Monitor — by Joe Reifer
Outside the morass of online photography talk there must somewhere lie something more pure and true. Beyond the tiresome “look at this” or “I did this” or “I shoot with this.” That’s all filler, man. Entertainment. And I’m as guilty as the next guy. I’ve hinted before with some abstraction at my dissatisfaction with the state of photography on the internet. I’ve found that an extremely useful psychological tool to use when something is bothering me is the turnaround — taking external finger pointing and examining whether the root cause is really internal. Perhaps my lack of inspiration with photography blogs also applies to my own little soapbox. And not to go all new age on you, but thanks to Craig Tanner for hipping me to the book Loving What Is at a workshop a few years back. Get by the “honey” language, and The Work is some powerful stuff.
So how do we go deeper than normal? Delve into the depths of what inspires so many of us to carry around these little boxes that leave an imprint on film or sensors or glass plates or whatever? I mean, there’s a lot of great photo books to ponder, but not a lot of words on photography that are truly astute. Throw out all of the academic bullshit. I don’t want to hear a stupid podcast. Who is the half-drunk, Jack Kerouac of photo blogging? I don’t think there is one.
I’m tired of reading about the photography business. Those two words hardly go together for most of us. I’m taking out the word business. Where’s my liquid paper. Get rid of the business part. I want to focus on pure photography.
And all of this technique stuff. Wow there sure are a lot of techniques you can learn to make your photos look like everyone else’s photos. Use your flash to do this, use Photoshop to do that. God that bores me to tears sometimes.
I want to see the verbal equivalent of Meatyard and Disfarmer and Norling. Give me the pure stuff without any marketing trumpets playing out of your ass. Who is the Daniel Johnston of photo blogging — an idiot savant channeling the Beatles in the most heartfelt unrestrained pure way. Give me The Shaggs of photography literature. Invent something new. Put all of the great stuff into the blender, add a twist of something weird, and make something that’s never been seen before.
The last time I can remember seeing any current photography that blew my mind was Roger Ballen. What a badass. Like T.A. I’m still waiting for the bootleg to see just what the heck Ballen said in New York last week. We need more boogymen in photography. There’s too much pop. Where is the free jazz? Who is the Albert Ayler of photo blogging?
I started participating in this modern new fangled photography blogging thing because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Somehow I’m still rolling with it. The very existence of all this verbal photography food has created a strange sort of dependence on the Words Words Words. Maybe we don’t need all of this jabber. Maybe we need something to make our jaws hang on the ground and leave us speechless. Where is the photograph that will make my jaw hit the ground. Who is the Matthew Barney of modern day photography?
I have way more questions than answers. I’m not supposing that any of you are going to help me. If I wrote another lens review most of you would probably be happier. But I’m willing to take the risk that there are one or two or even three of you out there who are thinking deeply about pushing the boundaries with pictures, and maybe even with words. Cut through all of the bullshit and dig down into the muck and come up with something surprising. That makes you really think.
Your normal sources are not going to cut it. The internet is not going to cut it. This may take wandering around the middle of the desert for a few days to figure out. Maybe a few weeks. Probably longer. I’m not quite touching it, but I’m working my way towards it. Charles Bowden may be the only writer that gets close. I’m running headlong into the eye and hoping to come out on the next plateau. Or bardo. Or somewhere.
Update: Mark Hobson’s thoughts on this rant over on the Landscapist.
Jay Watson’s response (with some hilarious YouTube links) on his blog.
Update 2: Andreas Manessinger has a really great follow up post on his blog.