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brett mayfield

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i would like to have a mantra that encompasses my philosophy and exhibits me well for this box, but i dont seem to. in lieu of something concise and thought provoking, ill just tell you that i take pictures and love... [more]

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stan banos of reciprocity failure has been writing for the past few days/weeks about pdn's all-white 24 member jury for their upcoming contest. i first learned about it on a photo editor which became the sort of boxing ring of opinions and larger forum of information. well, just a few days ago, pdn responded with a letter to the public which i have below. it is important to read stan's preliminary responses/questions and his follow-up. benjamin chesterson on duckrabbit even offered up a $1000 prize to anyone who could legitimately justify pdn's actions.


 


On Lack of Diversity in Photography, and in PDN



On PDNOnline, we’ve just posted our interview with Miriam Romais, executive director of En Foco, the non-profit that for 35 years has supported photographers of diverse cultures, primarily those of African, Asian, Latino, Native American and Pacific Islander heritage. We first asked Romais to talk to us about the lack of diversity in photography and problems faced by minority photographers back in March, as we planned our Careers and Self-Promotion issue. In other words, our interview with Romais was not spurred by questions about PDN’s own commitment to diversity.


Yesterday some blogs circulated a note about the fact that of the 24 judges of the 2009 PDN Photo Annual contest, all of them are white. It's a valid point ,and one that everyone who works on PDN’s contests has given a lot of thought. While the lack of any judges of color wasn’t intentional, it is regrettable. Thanks to the huge number of entries it draws from around the world, the Photo Annual offers us our best opportunity to see a wide range of work from different perspectives. We should make sure our judges represent a wide range of perspectives as well.


 Past judges of PDN photo contests have included African-Americans, Latinos and Asians who work as photo editors, art directors, web designers and educators.   We didn’t choose them out of tokenism. (Yesterday when we were reading the blog comments about this issue, PDN Custom Media Project Manager John Gimenez, who works with the judges during the judging process, noted that he usually doesn’t know the race of the judges until they send him their head shots, and by then the judging is done.)  We don’t like to put the same judges through this grueling task too often, and the lack of diversity in the photo community as a whole means that it requires effort to compose a diverse panel year after year. But it is an effort that’s worth making. 


As always, we love to hear from volunteers, and we welcome your suggestions for future judges. 


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posted on 06.12.09

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the photoblog triangle is the result of some conversations back and forth bewtween the writer of dlkcollection and jorg colberg of conscientious. the three corner represent exactly what they appear to represent. the blog fit into the triangle like a venn diagram (which i think may have beena better idea for this but the traingle reigns in its simplicity). all of the blogs listed are firmly established in the realm of the internet and art.


you can find the triangle here and below is also the post about the triangle on the dlk blog.


Photo Blog Triangle, Version 2.0


I had originally planned to let the Art Blog Triangle quietly die into the oblivion of the archives, but there has been so much interest in it that I feel compelled to provide a follow up post with some additional comments and ideas. For those of you that find this discussion tedious, we’ll be back to our normal range of topics tomorrow.

Soon after the first post, Joerg Colberg of Conscientious contacted me and mentioned that he had been thinking about some of the same ideas. In fact, last fall, he collected some detailed statistics on nearly 40 photography blogs he was following (not designed to be a representative sample of all that is out there, just a group that he was reading consistently). For the period of roughly two months (October 17 through December 16 of 2008), he categorized each and every post by these blogs into nine different buckets, based on the content of the post. His original purpose was just to get a more detailed look into what various blogs really contained, including some aspects that aren’t relevant to this study.

He hadn’t yet decided what to do with the data, and so he sent it all over to me. He wasn’t following us during that time, since we had just gotten started, so I went back and used his formulas to categorize our posts into his buckets, using that same time period. Joerg also didn’t collect data on some of the broader art blogs we follow, so we’ve left those aside for the moment (these were C-Monster, Edward Winkleman, MAO, and Modern Art Notes, even though I believe they are generally accurately placed in the first triangle).

We then spent some time slicing and dicing the data into a spreadsheet, merging his categories into the COMMENT, CURATE, PROMOTE framework and recasting the formulas. What popped out were some detailed statistics about each blog and its relative position in the triangle, but instead of using my finger in the air anecdotal method, we now had actual numerical data to back up the placement of the blogs in the map. Of course, underlying these numbers are the original definitions of the categories, so if you don’t buy those definitions, then you won’t likely agree that the conclusions are valid (which is OK by the way). So another person might arrange these data in another way and get very different conclusions. Thus, as a reminder, the particular categories here and the specific view they represent drive the data.

Without going into the gory statistical detail of each and every blog, we can start with the conclusion that the general placements in the first version of the Art Blog Triangle were right for the most part. From there, we have the following second level of detail:

*We (DLK COLLECTION) were the only blog in the study pinned into the COMMENT corner. 5B4 and Fugitive Vision were a bit further out, slightly closer to PROMOTE than I had placed them originally, but still mostly in this zone. Horses Think (which I wasn’t following) is another located in this general corner.

*The CURATE corner had Conscientious and Mrs. Deane as we had expected, but was much more crowded than we knew. Other active blogs that were clustered in this corner were: I Heart Photograph, Hippolyte Bayard, The Sonic Blog and Shooting Wide Open among others.

*The PROMOTE corner did have Exposures at its vertex as we claimed, and there were many, many more blogs that live in this neighborhood (Joerg had 18 blogs that I wasn’t aware of that ended up in this area). Nymphoto was another I wasn’t following that was centered in this corner. As I mentioned in the first post, most of these are artist blogs that include some form of discussion/PR of their own work and activities, with a smattering of commentary on other topics of interest. Mangum did indeed have the most in depth commentary of these artist blogs, and thus stayed about where it was in the first version. Rather than listing them all, we’ll continue to use Amy Stein’s blog as the proxy for all the rest in this genre.

*There were another dozen blogs that were more balanced, living in the middle zones of the triangle, often with surprisingly equal parts of each approach. The Year in Pictures was actually much further to the left and much closer to the middle than I had placed it. So overall, this area was more populated than I had led you to believe.

A few other comments. The data came from a specific period last fall, so if you weren’t posting “normally” in those two months, the placement of your blog may not be where you naturally envision it. As an example, Conscientious is actually closer to COMMENT in this set of data than normal; on average, it usually lives closer to the tip of CURATE than is shown here. Also the data is inherently somewhat subjective in terms of the category in which any given post might have been placed. So this is an inexact science, and you should take it as such.

Many of you have offered other ideas or parameters to consider. One interesting idea (from Blake Andrews’ blog) was that there could be a fourth axis for REFLECT, as many artists blogs are in concept about thoughtfully considering their art, rather than crassly promoting it, as the triangle might have you believe. This indeed is possible, but if artists were actually writing in depth pieces about photography (theirs or someone elses), I think this would have been captured in the data by COMMENT, as we basically threw anything that was text heavy into this bucket. So while many of you out there may think of yourselves as using your blog to reflect, I’m not sure the data we gathered supports that conclusion; maybe you just need to write more deeply more often, as short snippets tend to be captured in CURATE.

Another idea was that blogs are used to EDUCATE. I think that’s entirely right, and different folks use the medium in different ways to educate others (and themselves). We find COMMENTing the best way to increase our education. Conscientious uses CURATEing (misspelling on purpose) to introduce us to photographers we might not know. Others use a mix of both, plus discussion of their own work to teach others. All these paths are valid and successful. The data we used for this study didn’t distinguish between text heavy posts that were meant to REFLECT or EDUCATE, so someone else will have to gather some more fine grained data to get at these nuances.

We have purposely tried not to list every last blog that was tallied, in the effort to be inclusive rather than exclusive in the findings. Again, the sample used is not meant to be representative and the absolute number of posts is not reflected in the way the data is presented. There are many, many great blogs out there covering photography in different ways, and we don’t want anyone to feel like we think their approach is somehow less “right”, especially if they post more infrequently (as many of these blogs were generally left off of this study due to lack of good data).

At the core, this was an exercise in observation of just what was really going on out there in the photo blogosphere, not any kind of judgment of good and bad. That said, our general conclusion is that we’d like to see even more great photography writing of all kinds. So we both feel doubly compelled to upgrade our efforts and keep up the pace. We hope you will too. As always, comments are welcome, and who knows, maybe there will be a Photo Blog Triangle version 3.0 someday.

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what i like about these blogs is the fact that those who run them/write for them, are or have been deeply steeped in the photo industry. anyways, these are each worth a lot more than a glance and at least a subscription or feed to your google reader or whatever. so heres my brief intro to a few of my favorties.


 


amy stein photography blog - amy stein is a practicing photographer and teacher in new york. she has published several works and her new one domesticated is quite rad (I'm a fan of animals in constructed environments). anyways, her blog keeps up with whats happenin in the fine art world of photography. there are occassional posts on other mediums of art, but it pretty much sticks to photography. she inserts her opinion, but really the blog seems to be a place to find out about new and cool stuff rather than debates. mostly centers around nyc but youll find stuff for other cities, as well.


a photo editor - this is probably my favorite photography blog at the moment. rob haggart was the director of photography for men's journal and outdoor magazine. what's cool about robs blog is that is comes with a ton of understanding and knowledge of the photography publishing world. he is able to put information and opinion out there and not be rude about it. his unpretentious nature makes his blog worth reading without feeling pressured to hate or love the subject of his post. it's democratic and allows for not just art to show through, but the world that surrounds art to show through at the same time.


reciprocity failure - stan banos runs a great little blog that takes no time at all to read through and learn somethin new about somethin current in photography. his blog is really a platform of personality and straighforwardness. he recently grappled with pdn over their all-white jury selection and created an important and large pool of discussion based on photpgraphy and race. it took off on a number of other blogs and even received a response from pdn two or three days ago.


there are tons of others, but those are some to just check out at the moment.

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Rob Haggart of A Photo Editor interviewed photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders about Sanders' newest set of portraits that were mentioned on the Huffington Post . The original can be viewed here.


 


Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Old Cameras New Attitude


I was pretty surprised a couple days ago to see Timothy Greenfield-Sanders starting a new portrait series on the Huffington Post (here). This is an incredibly encouraging sign as I strongly believe that photographers need to get out there and forge a path to the future. A photographer of Timothy’s caliber–contributing photographer for Vanity Fair, collected by major museums, multiple publishing deals and film projects cooking–doesn’t need to be looking for paths to the future, but those are the photographers who can really get people to take notice. I know what he’s doing may not seem extraordinarily radical to you, but these online media companies have been really slow to recognize the value of high quality photography in capturing an audience and bringing in advertising. That will change. I asked Timothy a couple questions.


APE: How did you get started contributing to the Huffington Post?


I first met Arianna Huffington in 1997 when I photographed her with the 20×24 Polaroid camera. She was extraordinarily bright and engaging and we stayed in touch. When she started The Huffington Post, Arianna asked me to blog for it and to recommend a few friends. I did both. Since then, The Huffington Post has grown into one of the most popular and important sources of news and commentary, period.


APE: I might label you an unlikely internet pioneer, because you favor a photographic process that uses ancient cameras and discontinued film, yet here you are at the forefront of the internet revolution producing original online content for a collective reporting site. What are your thoughts on photography and the future online?


I’ve been shooting large format portraits for over 30 years. In 1978, I bought a 1905 Folmer and Schwing 11×14 inch studio camera and for decades I shot black and white Kodak Ektapan film. My 1999 exhibition at Mary Boone Gallery in New York consisted of every artist, art dealer, art critic and art collector I had shot to date… all 700 of them. When Kodak discontinued my beloved Ektapan, I moved down to 8×10 and over to color chrome. I now shoot color negative, as chrome can no longer be printed without scanning. And of course, all along I shot 809 polaroid. We all know where that story ends.


But I use computers heavily, and find digital photography terrific in many ways. I also make films, so we have HD cameras and a full Final Cut Pro editing suite in the studio too. It’s just that I love the look and feel of large format. The beautiful old lenses, the shallow depth of field, the wonderful wooden camera itself, even the challenge of limiting yourself to just a few frames. I think they all contribute to my portraiture. And of course, one huge advantage shooting large format has over digital origination is the ability to print very large and very detailed.


I think my photographic style lends the work a certain elasticity that allows for a variety of sizes and contexts. The images are readable as thumbnails all the way up to 58 x 44 inch exhibition prints, regardless of whether the context is a book, magazine, blog, film, or museum show. What’s interesting is that a viewer interacts with different sizes and contexts in completely different ways. The work doesn’t change; the viewer does. But of course, these days, the media is changing too. The web audience is simply huge. Far more people will see my Sandra Bernhard portrait on Huffington than they would have in a magazine. To me, it’s just another avenue. I don’t see why there can’t be beautiful portraits on the web.


APE: I’ve just openly criticized Photo District News (at the prodding of several observant bloggers) for picking an all white jury for their 2009 Photography Annual awards. You’ve just finished a book project and film called the Black List where you feature prominent African Americans and tell their story. Do you think the media industry still has a long way to go in giving African-Americans equal opportunities and coverage?


Observant bloggers are best! I find it disappointing and sad that Photo District News would pick an all white jury for its 2009 Photography Awards. I’ve spend the last 3 years producing and directing “The Black List: Volume 1 and Volume 2″ (as well as photographing all of the subjects in the film). 40 remarkable, gifted, unique African-Americans, from Toni Morrison to Colin Powell to Chris Rock to Angela Davis, to name a few (see the project here). Working on this project has really opened my eyes. I remember showing “The Black List: Volume 1″ at a prominent film festival last year and after the screening we did a Q & A with the audience, which was about 50/50 black/white. To my amazement, the festival director only acknowledged questions from the white people in the audience. It was as if the African-Americans sitting right in front of him were invisible. There’s been some mumbling about “post-racial America” since the election in November, and maybe that’s the attitude PDN had when picking their jury. But having done The Black List, let me tell you, we’re not there yet.


If you want to see more work from Timothy visit his website (here) and keep an eye on the Huffington Post. His agent, Stockland Martel has a blog (here) where I discovered his new publishing venture.

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posted on 06.02.09

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Roland Barthes
Charles Baudelaire
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Martha Rosler
Walter Benjamin
Bill Nichols
Douglas Crimp
Lady Elizabeth Eastlake

i dont know which descriptor i should use to precede "works" in this list of works on photography. are they "important" works on photography, "highly regarded," "essential" works, or something else? i have found that some of the works that have the most impact on me are read entirely differently by others. so how do i relate these works to you? i spose ill just say that the following works are either widely regarded as worth reading or i believe are enlightening. remember that this is opinion, and mine is certainly different than yours, but id love to know what other works you think are worth reading through. and just because i may say that some of these are good reads definitely does not mean that i agree with the authors or their ideas. in fact, id say that the best of these are the ones with which i have serious qualms. these are in no particular order, as i have no adjective by which to scale them. (the photo for this post was a part of the recent metropolitan museum of art's show "on photography" and intends to reflect on one process of photography. it is an untitled work by janice guy.)


1. camera lucida - roland barthes - i would say that this is probably the most notable and widely-read text on photography. every class reads this and should. while the entire work itself is small, it packs a seriously punch and really opens photography up (and maybe even levels it) by examining several specific aspects of photography and exploring the idea of an image anecdotally. this is the origin of such terms as 'punctum' and 'studium' in a photographic context. it should be read over and over.

2. 'photography' - lady elizabeth eastlake -like baudelaire, lady eastlake was not enthusiastic of the advent of photography. in this work eastlake draws comparisons between painting and photography, harping on the boundaries of art. in many ways, if you agree with sontag, you may agree with eastlake.

3. 'the modern public and photography' - charles baudelaire - baudelaire is awesome. he staunchly defends a prephotograhic era of art. in fact, baudelaire would not admit to a prephotographic era of art because he believes art and photography are mutually exclusive. baudelaire examines the truths of photography, its mechanical fact-bearing nature, and defends the integrity of painting and the art world from truth.

4. 'a short history of photography' - walter banjamin - benjamin's works are eaten up by many an art student, and for good reason. here he lays out his ideas of relative time: that within the frame and that of the viewer. this essay examines the theories that lie behind image-making through the lens of photography's technical nature.

5. 'the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction' - walter benjamin - this is a great essay about the limitations of art. if a reproduction of an existing piece of art has no value, then what is photography as artform?

6. 'rhetoric of the image' - roland barthes - in this essay barthes establishes more terminology in order to further breakdown the intent of images. he sees pictures as vectors of a message and the manner in which they reach us is the concern of this work.

7. 'in, around, and afterthoughts (on documentary photography)' - martha rosler - i have a very hard time reading rosler because i think that she, like sontag, is willing to make general arguments and cast down some photographers/social humanitarians based on a few points without reflecting on their entire practice while lofting others also without considering their entire process or point of view. anyways, in this essay rosler checks out documentary practice and pits it against her own project (another dissatisfying part of the essay).

8. 'the museum's old, the library's new subject' - douglas crimp - crimp is an important critic of art who speaks frankly and straightfowardly. i definitely have issues with some of what he has to say about art of the 1980s in regards to HIV/AIDS, but in 'the museum's old...' he evaluates the shift of photography as it enters the New York Public Library and what that means for the medium.

9. on photography - susan sontag - i have to be honest, i have no read this in its entirety. but it is so often quoted and so often used as a source of support in so many arguments, that it has to be on here. i frankly struggle to get through anything by sontag. someone once told me that it was clearly because i am defensive about what sontag says. sontag must be read, BUT her opinion, like any other writer's, should not be the basis of your own understanding of photography. she makes valid points, i will definitely give her that much, but she makes sweeping statements that are grounded in idealism. there are very very few things that someone can say or do to make me disregard their opinion and one of them is (solely) utilizing anything sontag has written in order to defend their stance.

10. regarding the pain of others - susan sontag - this book is not completely about photography, but it brings in photography as a way of disseminating images of violence. i do believe that this work should be read as a companion to other works on documentary in order to escape the twisted language of theory and just read a reaction to violence.

11. 'representing reality: issues and concepts in documentary' - bill nichols - this is a cool read because nichols breaks down the modes of observation. he shows that there are mulitple modes of representation and ways of observing, from observational documentary to poetic witnessing.


what other books, essay, or films do you know about? there are many many more that i havent listed, as these are really just off the top of my head. i also need more titles to read, so lemme know!

also, check out the photography reader (ed. liz wells) and essays on photography (ed. alan trachtenberg) for tons of essays and good reading on photography.

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