Much 21st-century architectural discourse has orbited around two dominant paradigms of urbanism: on the one hand, the rapidly growing city-region, exemplified by the Pearl River Delta; on the other, the shrinking post-industrial city, exemplified by Detroit.
This interactive piece on the New York Times website is a marvellous example of how the web can be harnessed for educational good.
Click on the image below; to view.
The woodblock print referred to by the New York Times is by Katsushika Hokusai: “Ejiri in Suruga Province.” It is the 10th image in his renowned cycle “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji.” It examines the print in detail and draws some conclusions about its impact on Western Art, even referring back to Jeff Wall’s iteration.
In its own right, photography, and in particularly those genres of photography primarily focused on events in the world, is underpinned its own set of apparently self-evident truths. Many of these concern ideas about the correct way to use photography, in other words what it should be able to do that the other representational tools we have available to us cannot. This is significantly a little different from the often-discussed medium specificity of photography, in that these beliefs do not necessarily need to have a direct relationship to the actual technical qualities of photography (indeed sometimes they ignore these qualities altogether), but in many cases originate elsewhere in society and culture, often in ideas which significantly predate photography’s invention. The problem with these beliefs, and the value in exploring them, is that they shape and direct the ways we use cameras and photographs in ways which sometimes prevent us using photography as dynamically as we might, and as a result undermine rather than strengthen the goals we seek. For this reason, if no other, we should try to draw them out and assess quite how useful they are.
In what now feels like an eternity, but was only 11 years ago; I created a website called altfotonet.org. It was going to be a publication of photography from creatives/artists/ideologues/ratbags/visionaries. I published 3 issues along with Gary Sauer-Thompson. Somewhere along the line it all became too much for me and the idea lay idle, the web site remaining static. In the intervening 11 years the ground has shifted drastically. So much so that even after recently having revived the website I am unsure if I should continue publishing? I originally published 3 issues.
The site was meant to showcase work that fell outside the mainstream art world and was not commercial photography either. I’m not sure what possesed me to undertake such an endeavour? As Facebook was launched in 2004, and it must have taken a few years for it to reach critical mass here in Australia. Facebook has famously sucked the life out of many other online communities; flickr in particular. So I ploughed on regardless. The truth is I was very fortunate to have been donated some server space and the ideas driving the idea were all very egalitarian at the time. I was hoping to make something that was useful and new.
Now I have a new appreciation of what it takes to publish a magazine. I have also learned lots about photobook publishing. The world both in real life and online, is completely different now compared to 2009.
With all this in mind I have archived the old site and started a new one. Using a WordPress installation I will write at length about the ideas and concepts that drive my picture making and some of my underlying concerns. With occasional guest writers artist and photographers.
Is it possible to describe a photograph without interpreting it? Can a viewer ever be as dispassionate as the mechanism of a camera? And how far can a photographer’s intentions determine responses to their image, decades after it was made? These are just a few questions that David Campany eloquently addresses in On Photographs. In the tradition of Susan Sontag and John Berger, Campany explores the tensions inherent to the photographic medium – between art and document, chance and intention, permanence and malleability of meaning – as well as the significance of authorship, performance, time and reproduction.