Joe Deal, Dies

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Joe Deal, has passed away, according to this entry on Politics and Theory

(Notes on) Politics, Theory & Photography: Passings ~ Joe Deal (1947-2010), here as well

Joe Deal was a participant in the New Topographics exhibition, that has had a lasting influence on many photographers, myself included.

Aaron Schuman, the editor of the online photography magazine, SeeSaw Magazine has curated an exhibition in the FotoFest 2010 entitled Whatever was Splendid: New American Photographs

The Curatorial statement says:

The exhibition Whatever Was Splendid explores the parallels that exist--both in America and in photography--between our own time and that of Evans, and the enduring power of American Photographs as discerned through contemporary U.S. photographic practice....At its heart, Whatever Was Splendid is centrally informed by the legacy of American Photographs, and by Evans' vital contributions to the nation's photographic language and traditions. That said, it is by no means intended as a nostalgic update or sentimental plea for photography (or, for that matter, America) to return to its past. As much as Evans' precedent has provided both the inspiration and reinforcing framework for this exhibition, Whatever Was Splendid is first and foremost the manifestation of the intelligence, ingenuity, and multiplicity of voices and visions that can be found within current U.S. photographic practice

One of the photographers is Will Steacy, a New York based photographer and writer, who currently has an exhibition entitled Down These Mean Streets at the Michael Mazzeo Gallery.

PhotoAccess

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PhotoAccess is at the Manuka Arts Centre, in Canberra. It is an incorporated community association that aims to provide opportunities right across the community, including groups and individuals whose access to photo media is limited by gender, geography, income, disability or other reasons.

Their exhibition space is the Huw Davis Gallery, which is a public art gallery and the only community gallery space in the ACT dedicated to the photo based arts.

A recent exhibition--in 2009---was the 25th Anniversary Print Portfolio, which consisted of sixteen images donated by artists closely associated with PhotoAccess as board members, board advisors, staff, course tutors and exhibiting members make up the print portfolio.
Marzena Wasikowska is a Polish born and Canberra-based visual artist who works with the photographic medium in portraiture and in the landscape both in Australia and Europe.

A recent, and intriguing body of work is Fallen, which was produced between 2004-07.

WasikowskiMFallen13.jpg.
The images are dark, blurred, monotone and in low light. They are of rocks walls and a hole in the ground. We are in the abyss or the underworld, or the unconscious. It could be well be images of the Australian landscape as sites for representations of Australian history and memory.
I mentioned the New York Photo Festival in an earlier post on the Altfotonet blog. I've since discovered the 3D coverage project by Martin Lenclos. The 3D coverage, gives website visitors the chance to experience the festival "virtually" by offering photos and video interviews of the NYPH's curators, attendees and exhibitors in an evocative rendering the festival's actual environment.

It is fascinating to explore --but you need fast broadband for it to work effectively:

I managed to catch Close-up: Photographers at Work: Portraits produced by Rebecca Dreyfus on the ABC's IView before it was taken down. The film was originally produced for Ovation TV by Maysles Films and it featured the following photographers: Albert Maysles, Andrew Moor, Sylvia Plachy, Timothy Greenfield-Saunders and Gregory Crewdson, as well as curators, artists, authors and writers.

My interest was caught by Albert Maysles hanging out on the streets of Harlem taking street portraits; the work of Sylvia Plachy and the large format work of Andrew Moore: MooreACubaELPentagono.jpg Andrew Moore, El Pentagono, Cuba, 1998-2002

Moore is known for his Known for his large-scale photographs of dilapidated buildings in places like Cuba, Russia, Times Square and Detroit.
There would be few Australian photographers working with an 8x10 view or field camera in these digital days. One that I know of is Murray Fredericks and his Lake Eyre series.

Each year since 2003  Fredericks has camped for 5 weeks alone on the surface of Lake Eyre immersed in space with his  8" x 10" Toyo field  camera. The subject of Fredericks' photographs is emptiness, infinity and the void.

FredericksMsaltlakeeyre5.jpg Murray Fredericks, SALT 5, Lake Eyre series

Often the only reference point is provided by the razor sharp horizon devoid of features as can be seen in the image over the page:
The New York Photo Festival 2010 has just ended. The main exhibitions are here whilst the satellite exhibitions are here if you want to go exploring. The exhibitions themselves do not seem to be online but we are given links to the various photographers participating in the exhibitions. In addition to its four main exhibitions, runs a programme of talks, lectures and panel discussions on the future of contemporary photography.

One of the most interesting body of photographers exhibited is Marc Garanger's Femmes Algériennes--images of Algerian women unveiled during the Algerian war (1954-1962)--which featured in the "Bodies In Question" exhibit, curated by Fred Ritchin the author of "After Photography" (2008)

GarangerMAlgeria.jpg Marc Garanger, untitled,  from Femmes Algériennes

The background is that the images were made in a French internment camp and the Algerian women were forced to be photographed and Garanger, the military photographer, had to take the picture for French identity cards given to Algerians during their mid-20th Century War of Independence. Garanger was ordered by the French military to force the women to show their faces in public, often for the first time.The colonial period in Algeria ended in 1962.

The Unreasonable Apple

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A succinct and thought provoking essay. [A Presentation at first MoMA Photography Forum, February 2010]

[From Paul Graham Archive, The Unreasonable Apple]

From JÖRG M. COLBERG's revamped Weblog, Conscientious

In the canon of Australian art photography Australian modernism  is usually associated with Max Dupain. The work was in black and white, concerned with form, architectural in focus, done with a view camera and concerned with the fine chemically-based print made in a darkroom. 

However, there have been a number of others who worked in  this style, such as Tom Balfour, who roots lie in architectural photography in Adelaide, in the 19790s and as associate in  Max Dupain's Sydney studio, photographing architecture in the 1980s. He has had a minimal presence in the  modernist art gallery since, and exemplifies how  the  Australian modernist tradition slowly withered.


BalfourTtanks.jpg
Tom
Establish the photographic canon was done in the context of Australia's post-colonial condition, geographical isolation and troubled relationship with the idea of "home". This post-colonial condition, accompanied by a chronic inferiority complex, consists of the endemic tall poppy syndrome, the vast cultural cringe and endless tiresome discussions about the quality of Australian art  photography versus work produced overseas in the US.

Alec Soth Returns to Blogging

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I haven't posted anything here on the 2009 Ballarat International Foto Biennale, even though it was an important event in Australian photography, and the festival has been included Festival de la Luz or Festival of Light [FOL], a grouping of 32 festivals of photography worldwide.

Sam Oster was one Australian photographer who exhibited in the core program. This is the flagship of the Biennale, featuring a selection of some of the best contemporary photography from Australia and around the world.

OsterSBurnsiderubbish.jpg

There is little of Oster's art photography work on the web other than what is her Silvertrace studio website, which is part of the broader Adelaide-based Headquarters Studio. collective.

Altfotonet; Image Highlight

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Reminiscent of the Russian Constructivists this mage plays with perception and depth quite nicley

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I know very little about the work of Gordon Lundy, other than his association with the Point Light Gallery in Sydney. Form there I gather that his interest is black and white interpretations of the intimate Australian landscape, and that his photographic background is studying landscape photography with Paul Caponigro and fine printing with George Tice who also introduced him to the craft of platinum/palladium in 1994.

UndyGBurdekinDam.jpg Gordon Undy, Burdekin Dam, Queensland, circa 1994-1996

Robert McFarlane says that Undy's images from Intimations, his second book, reveal a photographer moving away from the orthodoxies of classic landscape photography, as pioneered by artists such as Caponigro, Weston and Adams:
Undy's pictures have become quieter, meditative and somehow more intensely Australian. Until recently, landscape photographers in this country, with notable exceptions such as Jon Lewis and Peter Elliston, have been deterred by the "untidiness" and "density" of the Australian bush. Undy's recent photographs, such as Midday, Mungana, Queensland 2003 embrace the compressed, inconvenient nature of the Australian landscape.
I am attracted to Undy's industrial shots made whilst documenting Queensland's mining country in the mid-1990's.
Though photographic art historians consider that William Eggleston's legendary colour show at the MOMA in 1979 was groundbreaking for the acceptance of colour photography, Saul Leiter is one of the true pioneers of colour and abstract photography. He started shooting in colour in 1948.




Saul Leiter treated the use of color in his photographs of the street and his surroundings as a painter of his time (1940s) would have done,  and  he helped lay the foundations for the development of the abstract notions of a photograph in the US.
I thought that I might start a series about Australian photographers as my knowledge of Australian photography is rather limited. I've mentioned Mark Kimber here and Wolfgang Sievers here.

I am formally starting with David Helsham who runs a successful graphic design agency in The Rocks, Sydney. He is known as wattle gardner on Flickr:

HelshamDbatherbluetrunks.jpg
Most of Helsham's work is concerned with Australia's beach culture, Sydney style and a lot of the photography is taken in and around a rock pool bay in northern Sydney called Bongin Bongin. The obvious reference in Australian photography is the beach work of Max Dupain
Miki Johnson, one of the editors of  LiveBooks  blog Resolve, recently posted an interesting open question for everyone to attempt to answer: "What do you think photobooks will look like in 10 years? Will they be digital or physical? Open-source or proprietary? Will they be read on a Kindle or an iPhone? And what aesthetic innovations will have transformed them?"

To kick off the conversation they said that they have:

contacted fellow bloggers and asked them to post about the most prescient innovations they've seen in the photobook and publishing industries. We'll add links to those blogs within this post as they go live, so over the next few days you'll be able to see the "research" for our final post developing in real time.

A list of those who have participated in this crowd sourcing has been added to the post and there is a twitter hash tag. So we have a conversation that is pertinent to altfotonet because the future of photobooks, not withstanding the continued existence of printed photobooks, will increasingly be a digital one viewed on yet  to be invented platforms. 
The current  exhibition at  Stills Gallery in  Sydney, Australia, is entitled Thirteen   and  it provides a selection of work from a wide range of photographic artists. Thirteen refers to the number of artists some of whom I do not know. Since there is no  online exhibition catalogue  that explores this body of work,  it is a matter of dipping in and having a look.

One photographer whose work I do know, and  for whom I have a lot of respect, is Mark Kimber. His base is in Adelaide, and his most recent series  is Edgeland:

KimberMSupermarketedgeland.jpg
Mark Kimber, Supermarket, from Edgeland, 2008

Kimber is able to use colour as a part of the design of the image and as a mode of expression and so works in the tradition initiated by William Eggelston, whose mature work was characterized by the splashes and blocks of colour amidst ordinary subject-matter, and which has its roots in the photorealists.
Fabiono Busdraghi  on his  Camera Obscura blog recently made a call to deepen the discourse on photography. Unfortunately,  the post was in Italian and, as  I cannot read Italian, I do not know what the phrase "deepening the discourse on photography " means. On Camera Obscura it appears to mean photographers submitting photos and text  that then become a post on the weblog.

I interpret the phrase "the discourse on photography"  to refer to writing about photography whilst the  "deepening" would refer to more theoretically informed and better writing on photography on a variety of issues --eg.,  the objective appearance of things in the photograph and  photography's capacity to  express something beyond the surface appearance of things. Or the way that the discipline of Art History frames photography in the context of the commodification of visual culture and the rise of modernism and its utopian longing  in the art institution with an evaluation system based on masterpieces and masters, originality and innovation, and so on.  Or the ways that artists challenge photographic conventions.

At another level it could be a grater linking to other weblogs written by photographers  so as to create more of a sense of an  ongoing  conversation between, and by,  photographers and those writing about photography as in the year long project entitled Words Without Pictures by  the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
One of the different tributories or anabranches in Australian modernist photography is the work of Wolfgang Sievers; different because this German-Australian's photographic roots were in the Bauhaus and New Objectivity photography of the 1920s.

German photography in the 1920's and 1930's (ie., New Photography) evolved through two highly articulated but divergent approaches: the school of objectivity (Albert Renger-Patzsch, Werner Mantz; Karl Blossfeldt; and August Sander) and the New Vision school of experimental possibilities (Laszlo Moholy-Nagy) that strongly emphasized the unity of all applied arts.
SieversWDampier.jpg Wolfgang Sievers, Aerial view of solar salt fields near Dampier, Western Australia 1971, National Library of Australia

The Neue Sachlichkeit" (New Objectivity) movement was an outgrowth of, and an opposition to, expressionism, and it avoided painterly effects of pictorialism which lead photographers to abandon the unique qualities of the medium. This machine aesthetic bought a sharply focused, documentary quality and a matter-of-fact style to art photography and was focused on form and design. It concentrated on the exact appearance of objects -- their form, material, and surface and rejected any kind of artistic claim for the photographer since the photographer should strive to capture the "essence of the object".

In an earlier post I raised the idea of nationality in photography, with respect to an Australian photography. Most would immediately reject the idea of an Australian or British photography and immediately move on without further consideration.

To post that I offer the example of Robert Frank's classic text The Americans, which is universally seen as a book that shows you what photographs are supposed to look like. This tragic poem defines the very visual language of photography.

FrankRAmericans.jpg
Robert Frank, untitled from The Americans

Isn't this a book about American photography? W.J.T. Mitchell in an essay on Frank in his essay entitled "The Ends of American Photography" in his book What Do Pictures Want? says that the phrase American photography does not refer to photography made in or about the United States.

JPG Mag

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The return of JPG Mag will be warmly received by many serious amateur photographers. I always enjoyed it's philosophy and spirit and know several fellow Melbourne Photographers who had work published in it.

It seems to me that hard copy publications like this and online ones, like altfotonet.org, are a doing a great job in exposing and sharing more and more of the great work being produced 'out there'.

The first issue  of the Haphazart magazine  is out---- it is produced by self-entitled FREAKS, FOOLS AND PRANKSTERS! It looks good in terms of  the magazine reflecting the origin of this Flickr group.  There is more  about the magazine on pa gillet's blog. You can buy the book from Blurb

Haphazartmagazine.jpg The featured artists are PA Gillet (pa gillet), Krystina Stimakovits (casually, krystina),  Dom Ciancibelli, Mike Lusk (finsmal), Christian Kinzler  (tossthecam).

An interview with pa gillet kicks things off. gillet, who set  the Hapazart group up  two years ago,  describes his work in terms of pictorial meaning, which  refers to painting,  as being interested in the object not the photographic project. The work, primarily of walls and roads,  is  informed by Nicolas de Staël and Serge Poliakoff and Lewis Baltz, and  it moves as far away from looking like a photograph as possible. The work operates in terms of chance and explores the wear and tear on  these surfaces of the city.

Can we talk about an Australian photography, as we once used to talk about an Australian art or Australian culture? Does it make any sense to talk about an Australian photography in the globalised world of the 21st century? Should we do so?

Gayle+IBare.jpg Gayle and I, bare and exposed

Between the 1940s and 1960s Bernard Smith published three books that established paradigms for the interpretation of Australian art, albeit in European art historical terms. These shaped the emerging discipline of Australian art history onto a trajectory that would not be shaken for another two decades, a direction that continued in the 1980s' and then 1990s' emphasis on the postmodernist strategy of appropriation.

In the first, Place, Taste, Tradition Smith argued that vision had a history in that the English colonists saw the Australian landscape with English eyes and they endowed that landscape with the formal qualities of landscapes to which they were aesthetically accustomed in England. The flora, fauna, landscape and indigenous people were all It was the other. constructed as exotic, repugnant and grotesque. It was the other, but also an imaginary fantasia full of wonders and monsters. Smith's claim was that art and identity result from the negotiations of traditions and locations, and not of the soil.

In Through a glass, darkly: photography and cultural memory Alan Trachtenberg states that whether we say that photographs are merely surface descriptions or interpretations analogous to written history comes down to how we look at the image:
as a general rule we choose to see a photograph either as a mechanical transcription of a field of light with randomly disposed objects, or as an intentional reordering of that field into a deliberate meaning. We can look at the picture as the world, or the maker's mind or imagination playing upon the world.
We desire and need more information than the image alone. Uncaptioned, a photograph can seem a mote floating in space, unmoored, unattached. Or a cryptic hieroglyph. Hieroglyphs hide the codes, the secret knowledge they require for decipherment.

NorthropH.cluster.jpg Holly Northrop,

He adds that for all their apparent transparency and ease of identification, photographs often seem hieroglyphic, obscure, ambiguous, elusive, the more so the more transparently window-like they seem.
One way of beginning to look at images is to start from the commonplace understanding of images in academia. Images are understood as a kind of language, but instead of providing a transparent window on the world are now regarded as the sort of sign (a pictorial sign) that presents deceptive appearances of naturalness and transparence concealing an opaque, distorting mechanism of representation. That distortion is often understood as a process of ideological mystification.

S2artHarbourtown.jpg s2art, Harbourtown, Melbourne Victoria Australia, 2009

I say academia because many would still assume that photography provides a transparent window on the world--it is a natural sign rather than a conventional one. Photography, unlike traditional aboriginal painting, does not employ a vocabulary or language of conventional pictorial representation. So it does not need to be re-translated by those with special skills and training (not everyone has these) to yield up its information.

This is the traditional view. Photographs just look like the world. We can see what a picture is of without having to learn any pictorial codes.

'Like' here is understood as resemblance: photos are like or resemble the things they depict or represent.

Picture Of The Week

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This image, by Bisy Backson operates for me on so many levels. The shapes, recurring and individually. The implication of the screen and it's holes, the fences and fencing. A wonderful image indeed.

A problem in photography after modernism  is how to link or connect different image/texts in a way that is different from the narrative story telling convention of photo journalism. What options do we have if we want, if we desire the connections between image texts that are open and nonlinear and in no way claiming to be  'finished.'  Some suggestions to explore.

How do we think or write in images?

In the history of modern photography the photograph has been seen as a static object, a frozen moment of time and it is words that link the static objects. A photograph that has been taken in the past, or present, is a brief and short moment of time. If photography is a cut into time then film is a series of movement,  and the latter is regarded as a sequence of movement, therefore more able to achieve a higher synthesis of life as it "represents reality as it evolves in time". So argued Siegfried Kracauer in his  well known book Theory of Film.

New Zealand_-334.jpg Gary Sauer-Thompson, Kaikoura coastline, New Zealand, 2009

The image seduces the beholder to believe in its representational qualities, but when the beholder is introduced, we have a pictorial mediation between past and presence; a memory of this coast from an earlier time or experience. It is through the beholder that past becomes to be present and through the beholder the relationship between past and present began to loose their formal boundaries. As preserved duration memory stores experiences, keeps them alive and frames the present. The photographic image becomes the embodiment of memory related to the unconscious.

We can go further. Time can be seen in terms of becoming (and not as static being) and the photograph in terms of change and stasis. The photographic image then consists in a temporal movement, when the grabbed instant exceeds into duration. Past things are being received into present. So we have time as duration. Time flows through the images as the changes in the landscape.
I thought that I'd introduce an interesting New Zealand photographer --Theo Schoon. He is interesting because he set himself the task of developing a regional modernism based on the amalgam of Maori art and European modernism.


SchoonDrymud3.jpg
Theo Schoon, dry mud 2, circa 1968, silver gelatin print

In Picturing Space: Theo Schoon, Ross Crothall and Visual Art in the Pacific in Double Dialogue Anthea Gunn says that European modernism shaped the philosophy behind Schoon's art practice, and especially, the possibilities he saw for the use of Maori visual art.

This post is two months late. It was meant to be a guest post by _barb_ but the material got stranded in some Flickr anabranches for a couple of months. So here, belatedly, is _barb's_ post.

This photo by NNBB + Alf is called Buenos Aires.

AltofotnetnbbBuenosAires.jpg One thing that I always enjoy in photos is a sense of lightness and effortlessness, as if an image was taken casually in passing. Quite often images can carry a heavy air of self consciousness through too much staging or subsequent labouring in photoshop. Often too, I feel that not enough attention has been given to the subject matter and too much is about the photographer's personal taste in editing.

Buenos Aires does things the right way. This photo was taken with a light hand but a sure- footed sense of how to build a picture up. The visual weight is distributed just right and the lines flow with an easy elegance that lets us at first glance forget that we are looking at quite a complex and intelligent composition.

beyond flickr

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I'm curious about Australian photographers who step beyond  posting their work on Flickr in either weblogs, photoblogs, galleries or other media. I stumbled upon Vinnie Piatek's Museum of Dirt  website and  his  photoblog.

From there I came across Chris Were's Memetic Drift  photoblog and   Velco Dojcinovski's The Andante Bar ---both Melbourne -based photographers.  Were is Memetic on Flickr,  whilst  Velco is Velco  on Flickr.

How many others I wonder? heiko on Flickr has a fotoblog.

Do people know of others?
The meaning of the terms "historical understanding," "historical sense," or "historical consciousness" vary greatly, but they are generally understood as referring to both an awareness that the choices we face, our language, our meanings, and our values are contingent upon historically unique circumstances, and that the past continues to "live" in the present insofar as it shapes our thought and actions.

AberehartLMidwayBeach.jpg Lawrence Aberhart, Midway Beach, Gisborne, 1986, silver gelatin print

Historicial understanding also refers to what has been forgotten and the way that events have been expunged or repressed from an individual or collective historical memory. Remembering and forgetting are closely akin to one another. Thus acts of remembrance often become moments of wilful erasure and the desire to forget, paradoxically, produces the often unwelcome capacity to remember.
I am continuing with my recent theme of rediscovering New Zealand photographers as a result of being in New Zealand. Laurence Aberhart has been at the forefront of New Zealand photography since the late 1970s, and is recognised as a major international figure. AberhartLpiano.jpg Laurence Aberhart,"Te Waiherehere', Koroniti, Whanganui River 29 May 1986 Like the paintings of Colin McCahon -- an artist with whom Aberhart is frequently paired -- his photographs of churches, marae, cemeteries, Masonic Lodges are a sustained meditation on time, place and cultural history.
nd As a result of being in New Zealand on holiday I have began to dig into New Zealand  photography to see what has been going on in the last couple of decades. Is it any different to Australian photography? What are the differences?
AdamsMCascadeCove.jpg
Mark Adams, Cook's Sites After William Hodges' 'Cascade Cove, Dusky Bay, 1995

Mark Adams is one example of difference. In 'Cook's Sites', Mark Adams and Nicholas Thomas travel to the places where Cook landed in the South Pacific. Adams photographically commemorates the instant of encounter between European and Maori people, defining it as a moment of discovery, violence and mutual reciprocity.

For this series Mark also focuses on key historic sites illustrated by painters William Hodges and John Webber who accompanied Cook on his voyages. His portrayal allows us to look out from these paintings and reassess the history of these culturally loaded locations.

Photoforum

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Having recently been in New Zealand on a holiday and photographic exploration I want to draw attention to New Zealand photography and PhotoForum.

I have selected Murray Hedwig, a Christchurch-based photographer:

HedwigMsupermarketNelson.jpg
Murray Hedwig, Supermarket, Atawhai, Nelson, 1983

Hedwig is part of the new wave photography that emerged in the late 1970s with the emergence of the photographer based co-operative galleries. Around 2005 he published Public Spaces, Personal Views.

Photoforum emerged  out of  this photographic new wave and it  is:

a non-profit society dedicated to the promotion of photography as a means of communication and expression.[It's] website showcases New Zealand photographic work and work of overseas photographers with some connection to New Zealand or PhotoForum.

There is a lot on material online to explore.  It has online exhibitions, the most recent of which is Photoforum 33.

Picture of the Week

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Barb's Image reminds me of the well known image by surrealist photographer Man Ray. 'Dust Breeding' 1920.

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The phrase is Heidegger's. It is taken from a late poem by Holderin and it is evoked in terms of the dangers of technology as a mode of being in modernity and the saving power of poesis in opposition to the will to technological power and its dominion over the earth. altfotonetNorthropH.jpg Dwelling is a kind of building. What then does it mean to dwell poetically on this earth? Surely it doesn't mean shutting one's eyes to actuality and living in a dream or one's imagination? Nor does it mean raising buildings or occupation of a building. It is concerned with our being-in-the-world and experiencing the world poetically renders the ordianry extraordinary.

At one point in a haphazart discussion about modernism vs. post-modernism I summarised a set of questions that were posed but still remain unanswered:

  1. Where in the scheme of post-modern practice do abstraction works fit?
  2. Does our abstraction work do what Stafford argues: disparate or fragmentary images in coherent compositions to produce larger coherent meanings.'?
  3. Does anybody still agree with Greenberg that 'the judgment of beauty is (tacitly) universal and incompatible with interest and practicality'.?
  4. Do any haphazartists [abstract photographers] question the formalist tenets of modernist abstraction?

I would like to try and begin to address the last question. Before doing so, I'll outline what I understand to be key elements / criteria of modernist photography - bearing in mind that there will be divergent views on the matter. Mine derives essentially from one that is linked to its European origins via the Bauhaus movement, etc.

CHARACTERISTICS OF MODERNIST PHOTOGRAPHY

Essentially a dynamic mode of photography celebrating the man-made rather than

the natural world.

This involves:-

  • the use of unconventional viewpoints such as worm's and bird's-eye views,

  • sudden changes in scale,
  • tendency towards dramatic tonal contrasts
  • radical cropping
  • a predilection for geometrical abstraction and flattening of form/ shapes
  • preference for urban/modern materials: steel, concrete, reflective surfaces such as:-
    • glass and chromium
    • tendency toward dramatic expression
    • adherence to compositional rules

Haphazartists are a diverse group of photographers and there is considerable diversity within the body of their work. So far, modernist tenets have not overtly been challenged in any of the discussions. However, I would say that a post-modern aesthetic can be found in many images not only posted to the group but also selected in the special themed shows. Modernist photography was/is basically done in black and white. One could argue that any colour image is already post-modern. But there are other factors.

Just a few examples:

pete pick - a fine use of abstraction within a rural setting rather than a man-made environment.

corrugation black 21 caburn

Likewise htakat's image has a landscape setting, but the blur in the image renders it one that has more to do with subtle changes in tone and colour than with form or subject matter.

landscape in fog

Christian's (tossthecam) image also has no obvious compositional lines / structure, instead it features some very delicate textural details....the importance given to 'almost nothing' here hints at an influence of Eastern philosophy and aesthetics. It seems concerned more with the creation of 'visual poetry' than about ideas or dramatic form.I do not think that this aligns the image with the more rational and concept driven post-modern concerns though.

Christian (delay tactics) - stretches the abstraction to its limits in a more 'dead pan' post-modernist fashion.....at least on this occasion

chair chair

Paul Glazier's image is about an interior scene, soft fabric on a soft couch - it seems quite removed from modernism in terms of subject matter and form.

t-shirt

STAFFORD

I picked this image by Paul Glazier since in my view, it illustrates perfectly how many disparate elements can be pulled together into a cohesive abstracted whole....providing the viewer with a cohesive meaning perhaps, although to me it is more likely to be a poetic and an elusive one.

In an earlier post I raised the issue of what contemporary art/photography is as distinct from modernist photography. I did so by exploring Terry Smith's Contemporary Art and Contemporaneity article in which he said that this was an art that turns on long-term, exemplary projects that discern the antinomies of the world as it is, that display the workings of globality and locality, and that imagine ways of living ethically within them.

An example of contemporary art photography is this picture by cookie poppets of a derelict, burned out cafe in an industrial area of Liverpool in Great Britain:

altfotnetcookiepoppets.jpg Smith goes to say that this consists of:

Slight gestures, feral strategies, mild subversions, small steps. To which purposes and in the names of which values? These questions can still be posed and be answered In brief, it seems to me that at least four themes course through the heterogeneity that is natural to contemporaneity. All of the artists mentioned, and the thousands more of whom they are representatives, focus their wide-ranging concerns on questions of time, place, mediation, and mood.

They make visible our sense that these fundamental, familiar constituents of being are becoming, each day, steadily more strange. The familar world that we live in is becoming

The debate over modernism/postmodernism in photography continues at haphazart! Contemporary Abstracts group on Flickr. Some middle ground has been opened up so that we can begin to consider consider contemporary at photography, such as this untitled picture by polah2006 on Flickr.

altfotonetpoolbah.jpg
What can we say about contemporary art and photography?  What is contemporary art now? Is it possible to generalize about it?  Or is just what  is happening now?  Terry Smith in Contemporary Art and Contemporaneity says that the attempts at generalization about contemporary art:

highlight the currency of one or another aspect of current practice: new media, digital imagery, immersive cinema, national identifications, new internationalism, disidentification, neomodernism, relational aesthetics, postproduction art, remix cultures. The list keeps extending. Apologists stress the pivotal connectedness of their favored approach to at least one significant aspect of contemporary experience, but usually deny any claims to universality, sighing with relief that the bad old days of exclusionary dominance are over.
Despite this, he says, two big answers have come to figure forth about contemporary art amidst the multitude of smaller ones in the major world art distribution centers.
There is a bit of a debate on modernism and post modernism in photography in this discussion stream  here  at the haphazart! Contemporary Abstracts group on Flickr. I have to admit that I am taken back by the intensity of the hostility to postmodernism shown in the group  by those who identify with modernist photographic tradition.

Consider this picture by j neuberger ---it has the appearance of being an abstract  modernist photography concerned about its own form: colour,  line, frame, surface etc.  It says purity of the photography. 

alatfotonetneubergerj.jpg Look closer. Note the organic form of the trunk of the tree. A tree! Tht shouldn't be there. Abstract modernism is premised on the rejection of  naturalist representation. And there are twigs hanging down.  There is movement and flow in the picture --a form of dynamism or becoming that takes us outside the modernist frame into postmodernism. This flow or movement coupled with the representation of  objects  within an abstract photography is a transgression of modernism.

You can see the transgression when the image is compared with this one
I've  been meaning to select this picture as the picture of the week for sometime as it shows the lyrical power of  contemporary, abstract  photography in the modernist tradition:

altofotonetledbetter.jpg Janet Leadbetter, yellow squares, red windows

It is a high modernist piece----minimalist in style, strong simple colours,  has a grid,and is mostly surface. It lies firmly within the narrative of modernist American art that includes colour field painting and hard edged abstraction that marked the end of abstract expressionism; a narrative  which Clement Greenberg argued saw colour-field abstraction as the next step towards purifying painting. For Greenberg painting would save art from the kitsch of pop by attaining purity.  

Yet this  is a photograph not a painting.

beyond modernism

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 Dom Ciancibelli raises an interesting issue about contemporary photography at haphazart! Contemporary Abstracts. The issue raised is transgressing modernism and shifting to a postmodern photography practice. It raises the question: can photography be a postmodern art form as well as a modernist one. If so what would the former look like?

This excellent picture----- new year in gaza-----by Mark Valentine would be generally interpreted as a modernist picture: it is abstract, expressionistic and associated with music.Yet it also refers beyond itself as photographic art:



altfotonetValentineM.jpg
Ciancibelli starts his discussion by quoting from linkwise, who says that:

At the risk if bursting some inflated egos, many images that we see in this forum are at best reiterations and regurgitations of visual issues that modernist painters and photographers resolved decades and indeed centuries ago. Thus there is not a lot to discuss.
My concern here is not to pass judgment on the quality of modernist abstractionist photography but merely to note that abstraction in art has been around a long time---most of the 20th century---and that it is no longer part of the avant-garde movement.
Can we speak of dialectical pictures or images. If so,  is the picture below---- entitled The end of oil 11  by  Peter G.A. Rosén aka  Kritisk massa on Flickr---- an example of one? If it is, then what can it offer those interested in cultural criticism? 



altfotonetMassaKjet.jpg


Walter Benjamin understood a dialectical image as an image of the past which carries the desires of the past generations into the present; an image that crystallizes antithetical elements  and where the  "synthesis" of these antithetical elements  is not a movement towards resolution, but the point at which their axes intersect.

The antithetical elements in the above picture is the promise of freedom by the car and  the negative effects of the car on both the environment (dirty air + emission of greenhouse gases)  and our urban fabric.These contradictory tendencies are not resolved in the picture --they intersect ---petrol station and the unsettling garish, greenish tinge. 

reading landscapes

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This picture --entitled IMG_1860---- by Lone Receiver  raises the issue of how we read landscapes. In this case it is to edge-ness of the sea/land borderland and we recognize that such a landscape is multilayered,  contingent, unstable, unpredictable.  One tag references  Raymond Moore, the British photographer of the1960s -1980s,  whose work helped break down the boundaries between traditional photography and 'fine art', He created photographs of the commonplace that suggested there was something uncommonly strange about the scene or landscape.


altfotonetlonereceiver.jpg

So we a photo that is about  place, history and memory.it is very Enligish both in terms of  northern (gray) climate, and a down to earth "documentary"  images that is  down to earth  (the commonplace) and  informed by Romantic  melancholy that appreciated the desire for an intimate communion with nature  is forlorn. What we have is a form of historical  life (industrialism) that appears as natural history. 
This picture----200812-02-03---- is by Guy Batey and it is from his The Melancholy of Objects set. It has been selected because it is a good example of the return to the world of objects after the turn away from the  modernist's preoccupation with the abstract image.

BateyGbike.jpg
This  is the world of the found object,  and Guy's Flickr set begins with things----often trivial, humble objects--- and the way we apprehend them. This set of pictures of objects is more a phenomenological approach to things, than one that works within art history---eg., the object as an arsenal in the surrealist avant garde expressing the return of the repressed. The  uncanny  is present but it avoids collapsing things into fetishism or the return of the repressed desire as understood by psychoanalysis. 
 Is there a connection between  representation and responsibility?

The standard response is yes and the answer is usually given in terms of either the artist being responsible for  the truth of the representation, or the artist being ethically responsible in relation to their audience. In this picture---Close----  by Incognita Nom de Plume the responsibility  would refer to the Spanish culture, the family of the dead,  and to the power of the picture and its  possible diverse interpretations by Flickr members.

AltfotonetIncognita.jpg


The standard response goes against, or is a response to,   the notion of art or photography as a lie, or   just fooling around; or the modernist account of art as representation only being responsible to itself--its own form, genre, necessity, etc.  

It is not just the artists who produces the representations who have responsibility ---we, the interpreters of the picture,  have responsibility as well, since our interpretations and the way we frame the image in discourse, is also a representation within a network of social relations.
In concluding Picture Theory WJT Mitchell raises the issue of representation  and what lies beyond it. This picture by casually, krystina  is not just a representation of reflections in a window--it points, or refers, to what lies beyond this particular representation. It suggests that something lies beyond this object (a picture) that seems to stand before us, a thing  standing for something else. The "something else", as suggested by the light in the background,  is some form of transcendence.  

There is a tradition that makes a distinction between visual representation and what is represented. However Mitchell also mentions the aesthetic tradition that holds there is nothing outside representation. Is this picture a way of emphasizing the unpresentable?

altfotonetcasually.jpg

Are there different visual ways of allowing the unpresentable to be put forward?

Mitchell says that this is the tradition of the aesthetic sublime, which posits a realm of a negation, of  radical otherness,  and unknowability. The sublime located in pain, death transcendence and the unknowable, is precisely the unrepresentable.

Okay, we are one week late,  but we've kicked off photo of the week from the altfotonet Flickr group with this picture  by barb.   It is within an abandoned soviet army  barracks near Berlin taken during a photo walk with streunerin. Streunerin is Birgit Richter and she has  more on the Soviet barracks. 

BarbH3becth.jpg
The picture appeals to me because it is both a great image and it situates itself within the modernist tradition that repudiates linear perspective and is an image/text.  Therefore,  it deconstructs the American (Greenbergian)  modernist's appeal to visual purity.

 This takes us to a space where  we can acknowledge the dialectic of image  and word and give us a perspective on our culture where can see the protracted struggle for dominance between pictorial and linguistic signs. Personally,  I am not sure why we have this history of conflict between image and word; a conflict that many see as a struggle for territory and a contest of ideologies.

Some Background

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These 2 TV series from the ABC TV, had an impact on my decision to start some sort of online repository of art.

First impressions of the concrete canvas issue (or online exhibition?) indicates  that none of the images selected  by the curator include fragments of a figure or a text.  So these pictures  remain within  modernist  boundaries in terms of their photographic ethos or comportment. The majority of the pictures are abstractions that work within what could be loosely called abstract expressionism,  whilst a few are minimalist. 

As such, the pictures cannot be considered as the avant garde overturning tradition,  since abstraction in the visual arts belongs to an era that is passing from living memory  into history. It  is becoming tradition, albeit a powerful one with a lot of life in it, especially  in art photography. Or may this  online exhibition represents a revival of abstraction that resists the assault of the avant garde, since abstraction in the visual arts continues to have a lot of institutional and cultural power. 

One description that comes to mind in looking at the pictures  is that they are photo poetry. Many of the pictures are very poetic in terms of their expression and force.  Therein lies their fascination and their seductive power.

Of course, this raises the question: 'what is poetized photography'?  I  don't really have much of an idea other to point to the liquid, flowing quality of the pictures---their nonverbal, improvisational musical quality  or force if you like--that refers to the more hidden aspects of everyday life.  It is not the art photographer's job to make normal comforting images given that we live in the world of images of  an aestheticized consumer culture.'

the grid

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The grid has functioned to declare the emergence of modernism. It declares the autonomy of art; walls the visual arts into a realm of exclusive visuality and defends them  them from the intrusions of text;  signifies art turning its  back on nature and its embrace of  geometry with its ideal forms and perfectly precise lines;  and rejects linear perspective and its representation of reality.

If the grid is the figure of modernism, then the "formal layout" of the grid signifies the prefabricated order  of a mathematical coordinate system. Right angles and straight lines were deemed to be so quintessentially modern, so expressive  of the machine age, that it functioned as the cornerstone of Western visual culture for much of the 20th century.


ValentineMburning.jpg

This picture entitled Burning by Mark Valentine and Floebee transgresses the grid of modernism by undercutting it as a figure of static repose and introducing dynamic movement. The flow of energy within the spaces of  the grid indicate that grids are obsolete in network culture.

pictures + music

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One stand of contemporary photographic practice  is  photography as the expression of emotion or feeling, both individual and public .  A good example is through a broken lens by floebee. Is this interesting picture  just an expression of the photographer's feelings?  Or is something more happening here? If so, what?


floebee1.jpg

The 19th century  Romantics interpreted 'art as expression'  in terms of images expressing the artist's feelings or subjectivity (dreams imagination, horror); and this was then reworked by the New York based abstract expressionists in the 20th century who had close contact with composers such as John Cage and Morton Feldman.    Feldman spoke about sound as if it were something physical, malleable, something to be shaped, like pigment.

What  does this disclose?

realism/irrealism

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One of the themes that run through the pictures in  altfotonet.org Flicker group is the realism versus irrealism difference.   Aesthetically speaking,  realism (as in Edward Hooper's mimetic realism) is seen as historically obsolete (consigned to the dustbin of art history)  and is deemed to have been supplanted by irrealism. 

AltefotnetInterface.jpg

This picture by InterfacePublications would be commonly understood as a realist representation of a street in Melbourne in the sense of resembles, is similar to, a copy of,  this  particular urbanscape, even if it could be interpreted as an abstract image.

In this sense realism is the standard mode of representation of photographers and it has become historically become understood as an equivalent for universal or "natural" visual experience. It---perspectival realism---- has been underpinned by  traditional practices, customs and habits that reach back to Alberti's 1453 text De Pictura -----and is the key mode of representation of the mass global visual communication networks (film photography and television).

Should photographers question perspectival realisms that is assumed to be natural ---we have invented and built a  a machine (the camera)  to produce this conventional or historical  sort of image and this has  reinforced the conviction that this is the natural mode of representation as opposed to a historical way of looking or seeing.
W.J.T. Mitchell  has long argued that there has been a visual turn, or what he calls a "pictorial turn," in contemporary culture and theory in which images, pictures and the realm of the visual have been recognized as being as important and worthy of intense scrutiny as the realm of language. While the "linguistic turn" (Richard Rorty) in the 1960s called attention to the role of language in culture, theory, and everyday life the notion of a "pictorial turn" signals the importance of pictures and images, and challenges us to be observant and informed critics of visual culture. W.J.T. Mitchell grasps the importance of the visual and the need to take pictures seriously.

The title of Mitchell's new  book, What do Pictures Want?  strikes me as odd. Pictures don't have desires. They are objects that convey meaning not animated beings with desires, needs, appetites, demands, and drives of their own like dogs. Pictured are not alive like dogs. They do not act in the world like dogs. Images are not living creatures.

Image Size?

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A recent discussion with a fellow flickrnaut, about image size, has me interested to hear others thoughts and ideas on 'image size' in a web context?

293 pixels   interface

Viewing images, and by images I'm talking photography, although paintings and prints fit this idea to a certain extent too, in a gallery context for example, gives many artists a great deal of control on how the images are read by, and impact upon, the viewer. Taking them out of that context, and putting them in/on a web site, is a profoundly different process, with a potentially different outcome.

There are several variables to consider when using a web site to view images.


  • Screen Size
  • Graphics Card/resolution
  • Colour controls
  • Navigational elements within the user interface of the web page.

As a photographer, you have no control on how people, set their computer up or buy the hardware they use.

As a photographer, using sites such as flickr, you can control the maximum size displayed in the options available to you, but not the size displayed as the main size.

500 pixels   interface

My argument is this, if a fairly common resolution is 1024 x 746 pixels for the majority of monitors, why upload anything larger. As this will result in the images needing to be scrolled, thereby changing the experience of the image.

You see composition for me is the most important factors in making the decision to press the button, particularly with large cameras, such as my Hasellblad, or Linhoff Tecknika. That decision is destroyed in a screen based environment if the viewer needs to scroll to see the image, in my opinion.


1024 pixels - interface

So my question is this, is there any value in uploading large size images that while the viewer can see more detail, the image as a whole, is destroyed?

A caveat if I may, all this is based on the assumption that, people are using a computer to view your work. This problem is going to be multiplied upwards as people consume content on different devices, iPods though to plasma screen and projectors.

Interesting Project/s

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Can quality photographs be achieved by art photographers post-processing images produced by disposable cameras?

To investigate this the Pursuit Group sent 2 cams across Europe and the Americas asking its members to take photos. some reuslts were posted to flckr in this set by Casually Kristina.

The 'A Tale of 2 cities Project'. This project gets people from various parts of the the wold to send pre-exposed film to each and other and double expose the roll, and see what results.

image + text

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I'm reading W.J.T. Mitchell's Picture Theory. It's central concern is the image/text relationship,  which Mitchell interprets as a site or a force-field of historical tension and conflict. The history of culture is in part the  story of a protracted struggle for dominance between pictorial and linguistic signs, each claiming for itself certain proprietary rights on a "nature" to which only it has access.

altfotonet.jpg

This wonderful image by casually, krystina  in the atlfotonet.org Flickr group incorporates text within the image. So  it is a rupture from both those in the literary culture who reject the image within the literary text (English Romantic poets) and those in the visual culture (modernists)  who repudiate text in the picture. It transgresses the the tradition that conceives of the relation between words and images in political terms, as a struggle for territory, 

What we have with this particular picture here is an image/text. Michell says that:
language and imagery are no longer what they promised to be for critics and philosophers of the Enlightenment-perfect, transparent media through which reality may be represented to the understanding. For modern criticism, language and imagery have become enigmas, problems to be explained, prison houses which lock the understanding away from the world. The commonplace of modern studies of images, in fact, is that they must be understood as a kind of language;  instead of providing a transparent window on the world, images are  now regarded as the sort of sign that presents a deceptive appearance of naturalness and transparence concealing an opaque, distorting, arbitrary mechanism of representation, a process of ideological mystification
The  image here in this post is a graphic, a  pictorial representation, a concrete, material object. It  suggests a middle  ground between the mutual resistance of photography and writing; a ground that mixes media  It is in Mitchell's words an image text 

It  transgresses the modernist ut pictura theoria with its concern for purity, flatness and anti-illusionism without embracing kitsch that modernists like Clement Greenberg had banished from serious art. This decentering  of modernist abstraction opens up the alternative modernist traditions---surrealism, dadaism and constructivism.


I've always had a soft spot for early nineteenth century photography, a fascination with the technology  and an interest in the way they approached their picture making.

PontiCarchitecture.jpg
This  picture is by Carlo Ponti, a photographic chroniclers of Venice's  tourist sights.  It is of the Palazzo Contarini della Scala or Dai Bovolo circa 1850's,  and it is from the National Galleries of Scotland's  newly formed  Flickr stream

The architecture is a mixture of early Venetian Renaissance and Gothic-Byzantine building techniques, with its main feature the arches and railing that follow the winding staircase to the top of the building.

One of the traditional  strengths of photography has been its realism or truth value. In photojournalism this has been interpreted in terms of  depicting events and giving us information. Though this documentary style of photography has been deeply questioned by art photographers since the 1980s its value can be seen when we look at images from the Gaza Strip:

Zoriah2.jpg

This picture by Zoriah is an apartment complex on Rafah, Gaza that is riddled with bullet holes from Israeli fire. Thanks to this picture we can now see why the civilian causalities amongst the Palestinian people has been so high. More here.

Humour

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Or how to publish successfully, in the 21st Century.

In this cross post from junk for code the British conceptual artist/photographer Victor Burgin comments on the way that  art curators are caught up in fashion, rather than fostering a critical and curatorial climate in which long-term critical projects in art can be sustained and flourish.

The quote  is from an "interview" of Victor Burgin in the 1990s in the Journal of Contemporary Art.  by Laura Cottingham. Burgin is asked: If you were in a position to navigate the course of contemporary Western art, what would you chart for the next thirty years? What would you like to see happening in art- making? Or in art's reception? His reply is:
 If you'd asked me that question twenty or more years ago I would have found it much easier to answer. Back then, I wanted to see a dissolution of the hegemony of modernism and an expansion of art-making to include considerations of content that, you may remember, Greenberg defined as "something to be avoided like a plague." I wanted content to be defined not solely in terms of "personal expression" but in terms of critical social and political issues -- considerations that Greenbergian modernism defined as improper to art. I wanted an end to the definition of visual art in terms of the traditional media alone. I wanted to see a use of contemporary technologies and forms that would make a link between what was on the gallery walls and what was in the world outside.
He adds that today most of that seems to have happened, but what didn't happen, or at least didn't happen very widely, was the element of critique.
The title of the picture gives the intention of the photographer. But how can we detect precisely what the photographer intended? All we have is this image and a link to the photographer's Flickr stream and two words that refer to art history.

SauerThompson.jpg
Gary Sauer-Thompson, subverting modernism  

The intentional fallacy in aesthetics questions the assumption often made that the meaning intended by the author of a visual  work is of primary importance. It is argued that the meaning of the image does  not belong to its producer, but rather, once it is published,  it is detached from the picture maker, and is beyond  their power to control its meaning. 

As each picture contains multiple layers and meanings, with  the context of the picture being crucial to the interpretation of the image, the intention of the photographer is neither available nor desirable as a criteria for judging image whether a photograph is a  good work of art. 

First Edit.

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Flickr: Search concrete canvas

I have begun editing the image choices for the first issue of the e-gallery. Here's a sample of the 1st page of edits.

Questions

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gymnopedie no. 1

This image, by donina on flickr, asks several questions. Once we move beyond, the obvious, like why they the bins are there, why only 3, what has been excluded, once we move beyond, the graphic elements and the colour and the light, what is left? More questions. Questions about consumerism, questions about re-cycling, questions about beauty.

Is this enough to elevate this image to something more than mere document?

In The Begining

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This is the companion blog for altfotonet.org.

The site altfotonet.org, stemmed from a variety of ideas some of which had been brewing since 1995.

In 1995, my creative interests took a mild detour. The detour was,the web generally, over the years I watched the internet grow and change. By 2004 the web, and it's infrastructure  had changed enough to permit uploading, and viewing of images, that were being produced by the cameras that too had continued to improve. Sites like flickr, complimented these ideas.

My interests in photography, are varied, and after several years of hanging around on flickr I realised that the establishment either wasn't taking the idea of online art seriously, or just had no idea what was going on.

Meanwhile flickr had long reached critical mass and the gems were getting harder and harder to find amongst the sunsets, babies, kittens and flowers. I wanted to share and get involved in photography and photographers who were interested in more than some preconceived notion of what constituted a good photograph.

So altfotonet was born.

This blog will serve as a place to source images ideas and discussion for the site. Submissions will be discussed and new finds will be pimped here.

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