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Mitch Alland
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Hunting or not, the issue it seems to me is, why do we photograph? Many people online quote Winogrand’s dictum, “I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.” But I doubt this is what Winogrand was thinking, considering the sheer volume of his shooting; rather, he must have been reacting to the moment, in his search for immediacy. The Winogrand statement is an a posteriori rationalization that, for me, is inane and unreal — a throwaway line. Better to look at photographers’ work rather than reading what they write they say. On the will to shoot, or to find a direction, it’s more fruitful to consider Daido Moriyama’s book, Light and Shadow, published in 1982, ten years after his previous book, and three years after he stopped shooting altogether — a time in which he had been strung out on opioids. He got back to photographing after studying the first photograph ever made, the one by Niépce, which was an eight-hour exposure out of his window, showing just some light and shadow of a building that barely can be made out as such. Moriyama then got started on his return to photography by shooting a macro of a peony on a dark background and continued with the concept of light and shadow, in his high-contrast style. The accompanying text in Light and Shadow states that Moriyama created a narrative between light and shadow, and continues that, rather than trying to illustrate an idea or concept through the photographed objects — through his obsession with the objects themselves — Moriyama took photography “as far as possible from the realm of words”. Granted, this can sound like the cant of artspeak; but this idea is also expressed in Roland Barthes’ book about Japan, Empire of Signs: that meaning can be transmitted without words, without description, without explication — the way it is with photographs, or with haiku poems, which for Barthes represent the end of language. All this resonates with my feeling that the visual impulse, the configuration of form — light and dark — seen directly by the eye, is what drives me to photograph, removed entirely from words. One can formulate various types of reasons for photographing: recording, documenting, memorializing, expressing, communicating and so on. Ultimately, for me, the most basic one is this visual impulse — specifically, when I see a configuration of light and dark that appears as a form which attracts me. That’s when I’m driven to take a picture. And this visual image, its feeling, is what I remember, visually, years afterwards. Looking today at the images I like the best, I remember the feeling I had when I originally pressed the shutter. When I finished my book last November, Frog Leaping, and started considering what to photograph, I was thinking about this visual drive to shoot and embarked on a series called Empire of Signs.
Toggle Commented Apr 13, 2020 on Picturehunting at The Online Photographer
While some branches of photographic opportunity have withered — try getting a job at a newspaper — the world of art photography is booming: for example, we’re in the golden age of photo book publishing. The new technology has made small editions of 500 or 1,000 books not only viable, but transformed self-publishing into the vanguard of photo book production: remember when self-publishing was considered vanity publishing? No longer. Today, the best and most original photo books are self published, and the sheer number of editors of fine books has increased by many multiples, with the titles published in Japan about equal the total of the rest of the world. And with the most inventive and original photo book designs coming out of the Netherlands, followed closely by those from Japan. It’s an exciting world for photographers and others involved in designing, producing, distributing and collecting photo books. That’s the route I’ve taken. After years of photographing and trying to put together photo book dummies, corresponding by email with a Brazilian photographer who teaches fotografia autoral (autoral photography) at MOMA/São Paulo, I asked, “do you think the world needs another photo book like mine”? He responded, The better question is, do you need this book? Six months later, I had a photo sequence that I thought I did need in a book. I then lucked out and, through a series of circumstances, ended up with a well-known designer, hand bookbinder and lithographer from the Netherlands, whom I’ve taken to call the Hollander Dream Team. The book, Frog Leaping, was introduced during Paris Photo last November and I had a book signing at Polka Galerie in Paris, on the same program with William Klein, Joel Mayerowitz, Bruce Glidden, Sebastião Salgado and others. The book is going into a few competitions, and we'll see... Now, I'm continuing with my photography and formulating a new book project, depending on where my photography takes me. No point in worrying about the “state of photography”.
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Feb 6, 2020