FLASHERS AT THE NATIONAL
By Luke Winter
* * *
"We’re not supposed to talk about it. But the policy was changed three weeks back and don’t see how they’d be able to reverse it now."
"And has it got louder?" I ask.
"Har har", his eyes flash, "Oh most definitely. What with their clicking of shutters, louder. And who wants to see that red beam all over the painting that you’re looking at? And they look less at the paintings now that they’re allowed cameras, as if by taking a photo they’ve conquered the painting, but they’ve not looked at it, whereas before they’d stand and try and claim some little victory of comprehension, even if it was just reading the information plaque. But the vast majority don’t really know how to use their cameras and so you get a lot of flashers."
He grins, “No flashing in The National”.
[I’m thinking of The Dreamers as they thought of Bande à Part and running round the Louerve hand-in-hand.]
"Have you ever had flashers?" I ask. "Like, were there ever flashers in The National?"
"Well about once every five years" he laughs, "It’s a public space. So you get all sorts in here don’t you."
Assenting might seem too eager. I stay a-thousand-mile-stare, and after a pause, nod.
"But I mean it saves us getting into trouble all the time with visitors, telling them that they can’t be taking photos, and of course they say, ‘Well where does it say that?’. And you can’t very well say to them, that the management, some of the management, without much intelligence decided that they were against signs of any kind. And oh yes, you’re staring at one of my favourites. Truly remarkable isn’t it. Beats any of the other paintings in this room. I’d put it above the Monet’s."
September, The National Gallery, London

FLASHERS AT THE NATIONAL

By Luke Winter

* * *

"We’re not supposed to talk about it. But the policy was changed three weeks back and don’t see how they’d be able to reverse it now."

"And has it got louder?" I ask.

"Har har", his eyes flash, "Oh most definitely. What with their clicking of shutters, louder. And who wants to see that red beam all over the painting that you’re looking at? And they look less at the paintings now that they’re allowed cameras, as if by taking a photo they’ve conquered the painting, but they’ve not looked at it, whereas before they’d stand and try and claim some little victory of comprehension, even if it was just reading the information plaque. But the vast majority don’t really know how to use their cameras and so you get a lot of flashers."

He grins, “No flashing in The National”.

[I’m thinking of The Dreamers as they thought of Bande à Part and running round the Louerve hand-in-hand.]

"Have you ever had flashers?" I ask. "Like, were there ever flashers in The National?"

"Well about once every five years" he laughs, "It’s a public space. So you get all sorts in here don’t you."

Assenting might seem too eager. I stay a-thousand-mile-stare, and after a pause, nod.

"But I mean it saves us getting into trouble all the time with visitors, telling them that they can’t be taking photos, and of course they say, ‘Well where does it say that?’. And you can’t very well say to them, that the management, some of the management, without much intelligence decided that they were against signs of any kind. And oh yes, you’re staring at one of my favourites. Truly remarkable isn’t it. Beats any of the other paintings in this room. I’d put it above the Monet’s."

September, The National Gallery, London

THERE ARE STAGES

By Alex Sinclair

* * *

When a celebrity dies, society goes through several phases. There are initial remarks of grief. 

"Gone too soon." 
"Oh no."
"I loved him/her!"

Then come the tributes. Images of the deceased are immediately manipulated to show their best side. Quotes are arranged. Some longer, more poignant, tributes are written by those who may have met the deceased in their lifetime. Most of these are by people who had brief encounters with the person they looked up to. Rarely are they by those truly close to the individual.

After that comes the third wave. This is mostly analysis and secondary writing about how society deals with grief, or how we deal with celebrity-grief differently to our own. I guess, some would push this article into that box but read on first. Not that I’m above or looking down upon anyone going through the above steps. I’ve been there too. My childhood saw several personal heroes die, and I was not without the clichéd, yet heartfelt, responses to death. 

When Robin Williams died, I thought it was sad. People find death sad. There’s nothing interesting or new or shocking about that. But what I found more affecting was the public reaction. Clearly, this is a man which many felt a personal connection to. Something way more than Facebook statuses with Amy Winehouse YouTube embeds or pictures of a spry Heath Ledger at his most youthful. People felt affected not only by the death of Robin Williams, but the means of the death. I saw several of my friends talk about the man as if he was a loved one, a cherished Uncle or wise step-Dad. Nobody really talks of dead celebrities as two-dimensional representations on a screen. That’s a bit crude and undignified, a bit unfair. 

Yet, here I am, annoyed with an interior helplessness based upon the fact that I cannot soothe the pain felt by these people whom I do know, whom I do love and interact with, not just observe on a screen. I don’t know how to deal with the sadness that people in my life are dealing with because of someone they only feel like they knew. 

Personally, I find tributes and eulogies repressive. I cannot think of a greater disservice to a man than to attempt to sum him up in a few words. By all means, share quotes, share memories, but trying to encapsulate a person into a handful of superlatives is an insult to the great and original work that anyone worth eulogising has probably done in this world.

Then I remember that tributes aren’t meant to comfort the dead, they’re for the living. I suppose they’re somewhat therapeutic in the right setting. 

"Let’s all raise a glass to him. We witnessed greatness. Us. The mere mortals."

I don’t have any advice. I’m scared that someday I’ll be forced into the role of comforting loved ones dealing with death and mostly, I’m scared of my ineptitude at that specific activity. Dealing with death is easy. There are stages. Don’t make me deal with the bereaved. 

WESTWARD BOUND

ISSUES WITH ROADTRIP PHOTOGRAPHY

By Matthew Flores

* * *

A dusty stretch of road, cleaving its way through far-off, majestic spines of snowcapped mountains. An open vista of turbulent ocean, battering against rugged cliffs and foreboding boulders. A heroically battered vehicle, practically bursting at the seams with tents, surfboards, sleeping bags, and clear-eyed young adults (always the coolest kids you know) sporting a perfectly positioned cigarette and a pair of gleaming Ray Bans. Few things are as synonymous with summertime as the road trip, and, likewise, few photographic genres resonate as clearly with the season as the road trip series. 

Because of its visual allure and popularity, road trip photography has become almost ubiquitous in contemporary visual culture. While certainly not a new development, this genre of photography has recently delved into occasionally troubling thematic waters. If it can be taken seriously, these issues need to be addressed and considered when analyzing a body of work identified with the road trip.

First, and crucially, it’s important to demarcate or at least work toward a set of criteria that defines “road trip” photography. The primary organizing principle of this type of photographic series can vary from project to project, but a few important themes and concepts emerge regularly.

If nothing else, the ostensible theme is simply the photographer’s journey from point A to point B. The structural skeleton underneath this theme has manifested itself in any number of ways, from the deadpan documentary of Stephen Shore (American Surfaces, Uncommon Places), to the historical conceptualism of Joel Sternfeld (On this Site: Landscape in Memoriam), to the cultural illustration of Sam Fentress (Bible Road).

More recent series, however, are organized along arguably broader and certainly more nebulous themes: freedom, the American West, capital-Y Youth Culture. Aesthetically, the mountain ranges and crashing waves lose their sublimity when viewed in list of photographs tagged #roadtrip. Where we expect fresh air, the images are stale. 

Where Shore set out to document, more contemporary photographers seek to mythologize the ordinary, to place a grand metaphor before the content itself. Christy Lange describes American Surfaces as falling “somewhere between a ‘visual diary’ and a social document - a record of ‘what the age we were living in looked like.’ It is both about the culture that [Shore] encountered and his encounter with that culture.” Blogosphere and Instagram road trip photography more often than not swings to the far end of that divide, choosing to exhibit a modern youth culture without engaging critically with it. 

This is not to say that the works are worthless - even the average series under this umbrella can be visually well-polished (or intentionally rough, but either way intent is present) and at some times deeply compelling, activating visceral emotion through engagement with the sublime. 

In essence, once some of the thematic elements are boiled down or stripped away, much of what is labeled road trip photography can also be classified as landscape photography.  Skill, much less technical ability, is secondary in this argument. Yes, there is often an obvious element of artistry, but in a completely different vein than the solemn permanence of Ansel Adams or even the more radical environmental tone adopted by Ed Burtynsky. This is not a prima facie problem — landscape photography is of course its own well-established and aesthetically robust genre. But is the blurred distinction between the two problematic when a series of images is presented as cultural documentary?

Generally this type of image making and sharing is harmless, simply a byproduct of a culture that creates, exchanges and digests visual information constantly. At best, photographs in this paradigm can become a rallying point, something each viewer can participate in and bring an individual experience to (fundamentally, a trait that photography in general accomplishes). At worst, they become merely visual noise.

The problem arises when basic travel photography of this sort dons the guise of cultural documentary in an attempt to express more than simply the photographer was present at a certain location for one-two hundredth of a second.

Two common (and not necessarily mutually exclusive) manifestations of this problem are the celebration of a wild youth culture and a fascination with lower levels of class stratification. Both (the former more subtly than the latter) demonstrate the photographer’s occupation of a privileged perch from which square-cropped and heavily filtered images descend. Here the two currents converge into a central difficulty of this work if these are the contemporary representations of youth culture, why are they so narrow?

The celebration of adventurous youths reclaiming the wilderness is one that is heavily and arguably inherently commercialized. A central example is Ryan McGinley’s “Go Forth” print campaign for Levi’s. Take away the logos and there is not much distinguishing the campaign from any number of roadtrip photography series. It’s hard to claim a sense of non-institutionalized detachment and freedom when the images are being used to sell blue jeans.

Unlike Shore, who encapsulated the aesthetic and the character of the 1970s in his work, engagement with something other than mountains or the ocean in contemporary road trip photography takes an awkward and gawking stance to anything culturally different. Faded locations of the south and Rust Belt take on a special allure, but only in their ruin and warning. Even if treated objectively, photographing individuals of other classes and races can be a serious stumbling block. It’s all too easy to stray into cultural tourism and issues of representational politics on the road trip.

Does any of this matter? Does a photographer have an ethical obligation to trim any representational or moral issues from his work? The question is much more complex and applies to a much larger scope than discussed here, and expands beyond art into communication in general. It is certainly worth engaging with - if nothing else acknowledging the problematic nature of your photographs gives a deeper and more informed presence to the work.

In the volume Photographs Not Taken, edited by Will Steacy, Alec Soth describes a trip to Colombia with his wife in order to adopt their daughter. “I usually have to travel in order to find my eyes,” Soth writes, “But I was unable to take serious pictures of my baby and wife and the new bond forming among us. I needed to know all the streets in order to make pictures. But even though I photographed street dogs and strangers, every picture was an attempt to see my child.”

Maybe, on a fundamental level, road trip photography is nothing more than a widely-shared and widely-utilized method of visual organization. Ignoring conceptual frameworks, aesthetic attitudes or problematic issues, this genre of image making allows the photographer to make sense of the immense, to bring order to variable chaos. Instead of life forming an organizing principle for photographs, in this way photographs become an organizing principle for life. 

A N   I N T E R V I E W   W I T H   J O H N N Y   D E   G U Z M A N

By Alex Sinclair

DISCLAIMER: I’ve been to Chicago twice in my life. Both times I never set foot outside of airport property. I say “property” rather than “terminal” because while I was there during a layover on my way home from a New Orleans wedding, I was really sick and regularly alternated between navigating the ice rain outside and the bleach-blonde tiles of the bathroom.

* * *

I met him at the corner of Walton and Michigan. He wore a plain black t-shirt, narrow jeans and his shoes look black too, but matte black, like charcoal. He had just finished work and we were meeting up to talk about David.

This was my first time meeting Johnny, and I’d never met David, the subject of his latest photo-series, À Tout Le Monde. I only had a couple of hours in town before I had to run back to O’Hare and catch a flight to see my cousins in Louisiana. We didn’t have long but I think that may have helped the matter. With complicated issues such as these, it’s almost better to be forced into confronting them. Address the subject. Get the answers. Understand things a little better.

With David,” he’s scraping an errand piece of green gum from the bottom of one of the charcoal shoes, “photography will always be connected to him.

We walk east, I don’t know how far, or where we’re going exactly but it’s east. I don’t know the area but Johnny is walking as though he does so I follow his lead. This is his city. I’m nearly 6,000 km from mine and I could feel every step of it.

At the moment, most of À Tout Le Monde is referent to the past. This has been the first year of the project and I suppose I let myself slip into a heavy dose of nostalgia.

I’m curious about why he says “at the moment” and I wonder how/if the project will grow to become something else. The sun is awkwardly low and it keeps cutting in and out of the gaps left by smaller buildings as we walk. There is a scratch on the left lens of my sunglasses because the TSA guy wanted to double check there weren’t any explosives in them. Explosives. In my sunglasses. Between the sun strobes and the scratch, it’s just easier to remove them and resort to squinting.

We stop at a corner store and I’m briefly relieved of the sun’s annoyance but the security guard decided we were of significant threat to the overpriced food stock so there’s a new annoyance and his name-tag reads “Terrence”. Johnny buys a Fiji Water. He says he doesn’t drink pop. I find it both weird that he calls it “pop” and that he doesn’t drink it. I settle on some crazy Mountain Dew derivitave because it’s not available in Ireland and I’m always keen to try new fizzy drinks but it’s immediately clear I made a poor choice. I didn’t know you could actually make something Aspartame flavoured. Johnny offers me some of his drink after he sees me very quickly dump my bottle in the nearest bin.

It’s perhaps because I’ve not really encompassed myself with this much consideration of everything since 2005 and 2006.

He pauses and screws back the cap on his water.

… which was the immediate time of David’s death. In one way or another, everything in the project is inherently referent to a point in our adolescence. I can be making a photograph that involves subject or object matter that is very much so present of the now.

The David in question is David Mess, a childhood friend of Johnny who passed away at 16 from a suspected heroin overdose. In the project statement that Johnny wrote, the word “unintentional” prefixes this. I read his 178 words repeatedly on the flight over. 178 words. I counted them. I thought memorising it might help pass the time too. It didn’t. I don’t ask if he has any doubts regarding the intention, or unintention, of his friend. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to upset him, it’s because I knew the answer. I’m sure he does doubt, or at least at one point did, because that’s how humans work. We doubt.

Johnny recently graduated from Columbia College here in Chicago and he points at it down a busy side-street, asking if I wanted to see it. I politely decline. I’d spent enough time already in airports this week and there’s always a similar vibe between most big buildings. So instead, we settle on just talking about it. He sits on a curb and he wipes his brow with the hem of his shirt.

Now that I’ve been out of school, although only for a few months now, I can definitely see myself prone to making more risks and playing loosely with the aesthetics, assessing my own aspirations and presenting several options.

That answer sounds rehearsed or contrived but it’s emblematic of anyone’s time in a creative education scheme. While Columbia may be different to my college back home in terms of funding and facilities, I’m sure the ethos behind it all is similar. The sentiment he just expressed certainly hit me a little weird, a little like how déjà vu feels.

Johnny’s phone vibrates and he opens an app I don’t recognise. I feel awkward for a minute because I catch myself looking at his phone and it’s clear he’s reading a message from his girlfriend, Alyson. That’s the girl he calls his muse. She’s in a lot of his less-structured work, the stuff he posts on Facebook or Instagram. Some of that stuff is so mind-blowingly awesome that I find it difficult to do similar things myself. It’s negative inspiration. Not that my own girlfriend, Lauren, is in any way lacking. It’s more that photography plays a different role in Johnny’s relationship with Alyson than it does in my relationship with Lauren. That’s our thing though. Lauren was a classmate of mine at college, so we’re both photographers by trade, and photographers hate having their photo taken. I guess I’m a little envious of Johnny’s ability to document a relationship so easily.

First and foremost, it was a common interest where we both built upon a friendship that became a romantic relationship. When our relationship blossomed into said romantic relationship, I became a sap and couldn’t stop making photographs of her.

I push him on what he sees in the photos compared to what he sees in her but he’s hesitant, lacks confidence.

How I see it is this, if I am incredibly infatuated with this moment that I could stare at forever, then anyone would have to give it a glance. And somewhere within those glances there’ll be someone that will empathize with our moment. These answers probably need a bit of editing.

There’s a small park with some benches and we both naturally gravitate to it in search of shade. We sit on a bench under a sycamore and wait for Alyson to arrive because she’s bringing a copy of his prints from À Tout Le Monde. It’ll be easier to talk about the series when we’re actually looking at the photos. Worried about damaging the prints, I suggest relocating to a café or something but the idea is quickly dismissed. Apparently, they’re only work prints or duplicates or something. I’ll admit that I don’t really remember. There was a young couple, white as the sun is hot, sitting on a bench across from us. It was distracting. I think the guy forgot to do something, or attend something. I couldn’t really make out what but I quickly realised I was prying again. Don’t stare at Johnny’s phone. Don’t attempt to decipher why the white woman seems irrationally mad at the white man. Etiquette. Please.

Thankfully, Alyson appears at the park gate distracts me before I get too mentally lost in the notion that maybe I’m too nosey (or too solipsistic). I’ve barely ever seen these two as a couple in real life but there’s an odd sense of familiarity because of the intimate photos they share online. It’s not quite like thinking you’re friends with Hugh Jackman because you’ve seen all his movies, but it’s close.

After the introductions and handshakes, Johnny spreads the photos out in a constellation form on the pavement in front of us. It’s not like looking at them online. These aren’t exhibition grade prints at all. There are dogeared corners. There are colour correction issues. They’re imperfect and real. As such, they’re perfectly suited to the reconnected memories Johnny is trying to compose. Seeing the various iterations that didn’t make the cut or had technical issues, this is suddenly becoming clear how important they are to him. These are the ones that went wrong, the collection of almosts. I hunker down. I want to admire every blemish and misprint. Alyson takes Johnny’s hand in her own. I pick up a dark print showing TV static.

I still think there’s a long way to go within the work, though, I would say that I’ve learned more about him than I did while he was still alive and I’m at a loss as to if that makes me feel like I’m closer to him or more distant.

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

Johnny De Guzman currently resides in Chicago, IL and can be found online at the following:
Main Site | Tumblr | Instagram

THE SECOND DANCE

By Luke Winter

[Article compares the compulsion to shoot, and ecstasy of shooting, with the alternate faculty of editing. Article begins with the anecdote of a photographer expressing their wish to die and an editor to subsequently arrange and publish their work without them, before examining what is narrow in that point of view.]

Half thought he saw. His other half’s scared. Know he won’t check, is still walking (The Writing Editor doesn’t like this phrase. He calls it clumsy). You’re past him now, have flipped your camera to the front of your hand. You got it. Another two steps, you’re lined up perfectly and *BLATZ*, nailed the angle on that bin. Feet ahead swivelling to the side past two idlers and the way that pavement will intersect that lamp-post in half a step’s time and *BLATZ*. Got it again. Feet forward. Momentum. Shot after shot and *BLATZ*. You’re surging.

[in the street]

(Henri) Cartier-Bresson danced in the streets, and since his nobel lead there’s been a grand conga-line of photographers doing their own kid-kodak jives (watch Mark Cohen’s style of getting double fist freaky). Each to their own beat.

Being on a run of perfect rhythm shooting is ecstatic. Camera shutter singing to your perceptions. Hunting, archery, dancing; pick your own metaphor.

[Scanning in shots, loading them up. A darkened room, alone.]

And there, laid flat and bare, tepid and lifeless, are your shots. Devoid of the elegance, poise and precision that surged through you as you shot them. Palpably pathetic results when held against the ecstasy in which they were created.

Cruel truths: the picture from that time that was excellent is not excellent. The image is not nuanced with the fullness of your feelings, nor emblematic of all crevices of your memory.

An image is an image is a thing only of its own. Your experience is saved but thinly by these simple frames. If you need save that experience you must explore a deeper route.

“There must be a fuller way, we who know beauty must be able to communicate it”

You feel the opposite of this art that you love that is two halves, constructed backwards. Where the ecstasy and performance comes first, in the street, surging. But second comes that slow, forlorn composition: a solitary brooding in a room picking over the images and acknowledging that time and time again you failed. And that you need try again, again. And for such slim results.

C O P I N G - S T R A T E G I E S

1) Delay: (Gary) Winogrand shot so much that he couldn’t keep ontop of his archive. He’d leave his rolls a year before processing and editing. The delay gave him time to forget himself and experience of shooting, and focus on the shots. Proof.

2) Shoot Less: William Eggleston takes a single shot of each intrigue, to limit, he says,  shivering between near identical shots  when editing. Shooting less allows him to focus on the more important tasks in the edit than swivelling all energy picking between near duplicates.

3) Shame Yourself: Show pictures that you’re not sure about to a good photographer in person. Watch their face. Be burnt by shame. Scales fall from your eyes.Their derision creates your decisions. You’ll be able to pick your images with keener focus. And they may identify gems that to you meant nothing.

P U R P O S E

(The Writing Editor tells me something. “You talk a lot about editing here. You should discuss how editing photographs is different from any other medium. With writing, it’s fluid. With painting or sculpture, it’s almost non-existent because publishing isn’t the main focus. Photography has its own set of cruel limitations imposed by the source material and the inability to correct a moment.”)

If photography can help us dissect the world, observe it, interact with it and stir it up, editing helps us dissect ourselves: what clues of our subconscious fascinations are hidden in these endless captures? Where have we succeeded? How have we fallen short? Editing is sorting through the tea leaves to divinate a future direction. what have you been exploring that works? What sets of circumstances should you chase in future to build on that work and more explore that future?

Photography leads us through chaos, we tend to little sections of life. We discover. We cultivate. We feed on motifs that work, emotions that we can capture. Beyond simple ecstasy, beauteous youth and picturesque landscapes, we peer into peevish gutters and create new perspectives. But only if we engage with shedding the self from our images. Only if we acknowledge that painful fallacy of photographs, and focus on creating good images, not preserving our own lives. That, is learning to edit.

Editing, compared with the shooting, is a solitary, sometimes lonely, often frustrating and tedious waltz. But it is a dance that photographers must master as sharply as the dance of  the taking of photographs. It is the other half of the feedback loop that informs our perceptions for shooting, understanding what angles and parametres and ways of moving the camera can yield a good image when applied to particular situation.

Editing is where we make images, compose the stories that we might be able, if we’re very clever, to present to others that they might enjoy. That can hint at the ecstasies and mysteries that daily entice us to leave our rooms to go back into the street, the fields, the chaos flow of space, light, humans and the earth in time, to again dance with the camera and pluck photographs from the peculiar beauties of life.

[Article ends with that photographer who wished that someone might edit their photos into work for them, dead.

Editor arrives to find in that archive the beginnings of paths. Scattered throughout tens of thousands of frames are peppered the starts of motifs, but explored only in small ways. Unaware of what it was they were shooting and what worked, the photographer has not elaborated on the visions that they had begun to pull from the world.]

“I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.” - Jack Kerouac

[The archive of photos is confused, and without the photographer having tackled that confusion to discern meaningful routes that might yield work of interest to others, no meaningful subjects have been explored.

A little book is made. Despite good editing the book is convoluted, shallow, ignored. Lost to our world is another victim who sucummbed to a confusion that they never tackled. Who might have made but never stood in the full glare of their failures and battled back against their confusion to hew out a golden path of meaning to communicate the beautiful confusions of an existence.]

[a pigeon in the gutter, threaded grey by red worms]

(The Writing Editor suggests a more hopeful final image but after considering the abyss of online media, lets it remain.)

"Then one day it will be complete enough to believe it is finished.
Made. Existing. Done. And in its own way: a contribution, and all that
effort and frustration and time and money will fall away. It was worth
it, because it is something real, that didn’t exist before you made it
exist: a sentient work of art and power and sensitivity, that speaks
of this world and your fellow human beings place within it. Isn’t that
beautiful?” - Paul Graham

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]