while online at the time, mostly drawn to its interviews with new artists that maybe I hadn’t come across before, or the words of those I had and most likely looked up to. 

In two years not much has changed. He’s still working on Mossless, albeit probably with a bit more confidence at this stage. He still lives in New York. Mossless continues to be a foundational springboard of emerging talent.

I say these things whole-heartedly, and with little time for the Mutual Appreciation Society that has become much of the artworld. With so many people vying to establish any form of legitimacy as a tastemaker, it’s refreshing to come across someone approach this by doing rather than talking. I’ve come to respect Romke’s opinion not because he says things that are important, but because it comes through in the work he does. 

DigitalFaun:
On Twitter last week, you posted: “To think much of contemporary art is about the failures of mechanics and digital processes, so really about the fantasy of that failure”. How much of this do you attribute to photography and how much is relevant to broader art processes?

Romke Hoogwaerts:
It’s more about contemporary art than photography. People like Wade Guyton make bank on fucking up their printer, for instance. People love it because computers are fucking terrifying. It’s like soft proof that we’re still superior. It’s not my thing, though. I like computers. At least they don’t try to play pretend.

When I read this tweet at the time, it sent me into one of those speedy-thought cycles that mostly accompany my anxieties but occasionally, like this time, help me with creative processes. I wanted to write about it. I wanted to use it as a jumping off point and write about how accurate it was in thinking about some of my favourite artists, but I found myself stumped, and instead, decided on asking Romke about it himself so that I could clarify it in my head before putting anything down in type. 

I think the words a pretty true, but not true in the I-Swear-To-Tell-The-Whole style of the word. I mean more in the vein of the unabashed honesty of fucking with ‘the system’ in order to make something of one’s self inside it.

The capital-I Interruption is nothing new to art. It’s been the primary source of income for post-modern workhorses and personally I think that’s because today’s work has gone past the stage of trying to shock its potential audience. The goal has now shifted towards independence and rather than systematic interdependence. I am fascinated by the idea that success might not be measured in how well one does in the artworld but how well you can do in spite of it. 

DF:
Do you have any tips for getting over the feeling of having seen it all, that nothing is new anymore?

RH:
The problem isn’t the makers of content, it’s the providers of it. So you have to think about where you’re getting your content from. The biggest issue is that the best of the best of most work is not getting seen. The most interesting news stories aren’t getting reported. The most fascinating people are not getting coverage. Good stuff doesn’t necessarily warrant pushy PR campaigns and the publishing industry has gotten exceedingly lazy. Trust me, you’re not alone in this frustration! One good way of circumventing impotent content publishers is to aggregate (and maintain) a feed of a lot of them, and balancing that with a good crowdsource content platform. Reddit has some brilliant subreddits, but they can be hard to find. Hubski is really small but is constantly good, though there’s not much art on there. As for art, well… that’s coming, I hope. The cool new sites aren’t doing it right yet.

I graduated from a four year B.A. in Photography in June. The exhaustion of creative spirit that is required to complete a college course in something one has pride in- rather than for monetary gain- is something I wasn’t totally aware of until i experienced it. I had heard from previous graduates that afterward they needed a break from the medium, a little bit of time to rebuild themselves, and in short, I had dismissed them as lazy. I thought that anyone who was tired of their chosen field before they had even started work in it wasn’t truly serious about their line of work. 

But now I find myself in this post-graduate state of flux and am really unsure of what comes next. Aside from the crippling fear of eternal unemployment - a fear that feels as if my rib-cage has suddenly been swapped out with one much smaller - I’ve become totally jaded as to whatever is going on with photography right now. 

College instilled a way of seeing, a very specific vista in which to compose your work, and all of us as students were pushed to make work in a certain way. Now that I’ve finished with the school, I look around and see so many copy-cat-practices at work. Soft-focused portraits of economically depressed areas and fruity photoshop-heavy still life is everywhere. It’s not that I think there is nothing new to photography right now, it’s just that I don’t know where to look to find it. 

DF:
What do you think of guys like Bobby Doherty getting bigger jobs for mainstream media?

RH:
Nothing gets me more excited. Bobby’s doing beautiful work for the New Yorker. Dave [Brandon Geeting]s killing it too with his commissioned work. Brea [Souders]’s exploding onto the fine arts photography scene. It’s all really fantastic. I think it’s a really good sign that these mainstream magazines are bringing in these pretty radical aesthetics. It’s a gutsy thing they’re doing, but I’m glad they did. I think Richard Turley of Bloomberg Businessweek is responsible for much of this shift in magazine aesthetics. I met the guy at a job interview and his behaviour was frenetic, you can tell his energy is a lot higher than other creative directors. His style is unbeatable. It’s frenetic too—it looks a lot like the way society feels. I’m a huge fan of his.

I’ve liked Bobby Doherty since back when I was a kid with a point-and-shoot posting over-clarified jpegs on deviantArt. Doherty’s images were so much sharper than anyone else’s. He posted photos of his Dad and plaid shirts against plaid wallpaper. It was totally different to anything I had seen at the time. i remember mailing him asking him the most boring question anyone can ask any photographer - “What kind of camera do you use?” - and more importantly, I remember getting a genuine response, explaining how using medium format cameras and really small apertures are a recipe for perfect image sharpness. He totally could have ignored that question but he didn’t. 

Doherty was a featured photographer in the first issue of Mossless. Now he does editorial work for big New York publications. I couldn’t be happier for the guy. 

DF:
Are there differences between developing a magazine and a photobook? How does narrative apply to the way you do things?

RH:
Oh god, the differences depend on who you ask. I’m not a traditionalist, so to me the difference is just in the frequency of their publication. A magazine can come in the shape of a book. A book can’t really come in the form of a magazine though, because it comes out only once.
Everything between is completely relative I didn’t focus on [narrative] much in our first issue, because the four books were supposed to instill a sort of democratic sampling of photographers, but for the second I worked hard to get a sort of flow through the pretty disparate artists, and to get a sort of philosophical arc along the various essays interviews, which I have to say were really pared down to those essentials.
For our third issue we’re focusing hard on a sort of narrative structure. We haven’t sequenced them yet yet but it’s going to string hundreds of the best contemporary social documentary photographs from all over the US, and only by online photographers. So we have to think out of the box. To me, a good sequence is really important. I’m a cinephile, mostly on the front of cinematography and editing, so you could see how that’s affected my thinking of books. Our third is definitely going to feel a little cinematic.

Photobooks and magazines, to me, are a lot more difficult to classify than how Romke put it. I’ve never thought about working as an editor on a photobook of someone else’s work. I’d imagine the process would be a lot more comparable to producing a magazine than developing a photobook of my own - something at which I am very hard on myself.

I think it might be a lot easier, in terms of artistic works, to aim to please someone else than yourself, but that’s resulted in a lot of work which I wouldn’t hold much pride in. Developing someone else’s work into a format which fulfills both the artist and the editor is a really tricky balance. 

DF:
Is there a role for the written word in photography? Has there ever been or is the lack of it more evident because of a growth in global image production?

RH:
Yeah, but it’s more of a supporting role. But you’re right—it’s increasingly absent, or at least, good words on the matter are. The written word is more of an extra nowadays. But that’s the way it’s gotta be—the more that visual motifs are exploited in mass, the less we can rely on them, so as artists we go deeper. We go more complex, less recognisable, until there’s little left to say about these things. I embrace that work though, because I feel the pain of the raping of our visual language too. But having said that, I’m excited for our third issue because it’s pushing for the opposite.

I write about photography and image media in general. I write about it a lot, and aside from some NFL coverage for a different website, I write about it almost exclusively. I think, while it does only provide a supporting role, and I do wish it had a larger influence sometimes, the words are probably the only reason DigitalFaun has any sort of popularity. There are so many places people can plug into if they want a curated stream of images, but this is not one of them. 

It’s encouraging to see an approach such as Romke’s towards Mossless as the inclusion of text to apply editorial context to other people’s work really makes a publication one’s own. It’s a policy I’ve practiced for a couple of years now with DF and it’s not something I’m likely to give up anytime soon. 

***********************

Romke Hoogwaerts currently resides in New York, NY and can be found online at the following:
Main Site | Mossless | MossfullTwitter

Image credit: Nicole Reber