[Volume 1 Issue 3, December, 2009]
In this edition we look at how the 20th century's most important exhibition of landscape of photography has continued to inspire, and motivate generations of photographers old and new.
We also have a chat to the creators of COD, an new blog/zine/gallery, that exploits the web's taxonomy, to it's fullest potential.
All images are drawn from the altfotonet pool on flickr.
Click on the thumbnails to view the images larger or run the slide show, then read the essay below.
The New Topographics: Photographs of a man altered landscape was,first exhibited at the George Eastman House (Rochester, NY) in January 1975 . It is considered the 2nd most cited exhibition after The Family of Man, the catalogue, the most requested interlibrary loan from George Eastman House Rochester.
The show was curated by William Jenkins, it was a groundbreaking and highly influential exhibition. New Topographics organized the work of ten photographers who photographed the landscape in a non-traditional way. While Ansel Adams and his followers photographed dramatic and astounding beauty in the landscape, the New Topographics photographers emphasized the tension between the land's traditional beauty and the results of our presence within it. "Pictures should look like they were easily taken," said Robert Adams around the time of this show. "Otherwise beauty in the world is made to seem elusive and rare, which it is not." Adams' own The New West and Lewis Baltz's New Industrial Parks preceded this important exhibition. However, it was the exhibition itself that conceptualised and made public the work by these photographers as a major movement in photography.
The original show's influence has continued to impact on many photographer's approaches, styles and subject matter. The images presented here are but a mere sample of the vast amount available on the internet and in places like flickr.com. The major difference I would argue is colour, the original show was predominantly black and white silver gelatin prints, roughly 8 x 10 inches in size. A lot of the urban landscape work being produced now, particularly in Melbourne is colour and of any size from coffee table book size to metres long.
While I personally have seen neither the complete show, nor the exhibition catalogue, I have seen enough, of each of the photographer's work, leading up to and after to the exhibition, to gain an understanding and appreciation of ideas being put forward by William Jenkins. Robert Adams especially has for me been particularly inspiring, I have quite a few of his monographs. His early essays, helped clarify in my own mind something I'd seen around me, since my early days of photography in the late 1980's, but been unable to discover, until, as he suggests in one of his essays, I found a map & compass and sent out to find my own way.
The biggest differences however from my own Australian perspective are, that while people like Mr Adams, and Mr. Baltz etc, may have approached or attempted to approach their work from a neutral and distant style, my own work is full of passion, I hope a poetic one at that. The reason being, our history of cultural expansion still clings to the East coast of the country with large amounts of land in the centre uninhabitable by most white people. With plenty of folklore and history, to feed the white subconscious and ego for a sense of belonging. So instead of conquering and in some ways destroying a vast wilderness, we as a culture are imploding. For example the Melbourne of my youth, saw many open spaces between suburbs, open and somewhat green, often times neglected. Now those spaces are shrinking, and some are seeing reinvigoration, but they are also having real estate pressure applied to them. This makes the value of the open green spaces too valuable to keep them as such, open and green.
My relationship to the urban landscape here in Australia, is one of curiosity, an in-between, and incongruous relationship, that while drawing me in visually, frightens me for its future. I am unable to be a disconnected observer however, as I wander the creek beds and deserted factories of the city's west, or the leafy suburbs of the east, looking for a connection, a place that soothes or allows me to feel as if I belong, even if it is not 'picturesque' but somehow ties together my experience of this city as a living growing and strange entity. I use my photography in an attempt to 'ground' myself and see where I am heading, along this, at times exhilarating, yet befuddling journey known as 'urban life'.
COD is a blog/ezine that launched halfway through 2009, I have watched its progress with some interest from day one and eventually contacted the producers of the blog and fired off a few e-mail questions to them bout their ideas and work, this is their response.
What is COD, a blog, an e-zine, or something else? ↑
Technically speaking, COD is a blog. It utilizes a photographic blog theme from WordPress and operates on a date-centric, diaristic platform and there are autobiographical elements involved in what we present. We post consistently to advance the project, because as our moniker suggests, this is not COD Magazine isn’t anything yet. Having stated what we’re not, and acknowledged that this thing that we aren’t is what we’re evolving towards, presenting a consistent timeline keeps us honest, not that we advocate honesty by any means. Ultimately, COD is a useless thing that we admire intensely.
How did the idea for COD come about? ↑
The thing is, originally, COD was supposed to come in a can.
COD appears to sell itself as a collaboration? Is it, and is it an open collaboration or is there some editorial control? If so, who has that control, who has the final say?
We at COD are more intent on abdicating control than maintaining it, because abdicating control without inviting chaos requires more discipline.
The site has minimal text, there is some opportunity for viewers to leave comments, however few seem to, is this part of the publication's function?
One might characterize COD as aggressively under-defined. As we often say among ourselves, there’s a lot of stuff on the internet. and it’s really fucking exhausting. Why not provide the viewer with a different kind of experience...One that can be absorbed quickly by the eyes and then carried away from the screen? As for comments, the present format isn’t conducive to exchange due to the visual parameters of the WordPress Theme.
Is it a high traffic site? ↑
No. Although everyone lies about how many hits they get, so for all we know, yes. We get about an average of 80 unique hits a day. Actually we get more than that.
Are you even interested in a high volume of broad traffic, or are you targeting a narrow band of image appreciators or other visual content producers?
When people say they don’t want more people to look at what they’re doing, it sounds disingenuous. If we didn’t want anyone to look, we’d have an art show in our bathroom. But how far will we go to get people to look? Not very far. You can still get arrested for pandering in the States.
How do you describe what you do in relation to COD, are you a photographer, a content producer or something else? ↑
Me personally? I’m an instigator.
What are you hoping to achieve? ↑
Like most projects, we all have different motives, but in general we want to define what we’re doing by doing it rather than by talking about it. As we've stated in our Hit List, we want to pursue new conjunctions of image and text. And some of us want to experience the loss of ego that one can occasionally achieve in the construction of a group project, but not a false semblance of loss of ego that’s like a pretty girl wearing glasses.
What are your plans for the future of this 'publication'? ↑
Let’s talk about the immediate future: We’re looking for a few good men.
Are the images meant to drive or perhaps convey a narrative? [The response from this point forward were shared by all the contributors to the publication. Their flickr names are in parentheses at the end of each quote.] ↑
“It seems like what’s more common is a kind of distributed narrative. It doesn't arrive in a line, it comes more like buckshot or packet switching, a network of pieces that show up all at once. Whether it's the details within an image, or the combination of image/text/context, the effect is more about many small pieces, all at the same time. And even if some miss, others hit, and it's still possible to try and reconstruct something like intent out of it all.”
“The fact that images are presented in sequence should no more imply a narrative than the existence of calendars should cause one to presuppose that time is linear."
“Potential narratives pop up during the interpretative process. Definitely not intended.”
“Definitely: yes. But not in the traditional sense of narrative. As sevensixfive stated: not in a line. I would add: not linear. For me: cod is not like a portfolio. There is always text and context and often subtext (and always hypertext of course). I don't know, if I would be interested in publishing pictures, if that text in several meanings would not exist. For me the great difficulty and excitement in one is to bring these two levels - picture and text - in contact (same as a viewer and as a contributor). It would be a lot easier if I could do this in my own native language - which proves: it’s narrative.
The site appears to me like a narrative rhizome in its philosophical meaning. Narrative in very different sizes, shapes, discontinuities, convexities, clouds, holes...It is coherent and falls apart like the world around us. Digital as constantly jumping from 0 to 1 to 1 to 0 creating a new narrative form in its own. We may be writing it but maybe can not yet read it.
COD also resembles (one) as a person and personality, which makes COD narrative in a way. Like a homogenous haze between pictures and text.”
"It's just a load of fucking images plastered one after the other."
(Roger the Lodger)
“In c.o.d. narratives exist where they can be found whether or not they were intended.”
“To drive; perchance, to convey. When English joins the ranks of dead languages, they'll uncover COD. Much like the aliens built the pyramids.”
Thanks to Annenne, for her contribution to this discussion and patience along with her co-contributors of COD.
‡This edition's gallery curators; Gary Sauer-Thompson, & Stuart Murdoch.
Slide show software provided by, highslide.com.
All images are used here with permission, or we have endeavoured to the best of our abilities to contact the artists and seek their permission to publish. If you are one of the few who didn't confirm your agreement to publish here, please contact us to address this issue.