Sometimes all one wants to do is think about photography to the exclusion of other art forms. However, since photography documents the entire world (arts and non-arts), it all works out.
Here’s a series of pieces I picked up from the Interwebs over the last little while that astounded, enlightened, and illuminated me about photography, its subjects, its history.
Photographer Charles O’Rear was not looking to make an iconic photo, just a good one, as he drove down a road in a neighborhood I know well, because I live there. Years later, that drive produced one of the most famous photographs ever made, appearing on computer screens all over the world: the blue sky and green grass that is the background for Microsoft Windows XP. Here how it happened. From the website Artsy.
The Story Behind the World’s Most Famous Desktop Background
Lisette Model was a photographer, and, crucially, a teacher, whose influence remains integral to how fashion and documentary (street) photography is perceived and practiced. Beginning in 1934 and photographing to the end of her life, Model also spent 30 years teaching at the New School in New York City, helping inform photography by informing practitioners. By Karen Kedmey on Artsy.
The Pioneering Street Photographer Who Taught Diane Arbus
There is an infrastructure supporting the history of photography, sometimes in public, sometimes hidden away in specialized places known only to a few. One of those places is the “morgue” at the New York Times, containing clippings and research material going back to the beginning of the paper. Archivist Jeff Roth, who runs the morgue, knows his way around pretty well. The remarkable Steven Heller has a blog, The Daily Heller, with a continuing series where he asks Roth to come up with some of his favorites. The latest is on the transcendent Pete Seeger.
Jeff Roth’s Archival Pick: Pete Seeger
Minor White, one of the great and influential photographers and teachers of the Twentieth Century, has 5,000 of his photos and contact sheets digitized and available for anyone to look at, courtesy of Princeton University. I thought I knew something about White, but in the last few years (even before I saw this article), I learned I had a lot to learn. From the terrific all-purpose website, Open Culture.
5,000+ Photographs by Minor White, One of the 20th Century’s Most Important Photographers, Now Digitized and Available Online
Ashley Maynor is a filmmaker and educator in New York who grew up in the South. Her grandmother has taken photos all her life, documenting virtually everything and everyone she comes into contact with using cameras, 8 mm film, and video. Maynor spent years avoiding her Southern heritage, but she came around to appreciate the South partly through her grandmother’s photos, so she made a short film focusing on her grandmother’s life. There’s a subtext in the film that asks the question about what, if anything, separates her grandmother’s work from a professional documentarian or fine-art photographer. “I think she does have a notion of the truth in her photography, but boy is it sometimes a really brutal truth.”
Maynor talks about her process and her film in a great interview in the online magazine, The Bitter Southerner, which includes a link to the film, which you can watch for free.
For Memories’ Sake
Toni Frissell, who lived from 1907 to 1988, was one of the great photographers of the 20th Century, shooting fashion, portraits, and photojournalism, including war photography. She shot fashion under water in 1947, pre-dating Howard Schatz by some decades. Before she passed she donated her entire archive of 340,000 items to the Library of Congress. Here is a nice piece on the Dangerous Minds website, with fantastic photos.
Meet the Woman Who Photographed Frida Kahlo, The Kennedys, Elizabeth Taylor, Fashion & War
Andrew Moore has published books, produced work for exhibitions, and been widely published for decades. I used to see a regular feature of his in INC magazine of a double-spread documenting very large spaces of every kind and their support systems, without realizing how wide-ranging his work really is. His latest project is the result of three years work in Southern Alabama and includes text written by himself. With many fine – and glorious – photos and words on the wonderful site The Bitter Southerner.
Jim Wilson has been a staff photographer for the New York Times for 40 years, based in San Francisco. He has seen it all and done the rest; photojournalists produce, on demand, every kind of image you (or an editor) could possibly imagine. Here, on the website of the paper itself, he talks about the ways technology has changed – and not changed – how he does his job.
How Technology Has Changed News Photography Over 40 Years