Who Decides What Stands for Nature?

Mark Dion. "The Melancholy Museum Cabinet," 2019.
Mark Dion. “The Melancholy Museum Cabinet,” 2019. Custom built wood and glass cabinet and objects from the Stanford family collection. Commission for the Cantor Art Center, Stanford University.

A pressing question; indeed.

Who Decides What Stands for Nature?  Mark Dion confronts bias in representations of the natural world.

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An open letter to Martin Parr and Gerry Badger

Cover of Photobook History Volume I

Recently I had call to revisit some of my receipts for taxation purposes. I was reminded immediately of a couple of purchases that I had not delved that deeply into in the 2 years I had owned them. One book required little more than a flip through  the contents page to reveal  useful but not burning questions buried within it. I was looking for idea and inspiration for my classes as well you see. This book entitled , ‘Rethinking Digital Photography Making & Using Traditional & Contemporary Photo Tools’ by John Neel will come in handy for exploring bespoke and handmade image making classes.

The other book, ‘The Camera Essence And Apparatus’ by Victor Burgin will hopefully float on or around my desk at home for a while. It may even get dragged to work. Burgin is a renowned Artist, Marxist and  Theoretician. I have on loan from the RMIT library a copy of his photobook ‘Between’ published in 1986. ‘Between’ is a  kind of retrospective catalogue, but is also a photobook unto itself, predominantly about the pictures with in it.

I am going to assume that both my readers know of my long interest in photobooks. They will also appreciate that I own the 3 volume set of the ‘History of the Photobook‘, by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger.

Some of my photobooks
Some of my books many of which are photobooks.

Reading the Burgin book, ‘Between’ got me wondering.  Was it listed in the 3 volume set by Parr and Badger? Well the short answer is no. At least not in the index of any of the books. Another author/critic whose writings I admire is John Berger. He has co-published a photobook that is also very interesting, ‘Another Way of Telling’. This too is not listed in any of the 3 volumes. My question then to Mr Parr and Mr Badger. Why are these two Artists and their books omitted from your histories? Even though Martin Parr talks about the size of the task and the impossibility to include every photobook ever made in the introduction to Volume 1. Surely including ‘Between’, and ‘A Different Way Of Telling’ should have been a no-brainer?

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Reading in the time of the Pandemic [Quote for yesterday]


What seems to be real in the photograph is always a simulation of something else. We have shown how this way of thinking provided a theoretical basis for simulation methods in contemporary art and photography. The exploration of staging, quotation, repetition, copying and plagiarism typifies the postmodern trends of the 1980s. These anti-realist strategies found a rationale in the conceptual art movement’s critique of documentary methods and the emergence of sceptical attitudes to the truth claims of photography.

pg 169. RETHINKING PHOTOGRAPHY: Histories, Theories and Education, by Peter Smith and Carolyn Lefley published 2016 by Routledge, 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN, ISBN: 978-1-315-72241-2 (ebk)

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