Memory Lane with Vintage Stock Photos

In its section “Street Scenes”, stock photo agency Vintage Stock Photos features an intriguing image of titled “Native American Group on Float”; and it’s a classic representation of old-town Americana; with what appears to be a group of “Native American Indians” on a carnival float, complete with the legend “Heap Big Medicine Man.” Whether the group are really Native American, or Caucasian folk with a little tea-tanning, it’s certainly decades, and worlds, away from the shifting identity politics of contemporary America.

Native Indian Group Performs on towed float During Parade

Regardless of the origins, it’s a wonderful insight into an era long one; as are many other stock images in the collection, whether it be bikes chained up to railings in Amsterdam; a stunning collection of woven baskets in Greece; or mopeds circling the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

As Vintage Stock Photos observes about its collection: “We’ve all been there. An old photo – family snapshot or thrift store discard – catches your eye and you can’t look away. The image is technically a hot mess but there’s an essential, visceral appeal about the subject – a faded person or place that unexpectedly and elegantly captures a lost moment. This happens a lot around here and we fall in love with the blurry, scratched, grainy, misfit images depicting life in the middle of the 20th century.

We started Vintage Stock Photos to sell some of these great images. People loved the images, but sales were slow and it’s hard to be a niche stock site, so we decided to give away the image collection for free.”

Woman standing in front of a stall selling woven baskets, Greece

Yes, you read that last bit correctly. In a world where we try to monetize the last few pixels of every IP, Vintage Stock Photos seems so love in with their own material that they just want you to use it.

And who wouldn’t love this stuff? In “Vintage People” we get fascinating shots such as a group of (unintentionally scary. Yikes!) kids in “Halloween Costumes,” and Bugs Bunny has never looked more menacing. In “Vintage Cities and Towns” we can see the two towers of the World Trade Center dominate a 70s skyline. In “Landmarks and Attractions” we are awed by the sight of Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, before Steven Spielberg had his aliens land there.

Group of children posing in their Halloween costumes, USA

It’s a wonderful, technicolor trip down memory lane.

The photos come from collections acquired by Vintage Stock Photos; who own the original transparencies for all images. Transparencies are scanned, then post processed and key worded. They archive the original scan and output a resized jpg file for distribution. They are so accommodation, that if you feel the version they’ve posted is too small or too processed, you can get in touch with them, and they may be able to rescan, resize or reprocess the image.

New York City skyline from the East River, Vintage Lower Manhattan

The images may be used in commercial projects such as websites, advertising, books, videos, and other commercial presentations. If you can give credit to the site, they certainly appreciate it, but credit is not required. You may not, however, repackage, redistribute, or claim ownership of the images.

That means you can’t resell or profit from a reprinting of our photos. This would qualify as “redistribution” and is not allowed (but they may negotiate an extended license, where appropriate).

A simple login allows you full access to download any photos on the site at no charge.

For further details, take a virtual ‘road trip’ into the surreal, the wacky and the poignant, at:

http://vintagestockphotos.com/index.php

Breaking News

We are all familiar with Marshall McLuhan’s observation that “The medium is the message”; and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center offers the chance for us to reassess this, with a curated show of museum artworks dating back to the early days of when we began to notice the media “strings showing” for the first time.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, it’s an unashamed embrace given to old-school media analysis, featuring seminal work from the sixties onwards. The Vietnam War, of course, plays a major part in this (the first time that the realities of war where ever brought home to an American public used to being protected from too graphic collateral imagery from previous conflicts); but the exhibition moves ever forward; through the Reagan years; to media (non) coverage of the terrors of the Rwandan genocide; right up to that iconic photograph of Obama and Clinton hunkered down in the White House operations room.

All of these eras pass through the objectifying gaze of artists, who appropriate, juxtapose, manipulate, subvert and decode media constructions. It’s no surprise that, as a historical survey show, it features the likes of Dara Birnbaum, Antoni Muntadas, Robert Heinecken, Donald Blumberg and Alfredo Jaar.

According to the Getty press release:

Photographs have helped shape people’s perceptions of current events since the late-nineteenth century. The ubiquity of newspapers, magazines, and televised news during the mid-twentieth century gave rise to the modern mass media culture, eventually spawning critical discourse from a variety of perspectives.

“The timeliness of this exhibition could not be greater. With the recent election still at the forefront of national and international news, it is timely to showcase how contemporary artists have, over recent decades, focused on mass media as a rich source of provocative subject matter that reveals its agendas even as it insists on its objectivity,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “In their need both to represent and to give meaning to their subjects, art and journalism have much in common, and can even feed off each other, as this exhibition demonstrates.”

It’s a riveting exhibition; that spans the faces of our times (Donald Blumberg’s Television Abstractions, 1968-1969 (1968-69) and Television Political Mosaics, 1968-1969 (1968-69), feature politicians Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and George Wallace as seen on evening broadcasts); the events of our time (Jaar’s artwork Searching for Africa in LIFE (1996), collects every cover of Life magazine from 1936 onwards; only five covers in this period ever featured the continent of Africa…); and even nods to the rapid increase of 24-hour news cycles (Catherine Opie’s In and Around Home, displays rapidly-increasing hand-held Polaroids taken of news events on her television screen, between 2004 and 2005).

In a time when both TV and newspapers seems in thrall to “shock and awe” political theatrics; and we are now contemplating the terrifying but apparently real existence of “alternative facts”; this could not be a timelier mediation on the prism of how we mainline our politics through the organs of the media.

Breaking News: Turning the Lens on Mass Media, is on view until April 30, 2017 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center.

Can’t hop on the 405 to see the show? Check out this excellent bit on NPR by Susan Stamberg :http://www.npr.org/2017/01/31/511792813/breaking-news-artists-use-mass-media-as-their-medium

Your new retoucher…Siri?

Fear of automation is not new; ever since Czech author Karel Čapek first coined the word “robot” in 1920, nearly a century ago, in his play ”R.U.R.,” we have both marveled and feared about the advent of mechanical inventions that could take over our basic motor and cognitive functions, and replace us in the workplace.

After all, we have seen it happen in the auto-plants of America in the 70s; when cars began to be more efficiently and economically built by robots. Since then, automation has taken over many other aspects of our lives; from packaging eggs, through to replacing traffic cops at intersections.

In 2017, in a new American world, riven by fears of globalization, we’re all kind of scared that even our taxis will be driven by faceless digital interfaces in this decade.

That’s kind of okay (and might even spare us those dull taxi-driver conversations on the way home), but what happens when “robots” take over the creative stuff too; that which was supposed to be the last resort for the creative middle-class, who believed themselves to be irreplaceable?

Sure, we might lament that supermarket check-out clerks, or hotel receptionists, are being replaced in face-to-face service industries; but isn’t the creative class secure that all of those (expensive) art school and photography school lessons would count for something unique, and employable, down the line?

Well, hang on to your hats, ladies and gentleman, because in what could be the most horrifying story ever, it seems that Adobe is, Frankenstein-like, stitching together a digital creature that might be able to replace… wait for it… a photo editor.

In a recent video, it seems that there might be a new digital sheriff in town. According to Adobe:

Adobe Research “is exploring what an intelligent digital assistant photo editing might look like,” the research team wrote in the introduction to the YouTube video. “To envision this, we combined the emerging science of voice interaction with deep understanding of both creative workflows and the creative aspirations of our customers.

So what are we to make of this? Are our robot overlords finally going to render us obsolete?

Firstly, if we examine the complete extent of the new capabilities of this ‘terrifying’ development; we can see that it doesn’t go much beyond cropping, reversing,… and basically doing what we all did, when we first logged in to our first Photoshop tutorial. It’s hardly reinventing the wheel.

As such, it seems that photo interns will have at least few more years in the photo industry, before they are forced to find unpaid (but ultimately rewarding) labor in street theater, or non-profit eco-groups.

But let’s give Adobe their due: they are working on improving the capabilities of this software, to replace everybody in their own creative industry but the photographer (and maybe that too?), over time. As they state:

“Our speech recognition system is able to directly accept natural user voice instructions for image editing either local through on-device computer or through a cloud-based Natural Language understanding service. This is the first step towards a robust multimodal voice-based interface which allows our creative customers to search and edit images in an easy and engaging way.”

But, as of yet, this Siri assistant isn’t able to even dodge and burn a print, or do much more than flip and crop it.

Let’s be glad that Siri can’t, yet, work to the same specifications as if Annie Leibowitz was stood over your shoulder, demanding that some of someone’s turkey neck be smoothed out for Vanity Fair; or Ansel Adams was demanding a little more “contrast” on a snowcapped mountain top; or Weegee wanted a little darker blood on that murder scene.

We are all scared about the future; but let’s, at least, celebrate the stability of photo assistants. Let’s face it, can a digital interface run out for a latte at 9am?

Notice of Survey on Qualities and Priorities of New Register of Copyrights

From Nancy Wolff, DMLA Counsel

The new Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden, has started the process of searching for a new Register of Copyrights after removing Maria Pallante as Register on October 21, 2016. DMLA, as well as the other visual artist associations, had worked with the former Register Pallante for six years on issues involving photography and the visual arts, and most recently on copyright modernization and potential legislation for a copyright small claims court in line with recommendations from the Copyright Office.

In an unprecedented move, the Library is seeking public comment by January 31, 2017 on the qualifications for the next Register of Copyrights: https://www.research.net/r/RegisterOfCopyrightsNR

Although this crowd sourcing approach to a government appointment is highly unusual, we encourage all interested parties to participate and to share this blog with any contributors, so the views of the licensing community and creators can be heard. From past experience we know that the tech community is very effective at organizing and sending the Copyright Office an overwhelming number of responses to copyright inquiries, and their interests in a Register would favor less copyright protection for creators.

The survey is not long and is limited to a few simple questions—namely, what qualities the Register should possess, what issues he or she should focus on, and what other factors should be considered. We encourage you to complete the survey before the January 31, 2017 deadline and distribute it widely.

DMLA has provided model responses to each of the survey’s questions based on suggestions from the Copyright Alliance. You are free to use all or some of these responses or provide your own responses. As the survey offers no background on what the responsibilities of the Register are or what public function the Copyright Office serves here is a link to background information on the role and responsibilities of the Copyright Office.

What are the knowledge, skills, and abilities you believe are the most important for the Register of Copyrights?

The next Register of Copyrights must:

  • Be dedicated to both a robust copyright system and the Copyright Office;
  • Recognize the important role that creators of copyrighted works and their representatives play in promoting our nation’s financial well-being;
  • Be a lawyer with significant experience in, and a strong commitment to, the copyright law;
  • Have management experience;
  • Have a substantial background in representing the interests of creators and their representatives;
  • Possess a deep appreciation for the special challenges facing individual creators and their licensing representatives in protecting works and encouraging licensing models over infringement;
  • Possess a keen understanding of, and a strong commitment to, preserving the longstanding and statutorily-based functions of the Copyright Office, especially its advising the House and Senate Judiciary Committees on domestic and international copyright issues;
  • Be an advocate within the government for creators and their licensing representatives (as no other agency plays this role);
  • Have a vision for the Copyright Office of the future that supports the work of creators and is generally consistent with the views espoused by Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers in their November 2016 policy proposal;
  • Be committed to modernizing the IT infrastructure of the Copyright Office;
  • Have the solid support of the copyright community.

What should be the top three priorities for the Register of Copyrights?

  1. Continue the traditional and critical role of the Register as a forceful advocate for both a vibrant copyright system and a strong Copyright Office that works closely with the House and Senate Judiciary Committees in promoting a strong and effective copyright law.
  2. A commitment to moving quickly to modernize the Copyright Office with a special focus on updating and making more affordable and simpler the registration and recordation process, and to ensure that the Copyright Office and its modernization efforts are financed by means other than just registration and recordation fees.
  3. Working with Congress to achieve enactment of legislation creating a small claims process that finally provides creators and their representatives with a viable means of protecting their creative efforts and encouraging a licensing system rather than unauthorized use.

Are there other factors that should be considered?

[TO BE COMPLETED AS YOU SEE FIT]

The process of selecting the next Register must not be limited to responses in a single survey, as the importance of a qualified Register to the livelihood of creators and the industries that rely on a functioning Copyright Office and system is too important to be decided by crowd sourcing, particularly as anyone can respond to a survey, regardless of their experience as a user of the Copyright Office. It is also important that the views of the leaders of House and Senate Judiciary Committees, current Copyright Office staff, copyright practitioners, and former Registers be taken into account in the selection of the next Register.

Simon Marsden – Spectral Visionary

by Julian Jackson

Photographer Simon Marsden was haunted by ghosts. His father told him terrifying tales as a boy. His favourites were M.R. James and Arthur Machen, whose stories of the supernatural chimed with the young lad. “In later years I was to discover the works of Edgar Allan Poe, whose dark tales of decaying mansions and moonlit abbeys seemed somehow to mirror my own obsession with the ghosts that haunted them,” he said.

His photography is of “The Haunted Realm” – title of one of his books: eerie, ominous, monochrome images of ruins, graves, deserted abbeys, sinister statues. It seems like a portal into another, parallel spirit world.

Whitby Abbey – a famous ruined Abbey in England used in the Dracula novel by Bram Stoker

Whitby Abbey – a famous ruined Abbey in England used in the Dracula novel by Bram Stoker

Born into the English aristocracy, he was officially Sir Simon Marsden. He spent his whole life immersed in his unique genre of photography. Sadly he passed away in 2012 at the young age of 63. I met him on a few occasions and he was a lovely, charming man. Not some mad-eyed ghoul, as you might imagine.

Most of his photography was on infra-red film. A small amount was created using conventional B/W material. It is remarkable for its technical excellence and that, together with the hours in the darkroom, is what gives his images their ethereal quality.

During his lifetime he published 13 books, with titles like: The Haunted Realm: ghosts, witches and other strange tales (1986); Visions of Poe (1988); Phantoms of the Isles: further tales from the haunted realm (1990); This Spectred Isle: a journey through haunted England (2005); His final book was Russia: A World Apart (2013).

He was also active in producing book and album covers. U2 plagiarized one of his pictures for their album Unforgettable Fire. The supergroup settled out-of-court for a significant sum.  Advertising work was offered to him, but he declined, feeling it would compromise the purity of his artistic vision. Not many people have the moral fibre to do this when Mammon calls.

After his untimely death, it seemed that his work might be lost or forgotten, but his widow Cassie decided to continue with The Marsden Archive as a tribute to his legacy. As lots of his images were uncatalogued and not available she has been wading through the mountain of material he left. There are a thousand images on the website, but he left somewhere between five and ten thousand prints which she is slowly going through, cataloguing, captioning and uploading.

He was totally dedicated in his working methods, being meticulous in his research. Cassie has numerous Ordnance Survey maps, each with little red circles, indicating where he photographed. He spent a long time in the darkroom, which he loved, making sure that the final prints were outstanding. She says, “Simon had a unique vision. He went to amazing places, and saw things other people didn’t see.”

In 2002 Marsden’s visits to spooky locations in Ireland were the subject of a documentary/drama film, The Twilight Hour, directed by Jason Figgis. “The most chilling sequence was the deeply disturbing and creepily atmospheric ruined Palladian mansion of Woodlawn House in County Galway,” Figgis recalled. “It was here that we heard the weeping of a woman in some distress. Upon immediate investigation we could find no evidence of anyone in the sprawling mansion.” Peculiar happenings seemed to occur when Simon was around.

Venice, with the Bridge of Sighs in the background.

Venice, with the Bridge of Sighs in the background.

Jason Figgis is currently working on a new documentary called Simon Marsden – A Life in Pictures.

Nowadays, The Marsden Archive is concentrating on selling Simon’s remaining original signed prints. Cassie says, “I have an art gallery background so this comes quite naturally for me.” She held a small exhibition in a quirky art materials shop in The Kings Road, one of London’s most fashionable areas, before Christmas. It was packed with people, some of whom had come from Dublin and Helsinki to attend the opening night. So his work has a core of people who appreciate it.

The website also licences images for publishing, and that is continuing. As she has all the original prints that were used in the books, she is planning to offer them as “boxed sets” which include the book, and the original images.

Cover-Memento-Mori560

There are a couple of options for the future of the archive. Cassie is exploring the possibility of selling the archive to a collector or institution. I suspect she would prefer to keep it in the family. There is some talk of their daughter, who’s returning to the UK from Singapore, might become the curator. I think that the archive would be better off in the hands of someone who loves and treasures the images, than perhaps a more distant owner.

It is pleasing that these powerful images are continuing to reach an audience of people who appreciate them, whether or not you believe in anything supernatural. Cassie says, “It wasn’t luck that created these amazing photographs, it was a huge amount of dedication and professionalism. He was an extraordinary person who lived for his work.”

Picture from 2016 Exhibition L-R: Green and Stone owner Roddy Baldwin, Cassie Marsden, Julian Jackson with some of Simon Marsden's Prints. Photo: Julian Jackson

Picture from 2016 Exhibition L-R: Green and Stone owner Roddy Baldwin, Cassie Marsden, Julian Jackson with some of Simon Marsden’s Prints. Photo: Julian Jackson

All Simon Marsden photos copyright The Marsden Archive.

www.marsdenarchive.com

juliancoffeshopcuJulian Jackson is a writer with extensive experience of picture research, whose main interests include photography and the environment. His portfolio is here: https://julianj.journoportfolio.com/ He also runs a Picture Research by Distance Learning Course www.picture-research-courses.co.uk . Linked-in profile.

 

 

Decolonizing Photography History

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Cultural protests at a lack of cultural representation in the pop mainstream might be more visible and glamorous at #oscarssowhite, but that only comes around once a year. For a sustained and more cogent (and far more diverse) portrait of current representation (and omission) in the photographic medium, the blog Dodge and Burn is a vital resource for photographers to investigate not only the work of and history of others, but also offers a number of activities aimed at cementing lasting links between communities.

In their own mission statement:

The Dodge & Burn blog seeks to establish a more inclusive history of photography, highlighting contributions to the medium by people within underrepresented cultures. The Dodge & Burn photography blog highlights those who are often “dodged” from the art scene and “burned” in art history: photographers of African, Asian, Latino, Native American, Pacific Islander and Aleutian heritage, women photographers and works of photography about these and other indigenous communities of the world.

As could be expected, there is an undercurrent of anger, in tone, in much of the blog; which ingeniously and unapologetically uses a base level metaphor of “decolonialization” as its lode star. The intention is to reappraise the medium of photography’s history, both past and present. There is a real sense of an urgent energy, as one browses through various blog posts and photographer interviews; a clear connection between those historically excluded, and those working currently under different manifestations of the same root condition.

The website announces its intentions in no uncertain terms as to how it will seek to diffract the colonial gaze:

Dodge & Burn seeks to show photo-based work that deconstructs ideas of “wildlife” landscapes, the stereotypical images of “tribe” and “race”, the denigrating mugshot, the hypersexualization of women of color and other such examples of the historical violence and othering perpetuated by the camera.

However, just doing this might, in part, be giving too much oxygen to a history of oppression; and (at least to this visitor) Qiana Mestrich (the founder and editor) is clearly intent on creating new narratives, gathering the skeins of history and the present into new bonds; and, as such, Dodge & Burn presents so much more. Recurring content includes photographer interviews, profiles and features on trends and issues, collated by Mestrich, who is a photographer and writer in her own right.

A recent post, for instance provides an insightful look at honoring Black motherhood in the Brazilian slave trade. Artists Isabel Löfgren and Patricia Gouvêa, creators of the Mae Preta (Black Mother) exhibition (which opened in 2016 at the Instituto de Pesquisa e Memória Pretos Novos in what is described as “colonial” Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) delve deep into Black feminism:

… with the advent of the Internet, Black feminism in Brazil has blossomed and is becoming stronger and stronger, especially as more and more Black women are entering the universities and becoming historians, novelists, researchers, professionals. And this is just the contextual information (complete with timeline, in Portuguese) before they get around to discussing the exhibition itself! What follows is an enlightening history of Rio de Janeiro which was once the largest slave port in the world.

Other blog posts include: an interview with Hernease Davis, who discusses her black and white photograms that visualize self-care after trauma; previews of Solange’s A Seat at the Table art book featuring photos by Carlotta Guerrero; and an interview focusing on the funny but provocative color photographs of Oriana Lopes.

Cumulatively, Dodge & Burn seems determined to make networks and links visible that might have once seemed invisible: to academia, to museums, even to photographers maybe unaware of their own past (another exhibition listed on the site is called Kamoinge, which means “a group of people working together”).

These resources are supplemented with a monthly critique group (based in NYC), where photographers at various stages of their career can meet and share feedback on their work. Historians and curators also attend. Presumably, these sessions are liberating for Black artists, who can present their work in a context different from the mainstream gaze.

So check out Dodge & Burn: a vital resource for anybody interested in exploring complex issues of racial representation.

http://dodgeburnphoto.com

 

A Map to Photographic Process

When first scrolling Graphic Atlas’s list of pre-photographic, photomechanical, photographic and digital lists of photographic processes, even the lay photographer might think that they have stumbled upon an exotic and previously unseen science-fiction world out of “Star Wars.” However, “Dye Imbibition,” “Bromoil Transfer” or “Wet Plate Collodion” are not science-fiction characters; they are a wholly different level of geek: and inhabit the realm of the photography nerd.

Graphics Atlas describes itself as a “Sophisticated resource that presents a unique, object-based approach for the identification and characterization of prints and photographs.” If you take the website “Guided Tour” chronologically (although you can dip in and out in any order), you can start from an example of an Aquatint Hand-Colored Intaglio (a lovely view of a French village looking towards Waterloo) by R.Boywer, printed in a warm brown ink in 1816; and finish, in 2008, with a Dye Diffusion Thermal Transfer (Dye Sublimation) snapshot. Unlike the unique former print, the latter is representative of a common replicated process commonly used in photo kiosks found in drug stores and photo labs. For the geek amongst geeks, you can dig even further; and also discover that the print was made on a “Portable Canon Selphy dye sublimation printer. It does not require chemicals, and so the machines can be small and are more efficient than the larger chromogenic color printing machines.”

Somewhere in between, you can take a walk through a kaleidoscope of photographic process history, from Kodacolor to Woodbury type positives projected by magic lantern; via issues of image stability, size in gelatin dry plate negatives, and photogravure staining. In addition, you can take even more microscopic (loterally) guided tour of an individual print via categories such as: glass support, image tone, pigment particles, magnification and layer structure.

As a resource, Graphic Atlas focuses on research and expertise on the nature of not just photographic but also other forms of print media. Archival and conservation issues are of primary importance, as is, refreshingly, the promotion of sustainable practices in environmental management and preservation.

Graphic Atlas is the creation of the Image Permanence Institute (IPI); a nonprofit, university-based laboratory devoted to preservation research. It is the world’s largest independent laboratory with this specific scope; a recognized world leader in the development and deployment of sustainable practices for the preservation of images and cultural property. IPI has created a program of research, education, products, and services that meet the needs of individuals, companies, and institutions.

It’s no surprise that libraries, archives and museums worldwide look to IPI for reliable information, consulting information, practical tools, and preservation technology; it provides information, consulting services, practical tools and preservation technology. It has long-standing partnerships with the Library of Congress, the National Archives & Records Administration, the New York Public Library, the National Museum of Denmark and many other institutions.

The IPI was founded in 1985 through the combined efforts and sponsorship of the Rochester Institute of Technology and the Society for Imaging Science and Technology. Funding for IPI’s preservation research and outreach efforts has come primarily from the national Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The IPI has won numerous awards, including: Technical Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (1997), and the Fuji Gold Medal from the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (1998). As historical as the organization is, it always looks towards the future, and the creation of innovative new technological processes.

To take a tour, and enter into the amazing world of photographic processes, visit:

http://graphicsatlas.org

THE “WOW” 2016

Given the prevalence of photography, it might actually seem a little weird to put together a “best of” list of 2016 photographs; given that that’s almost like asking a whale to select which “best of billions of krill” it is going to sift through its baleens:- in short, there is an awful lot of stuff out there. According to a report on Deloitte Global:

… in 2016, 2.5 trillion photos will be shared or stored online, a 15 percent increase on the prior year.

90% of these images will be stored/captured on smart phones, which will probably surprise nobody. Neither will it surprise anybody to know, also according to Deloitte, that “The growing ease of creating and sharing images is arguably shaping the way people communicate. The speed and quality with which we can take photos encourages photos and videos to be substituted for spoken or written words. Also, increasing volumes of photos are being backed up because of the growing range of tools which enable this, at low or zero cost to the user.”

So, given that all of us – both amateur and professional alike – are looking for that “wow” moment, what value do we put on any one example of these trillions of images? How can we possibly decide what even has “value” any more?

Well… how about if we look at the images that professionals create, and use that as the end-of-year baseline? Just for one moment; forget all of the “wow” moments that amateurs make, all those selfies, those cool accidents, those meta-pics, those cool kittens, and all of the other folderol that makes photography so effortlessly and wonderfully and democratically available to all of us; and – just for that same one moment, like the snap of a shutter – surrender ourselves to the “best of” as dictated by those people who still actually do it for a living? And not, maybe, just for a monetary living; but because it’s what they have to do to live in the world? To understand it? And show us what we cannot see?

So, here’s to you, professionals, it’s time to take a bow; whether you be wildlife photographers, sitting in your tree huts on some godforsaken jungle, waiting days or weeks to get that perfect “Bornean orangutan scaling the rainforest” picture; or a photojournalist caught, simultaneously terrified and exhilarated in the melee of a political protest gone violent; or a fashion photographer racking their brains to squeeze out one last style wrinkle on how to ‘sell’ a teen anorexic catering an image to an older demographic without alienating them; or a sports photographer taking the perfect encapsulation of a stadium image that the 50,000 people in that stadium will all remember differently from a unique vantage point, but your version will enough for the witnesses to collectively share.

From the National Geographic to Harper’s Bazaar, from Sports Illustrated to Sony, from Time to The Week, and beyond: here are just ten links to the protean works of professionals, in all their manifold glories:

TIME’s Best Photojournalism of 2016

 

See 40 of the Best Photos Shortlisted in the Sony World Photography Awards

 

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/best-photos-2016/

 

http://www.topteny.com/top-10-best-fashion-photographers-in-the-world/

 

https://www.worldphoto.org

 

http://theweek.com/captured/610506/weeks-best-photojournalism

 

http://www.si.com/sports-illustrated/photo/2016/12/14/sis-100-best-photos-2016

 

http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/16/travel/travel-photographer-of-the-year-2016/

 

http://www.audubon.org/magazine/may-june-2016/the-2016-audubon-photography-awards-top-100

 

http://www.poyi.org

 

And (full disclosure, in the spirit of capturing something special, wherein amateurs can become professionals too) some of these links are to competitions. Which is how it should be. We are all working, whether in seconds or months, to capture that perfect image for that perfect time.

Deloitte Global report: https://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/technology-media-and-telecommunications/articles/tmt-pred16-telecomm-photo-sharing-trillions-and-rising.html

 

Autograph Media

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Autograph Media is a new photography licensing agency specializing in all aspects of race and cultural diversity. Based, physically, in the UK, their ever-growing collection covers a wide range of historic and contemporary subjects from the abolition of slavery through to the most influential people in music, film, sport, TV and youth culture.

Autograph Media curated this comprehensive collection from established photographers and content partners worldwide. As one begins to drip into their collection, their dedication and passion becomes evident, as differing historical periods and socio-political moments accrete into a giant tapestry.

Interested in writing about the Hollywood “#OscarsSoWhite” phenomena, earlier this year? How about accessing photographs of African-American actors who attended the 2016 Oscars?

Or maybe you want to highlight grimmer fare; such as images that underscore the humanitarian crisis of Syrian refugees? Bulent Kilic’s photograph of a Syrian refugee family from Aleppo, huddling under a shelter during a rainy day on March 8, 2014, at Uskudar, transmits the visceral pathos of current events.

Autograph Media’s website has been constructed with a rigorous and thoughtful dynamic, in terms of offering navigation through their archives; which are sorted in a number of different user-accessible (and often scholarly) ways.

Perhaps most enlightening (and wonderfully convenient!) is their Calendar section: which hones in on images that could be used to commemorate certain events. For instance, in December 2016, you can access sixteen different images relating to 18/12/1946: in 75 Years: Birth of Steve Biko, founder of the Black Consciousness Movement. Biko was the legendary anti-apartheid activist and the founder of the Black Consciousness Movement, aimed at mobilizing and empowering the urban black population in South Africa (Biko died in 1977, from injuries sustained while in police custody…).

Features, showcases carefully curated photography and commentary relating to race and cultural diversity, and chapters of both celebration and oppression that have shaped our world. One such example is the fight, in Alabama, of Mildred and Richard Loving; the subjects of a 1950s interracial marriage that had to fight its way through the courts; that will also be released as a Hollywood feature film (in a neat move, the website also delineates the legal differences in miscegenation between the US and the UK, for additional perspective).

Anniversaries highlights upcoming important milestones in history, accompanied by a carefully curated collection of relevant photographs. There is fantastic supporting information and essay sin moments such as Claudette Colvin: Rosa Parks’ Teenage Predecessor. This is the story of Claudette Colvin, who refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus nine months before Rosa Parks. Why wasn’t she the face of a new burgeoning Civill Rights resistance? Aged just 15, Claudette Colvin was thrown off a bus in the same town in almost identical circumstances. In response to her protest on the bus, the police were called and Colvin was dragged crying and screaming from the bus and thrown in a cell until her mother and church minister were able to bail her out

However, the Civil Rights movement that rallied behind Parks’ act of defiance failed to support Colvin. When asked why she thought this was, she remembers Rosa Parks being more ‘accessible’. “Her skin texture was the kind that people associate with the middle class,” says Colvin. “She fit that profile.” Claudette recalls, “My mother told me to be quiet about what I did. She told me: ‘Let Rosa be the one. White people aren’t going to bother Rosa – her skin is lighter than yours and they like her.’” This was a perception that extended up to even Civil Rights leaders.

In Opinion, guest contributors confront important issues and provide alternative perspectives to known chapters, from the past to the modern day. They also shine a light on surprising, lesser-known, stories of inspiring people. Less a photographic resource than much-needed contextual information (that, in itself, could spark off new curations), there are essays such as Alternative Perspectives – Seeing Through Race; in which Doctor Mark Sealy MBE argues that “I believe that we will, in time, come to realize that it is no longer valid to keep on inventing the ‘other’ in photography.”

The parent company of Autograph Media is Autograph ABP, a charity supported by Arts Council England that, since 1988, has collaborated with artists, collectors, curators and institutions across the globe to explore issues of cultural difference, social justice and identity politics. For more information, their site is here: http://autograph-abp.co.uk

Regardless of one’s focus, there is a compelling resource here for inclusion in future exhibitions, publishing projects and educational programs.

DON’T BLINK

(c)Robert Frank

(c)Robert Frank

Robert Frank is a little like a kaleidoscope: when you look at his body of work, you see different things from different angles. To some, the 90-year old master who revolutionized photography with his famous series The Americans: the iconic and seminal series of images in which Frank was an ‘equal opportunity’ portrayer of every sub-section of society (Americans often like to observe that there isn’t the phrase “class system” in the USA, but Frank vehemently disproved this notion).

The series deviated so much from accepted ‘norms’ at the time (low-lighting, cropping unusual focus), that he had trouble finding a US publisher for the book. The Americans was, therefore, first published in Paris (but finally in 1959 is published by Grove Press in the US).

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Over two years, he crisscrossed the country, amassing a body of more than 28,000 images in just about every state. It’s all here, from the diner to the ballroom, the north to the south, the happy to the dispossessed. It’s tribute to Frank that, in some ways, the body of work seems less ground-breaking now; but only because he set the new tone for every photographer that would follow him. His style is still evident in the compositions and concerns of contemporary work.

To some, he will always be a fixture of rock music history, when, in 1972: he was hired by the Rolling Stones to shoot the cover of their album Exile on Main Street. Frank also documented the Stones on tour in what became his notoriously infamous film Cocksucker Blues (so infamous, in fact, that it was never released. According to court order, the film can only be screened a few times a year with the artist present.).

To others, Frank will more familiar because of his radical shift into more abstract realms of photography and cinema.

(c)Lisa Rinzler

(c)Lisa Rinzler

Whatever your perspective, filmmaker Laura Israel has just made an intimate film portrait of his various manifestations in Don’t Blink – Robert Frank: a collation of the vast amount of artistic territory he’s covered: from The Americans in 1958, through to his own documentaries, his return to still images in the 1970s (he published his second photographic book, The Lines of My Hand, in 1972) up to the present day.

At 82-minutes, Don’t Blink is a compact and beguiling look at the mind of an artist unfettered by the notion of putting himself in any box or style.

Chief among Frank’s artistic attributes that Israel wanted to explore was his style of creation; which owes something to the bursts of energy exemplified by the artists of the Beat Generation with whom he’s sometimes grouped (Frank’s own filmic portrait of them, Pull My Daisy was narrated by Jack Kerouac).

As Israel states: “I was interested in sharing my insights into Robert’s relentless pursuit of creativity,” Israel explained. “He’s big on spontaneous intuition. I think that’s something that younger people could use a dose of, and that other people could be inspired by. The creative approach of, ‘I’m just going to go and do it. I’m going to do whatever comes to my head. I’m going to think about it but I’m not going to think about it too much.’”

The structure of Don’t Blink is in keeping with the roaming, creatively restless and aggressive nature of Frank’s body of work (and uninhibited artistic style): a back-an-forth journey traveling through various aspects of and periods in Frank’s life.

Israel’s own filmic perspective stems from Frank’s rule-breaking spirit, evident in first body of work. “I would like this film to be a stepping stone for people to understand where he went after The Americans, where he was going after that. You know, before The Americans journalistic photography was more about the captions than the photographs. You couldn’t have a photograph that said something striking in the image. His photographs didn’t need captions but also rather than trying to explain something they evoked a feeling.”

Don’t Blink – Robert Frank trailer from Laura Israel on Vimeo.