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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Point of Procedure

Now that the hubbub surrounding the comment moderating posts from a few days ago has died down, I thought I'd gently mention a persistent fallacy that rears its head around here from time to time. There's no way, folks, that this blog can be "just about photography," for one simple reason: photography is not just about photography.

Photography is mainly about life, and the world. It's about people, events, feeling-tone, places, animals, history, death, modes, conditions, politics (yes, politics), poetry, colors, evidence, personal identity, nostalgia, artistic expression, all sorts of things...and it's about responses as well. Photography is a recording medium that can be used in innumerable ways, for every sort of purpose under the sun; it trades in information and meaning, in the observance or in the breach, and the loop it proposes is a communications loop, between subject, photographer, and viewer and back around again, twisting and rebounding and reverberating betwixt and between subject and object in its implications—and it makes no sense to ignore all these significations. In other words, when looking at pictures of the homeless, it makes no sense not to discuss homelessness—or any of the many issues that pertain to the fact of subject, or to the pictures and the act of making them.

That much is clear here, isn't it—at least cumulatively? If this website has a theme, that is probably it. If T.O.P. were "only about photography" in the sense of being restricted to the phototechnical, it would be like a website about writing that discusses only pencils and word processing programs, or a blog about music that concentrates mainly on piano tunings or a conductor's stance on repeats. It would have to ignore far more than it includes. Which is fine for them what wants it, but it certainly ain't for me.



Blogger Max said...

Well, good. Because lately I've been very doubtful about my ability as a photographer (in the artistic part, not the technical part). I'd feel really bad about banning myself from this blog for not feeling able to do any meaningful photography work lately. That's even an interesting topic, isn't it? Where does the drive reside? when does it come or go?

10:44 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

I think it goes without saying, and without naming names, that we have already have enough websites that exclusively discuss the "phototechnical", with some perhaps doing that better and more in depth than this site (sorry Mike!). As such I don't really need YACS (yet another camera site).

10:56 AM  
Blogger chrispycrunch said...

You took the words right out of my mouth. A photo without a story is like a person without a soul. The world is now armed with camera-phones and digital cameras. Unless they start to realize they need a story to go with the pictures, their pictures are just pixels filling up space!

11:20 AM  
Blogger Nick Meertens said...

And don't you ever change it Mike!

11:25 AM  
Blogger JanneM said...

I just went through the laborious procedure of creating a blogger blog with some inane name and fake personal data just to post this:

You are not seeing 95% or more of your readership because you assume that anybody who wants to post is of course a blog writer themselves, and one that happens to use Blogger at that. In most other cases we just get a "forget it" message - and you neve even give a contact point of any kind to address it in any way whatsoever. Why do you keep in "ask your readership" when most of your readerhsip can't even answer?

I'm really frustrated, as I read your essays every week. But you're making commenting the focal point of your creative endeavor and I am not allowed to participate.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Misha said...

photography is about seeing everying else, telling a story, and interpreting the world. Thus is this is a blog about photography then it is "about seeing everying else, telling a story, and interpreting the world." At least as i see it.

12:09 PM  
Blogger dasmb said...

JanneM -- I think you are overestimating Blogger, here. You need an account to comment, and you get a blog with an account. Accounts and blogs are free because they are valueless things; they effectively take no resources to create and none to maintain and nobody at Blogger cares if you never use them.

Your opinions, on the other hand, have great value to those of us interested in the opinions of other readers of TOP, with whom we ostensibly share some bond. So register with some dumb name, set up some dumb private blog, and get to commenting.

Which brings me to my second point. Nuts to purity in blogging! Mike, you continue to post what you want when you want to post it and those of us who dig it will continue to read. Editing yourself out of your editorials is a wishy-washy old media idea.

The again, my tolerance for irony is higher than most. I run a blog called Fast Food Culture, which has as much to do with fast food as "Zen and the Art" had to do with fixing motorcycles.

12:59 PM  
Blogger stanco said...

Like the man said:

"Photography is nothing - it's life that interests me." - Henri Cartier-Bresson

1:10 PM  
Blogger Richard Sintchak said...


As someone who has been a fan of your writings in the 37th Frame days I come to this blog for YOU Mike and all that you feel should be included. Of course your history as a photographer and a writer is the foundation of all that but it is your blog and you choose what is here, be it your writing, your opinion, the other people you choose to include as writers and posters, etc. While I may not always agree with your politics (but often do!) I enjoy your writing and what this blog brings. The whole concept of photography and it's meaning cannot help but involve opinions, politics, etc. You and your energy, personality and how that applies to the world of photography is why I come here and will continue to do so. If anything I think should you not worry so much about any rants you get. More "water off the duck's back" is in order. It's not time well spent. I can see you're bothered in some respect by some of this. You should not be. It's your soapbox and no body else's. They do not like it? They can take it elsewhere....BTW, how's the stat counter looking? ;-)

2:38 PM  
Blogger JAM said...

Well said. I love this blog. I like ot read a fair number of blogs, but not many photography blogs. Just the range of stuff y'all talk about and the pointers to great work I otherwise would never have seen and also tibits and updates on rumors and latest equipment news keeps me coming back.

Keep it up, just like you've been doing.

3:14 PM  
Blogger rhythmimages said...

This isn't about how much emphasis to place on technical issues. It's about using photography to make a statement. The global warming issue included a photograph that made the point, given the time and place, so I don't see where this is an issue.

. . and what's this piano tuner comment? . . . . you didn't take a peak at my website did you by any chance?

5:20 PM  
Blogger Interface said...

Hey Mike,

It's your blog, post what you want.

I visit every day because TOP is what it is.

I don't visit technical or review sites every day. Hardly ever in fact.

5:29 PM  
Blogger jose angel said...

Clap clap clap (sound of applause)
Love your point of view about the whole hingand couldn't agree more. I find the phototecnical prety boring, mostly "mie is better than yours" sort of childish discussion.
It always surprised how lots of people ask you what's your equipment when they learn you are interested in photography. Can't imagine writers or plumbers discussing so thoroughfully about word processors or wrenches. just imagine somebody asking a painer how he did a certain colour when looking at one of his works.
In fact I used to enjoy your political rants as much as our texts on colin chapman as much as your music thing almost as much as your photo writing...
Thanks fot it all

6:25 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Note: Nothing against piano tuners!!


9:23 PM  
Blogger Mister B said...

I take my hat off to you - you could easily have said "it's my blog and I'll say and censor what I want". An example of that heavy-handed mean-spirited censorship exists on a well-known camera-brand user website. Your comments get more credibility as you take part in a discussion, not act like a grumpy parent.

5:30 AM  
Blogger Player said...

Mike, it's kind of like if you want to be a photographer, and you're headed off to college, you'd be best-served by majoring in anything but photography. A broad liberal arts program could do more for a photographer than a photo-tech institution. Every blog posted here is related to photography in one way or another, it's just that the relationship isn't always obvious.

6:01 AM  
Blogger Roy said...

Of all my RSS feeds, T.O.P. is the one that I use as my screensaver; so that when I'm working on something else and glance up at the dormant Mac I see the latest items from one of the most content-rich subscriptions I have (short of BBC news perhaps!).
No matter if the main topic of a post is directly linked to 'photography' or not, they all lead to interesting diversions in all kinds of fields. Keep going, just as you are.

8:16 AM  
Blogger Roy said...

Of all my RSS feeds, T.O.P. is the one that I use as my screensaver; so that when I'm working on something else and glance up at the dormant Mac I see the latest items from one of the most content-rich subscriptions I have (short of BBC news perhaps!).
No matter if the main topic of a post is directly linked to 'photography' or not, they all lead to interesting diversions in all kinds of fields. Keep going, just as you are.

8:18 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...


Also having a gmail account gives you automatic access to commenting on these blogs.

Get a gmail account. Its the best free webmail out there, and you get over 2 Gigs of storage.
Did I mention that its free?

9:09 AM  

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