All posts by @vossbrink

Splitting time between Princeton NJ and the San Francisco Bay Area. Photography at,, and Blogging at Tweeting from @vossbrink.
Ben Taub

War tourists

Journalists who cover war grow quickly accustomed to the strange assembly of characters who show up in border towns looking for a battle. In the past six months alone, Kilis has housed a French woman armed with boxes of antidepressants to hand out to refugees; a Japanese man who went to Aleppo several times a week just to do a bit of shooting; an Italian woman whose fixer claims she went searching for alien DNA on the front lines; numerous foreign jihadists; and amateur photographers whose blunders have created extremely dangerous circumstances for locals on the ground.

War Tourists Flock to Syria’s Front Lines – The Daily Beast

Ben Taub
Ben Taub

Ben Taub is a senior here at Princeton. There’s a small show of his photos in the dorm where I ate brunch last Saturday. Part of me is very impressed at how he’s been able to go to Turkey and practice photojournalism . Part of me is wondering how responsible it is to send a college kid on this sort of project—and about the ethics of reporting on “War Tourism” when you’re a college kid who’s engaging in arguably similar behavior.

As for the photos themselves, they’re fine. Nothing iconic—but what are the odds of that happening? As photojournalism it’s really about the story—which is absent in the show and which got complicated when I looked Taub up online and got the rest of the story.

And this isn’t a knock on Taub as much as it’s just another reason for me to question most photojournalism and the way media companies frame the stories.

Édouard Manet, Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe.

Le déjeuner sur l’herbe

Édouard Manet, Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe.
Édouard Manet, Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe.


Édouard Manet, Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, 1862 Things to think about when studying:

  • Why was this painting so offensive to the public?
  • What historical works does Manet draw inspiration from?
  • How does the lighting of the scene show influence from the beginnings of photography?

Cave to Canvas has done an AP Art History study guide the past couple years. I always keep an eye out for photography stuff because I’m curious how it fits in the canon* and how much it’s kept distinct from everything else. So imagine my happiness when I saw the last question for  Le déjeuner sur l’herbe.

*My reaction to last year’s study guide in many ways created my mission statement for Hairy Beast.

In this case, we’re looking at studio lighting with its unrealistic look and lack of shadow. That this piece was so scandalous at the time* in part because of the unrealistic photographic lighting lays out a lot of the battles photography has had to fight to be accepted as art—and a lot of the battles within photography itself.

*In many ways this is the first modern artwork in that it’s about the artist’s vision to do whatever the fuck he wants. As much as I’m a Duchamp fanboy, yeah, Manet was freaking people out a half century before Duchamp came on the scene.

Beth Yarnelle Edwards, Samantha, California, 2001

The suburban world as an unsettled psychological space

Beth Yarnelle Edwards, Rachel I, California
Beth Yarnelle Edwards, Rachel I, California

Over the course of the book, the stronger work moves beyond this premise of straight portraits and opens the question of the suburban world as an unsettled psychological space. What seems initially like a book of solid, but conceptually modest portraits begins to play with the word “dream” – the suburban ideal blends and overlaps with the surreal space imagined while sleeping or daydreaming.

The images that open this second sense of “dream” suburban space in the book – such as a woman in a blue-green dress seen from behind staring at a backyard bbq in a disquieting way or the woman in front of a bureau with a key hiding in her hand [see the three images below] – multiply the possible understandings of Edwards’ work. This development of a multi-layered look at the suburbs and dreams, however, remains latent and appears to be more of a presence consequential of the work process rather than being cultivated actively based on Edwards’ comments on Suburban Dreams in interviews. Regardless, these photographs open intriguing possibilities for the body of work and it is these images that begin to push the stakes of the project.

(via fototazo: Photobook Review: “Suburban Dreams” by Beth Yarnelle Edwards)

It’s very interesting to read this review with @kukkurovaca’s review in mind. I’m digging the choice to reframe the suburbs as “unsettled psychological space” rather than an aspirational middle class goal. Especially given how the housing crisis shook down and who in particular got hit the worst by the subprime mortgage bubble.


credibility & integrity vs. objectivity & truth

Faked Iranian missile test photo, via

if we can shift the grounds of the debate so that we recognise all photography is an interpretation and representation, we can think about the issues of manipulation in terms of their impact on what we want certain images to do, the work they perform for us, and the effects we desire them to have. To my mind that would be a much more productive discussion.

(via What are the current standards relating to the manipulation of photographs? A discussion at the World Press Photo Awards Days 2014)

This is a very interesting post. I’m typically skeptical about strict rules about photographic manipulation. The examples Campbell shows really drive home the point about how silly some of the rules are. I really like where he takes this though. An unmanipulated photograph can most certainly lie and be unethical and lack integrity. It’s usually not the manipulations which determine any of that.

John Baldessari, Wrong.

Greetings from @vossbrink

A quick introduction post since while @kukkurovaca is sort of driving this blog, part of the point here is that @kalli and I will be going in whatever direction we feel like as well. For my part, I tend to try and write about photography by referencing how it fits in with history in general as well as non-photographic art media.

I love seeing museum exhibitions where photography, paintings, sculpture, etc. are in the same room, in conversation with each other. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually seen this.  Which means I’m always on the lookout to post anything which can do this—e.g. comparing Duchamp’s Fountain to Weston’s Excusado and realizing how much they had in common (beyond just subject matter) in exploring the forms and textures of the mechanical age.

The same goes with history. @kukkurovaca and I are both constantly annoyed by how so many of the same arguments about photography come up over and over again without any awareness of how similar things have been written decades or centuries ago. We’ll both be trying to add some of that historical perspective here., even if it means referencing Baldessari’s Wrong over and over and over again.

Most of my big posts here will be crossposts from NJWV and, as a result, contain a number of links to previous material I’ve written there. I will have smaller Hairy Beast-specific posts. I may also have more personal photography posts on NJWV—plus all the other random non-photography stuff I write about—which will not appear here.