For whatever reason, Amazon’s recommendation engine decided I would be interested in a book called The Meaning of Photography. I don’t know if that book is actually relevant to my interests, but I certainly enjoyed the solitary review (1 star) and the little pocket flame war in the review comments.
For this author, that photo was not even the worst photo ever taken on a hapless child dying on the ground.
That’s a hell of a sentence.
This project came up a while ago in the New Landscape Photography blog:
Greenham Common is land that was once heavily used by the Ministry of Defense and the US air force throughout World War II and the Cold War. Abandoned in 1997, it was left open for the public to roam….
Methods of perception in the military are just as important as physical weapons used for destruction, with infrared film being a key method of perception for the military. Therefore I photographed using infrared film to express the invisible happenings that occurred on the landscape. With rumors of nuclear activity and other unknown activities, it is a landscape that stands witness to many undisclosed goings-on.
This is one of those cases where I’m rather more interested in the statement than the actual photos. Two things grab my attention: one, infrared, because I ❤ infrared, and two, deliberate investigation/redployment of the mediation of perception by technology. Very cool, in principle.
However, these don’t appear to be characteristically infrared images. They look like regular black and white, perhaps with a red filter. It may be that Sharplin-Hughes is using a modern infrared film without a strong IR filter.1 In any case, while it’s an interesting idea to use infrared as a sort of magical invocation of military vision, without a visible connection to some variant of infrared imaging, it all seems sort of notional.
Also, I wonder if it wouldn’t be more interesting to use a more military perspective—for example, an aerial one. That being an even more fundamental method of military perception.
- Modern infrared films are basically just standard panchromatic films with some added sensitivity in the infrared, and without a filter that blocks visible light, they don’t produce particularly “infrared” results. ↩
The rise of digital technologies witnessed the exponential growth of photographic production and, in particular, photographic self-portraiture…The instantaneity of digital photography is one of the key drivers in the rise of the selfie. In the past a person posing for a family photograph would see the results with a significant delay – in most cases the subject in the image would rarely see the results at all as photographs were archived in the family album. Digital photography changed our relationship to photography completely: the results are instantly visible and photographs can be deleted and retaken if the subject or the photographer cares to do so.
That rarest of photography writing twists: a legit case of digital difference.
I also really like this bit about self-portraiture as performance, going back to the early days of the medium:
Since the very inception of photography in the mid-19th century, photographers have habitually used the camera to represent themselves. Perhaps one of the best-known examples of an early photographic self-portrait is Hippolyte Bayard’s photograph titled Self Portrait as a Drowned Man from 1840. Crucially, like in the modern day selfies of the 21st century, Bayard elects to perform to the camera and act out an alter ego – a dead man in this case. While photography is a medium that is predominantly associated with ‘reality’ or ‘truth’, self-portraiture always allowed a degree of performance or acting for the camera. It was, perhaps, the photographers’ opportunity to create a version of him or herself that stands in contrast to the ‘realness’ most photographs are associated with.
What’s a Hairy Beast?
Hairy Beast is named after one of my favorite photography quotations, from an interview with John Szarkowski:
I am not especially interested in anonymous photography, or pictorialist photography, or avant-garde photography, or in straight, crooked or any other subspecific category of photography; I am interested in the entire, indivisible, hairy beast—because in the real world, where photographs are made, these subspecies, or races, interbreed shamelessly and continually.—John Szarkowski
I can’t promise to demonstrate that breadth of taste. It’s an aspiration, not an identification. I want to see photography that way: a mongrel beast, an uncarved block. Highbrow, lowbrow, unibrow.1
For Hairy Beast, we’re planning a shift in style or…really, pacing. For 1/125, we wrote mostly pretty in-depth material—not necessarily in length so much as subjectively. I left a lot of myself on the page whenever I sat down to write a post for 1/125. That was the point, and I’m really proud of what Karl and I put out there for 1/125, but that’s a hard kind of writing to do on a consistent basis for folks with unrelated full-time jobs.
I don’t want to stop doing that kind of writing, but I want to be more inclusive of smaller and lighter material. So, there may be long stretches where nothing big gets posted to Hairy Beast, but the plan is that those won’t have to be periods of total blog-death like they were on 1/125.
Where the #$!? have I been
As you may be aware, I’ve largely withdrawn from photography for several months now. There are a variety of reasons for this—my health, both mental and physical, has been difficult, and I’ve been working a lot of overtime, and there have been other pressing demands on my time, attention, and emotional reserves. So, I’ve basically been off of Tumblr and Flickr, and I’ve done almost no blogging related to photography.
I’m trying to get to a place where I can transition back to being productive in these areas.2 I’m not totally there yet, and because of that, I had been putting off Hairy Beast for…well, for a good while.
And rather than find some other place to jam my obligatory posts about this, it seemed a sensible occasion/excuse to go ahead and soft launch the beast.
What to Expect
Who knows. We’ve got a smidgen of substantive content ready to go for you—I’ve written a couple things about Minor White, and in case you don’t already read vossbrink’s blog,4 he’s going to cross-post some stuff here, starting with the delightful Miscegeny! Miscegeny! No escaping that for me!.
After that, we’ll see what happens. I don’t have a bunch of longform content banked like I should, and I haven’t set up any kind of routine schedule. And the next couple of months are going to be hellish for me in every aspect of real life, so…should be entertaining!
Oh, by the way, we’ve been having some trouble with our database server. So, don’t be surprised if the blog goes down for half an hour every couple of days. We’re working on having our host move us to a different one.
A Note on the Theme
We’re using the WordPress default theme du jour, Twenty Fourteen. The way it works is that the most recent “featured” content is displayed in a grid at the top. We’re using that for longer/more in-depth material. Smaller posts, and featured content that has aged out of the grid, appears below in the regular WordPress blog feed.