Photography blogging is a relatively new phenomenon with a history of about 10 years. But it is old enough to have already spawned debates about whether blogging is dead and, although those kinds of conversations – which are usually reserved for jazz or photojournalism – can be quite tedious, in the case of blogging, they have a point. What we think of as “the photoblog” has undergone some changes over the course of these past 10 years. I should clarify that I am talking about contemporary photography from a fine-art point of view. There are also numerous blogs about camera equipment, but I want to focus on what I know best.
When I got involved in blogging about photography, back in 2002, most photoblogs I was aware of did something very different to what they do today. At that point photographers used their blogs to post an image every day – writing about other people’s photography was not something many did. This situation changed slowly over the next three to four years, when blogs such as Conscientious became more widely known and accepted.
In around 2006, the number of blogs like Conscientious exploded. Having a blog and writing about photography became seen as essential, especially for photographers. In the US at least, if you wanted to be someone in photography, you had to have a blog. Of course it couldn’t last. After a while, many photographers abandoned their blogs (Alec Soth being the best-known example), often moving to Facebook instead.
It’s hard to put a date on it, but it was probably around 2008 that the first – inevitable – debates on whether blogging was dead popped up. Wasn’t social networking via Facebook, Twitter and so on the thing to do? Needless to say, bloggers who had been working on their blogs for reasons other than social networking kept going, and many new voices joined in. In addition, blogging had become so widely accepted that media organisations, many of which had previously been dismissive of blogs, started their own.
Which essentially brings us to where we are today. Compared with the hype of the first photoblogging boom from around five years ago, things have become a bit quieter; on the other hand, photoblogs are now a widely accepted way to disseminate and talk about images. Here I’m introducing 10 photoblogs, in alphabetical order, all of which have one thing in common – they not only showcase photography, they also contain very smart writing about photography. Of course, there are many more blogs to explore, and this is a subjective selection designed to present some of the different approaches to blogging about images.
But all 10 feature extensive lists of links to other blogs, so you can easily use them as starting points to discover the world of photoblogging.
Photobooks have become an essential medium to present and view photography – this might seem counterintuitive at first, but as photography has moved more and more towards digital technologies, photobook-making has exploded. Written by Jeffrey Ladd (now also creative director of Errata Editions, which republishes older photobooks) 5b4 is devoted to photobooks and features reviews of the author’s often fairly eclectic collection. The blog is required reading for anyone interested in the medium.
Having worked in photography for more than 20 years, Julie Grahame launched aCurator in 2009 to, in
her words, “show more and larger images than average, more depth and give the photographer a voice”. Each post is centred on one photographer or topic, with a general introduction by Grahame and often featuring the artist’s work in a full-screen layout. The aCurator blog is a prime example of how bloggers can serve as curators, as taste makers.
David Campbell’s blog
David Campbell’s blog is centered on documentary photography, photojournalism, multimedia and the new-media economy. It allows him to cover the two aspects most relevant for news-centred photography – how will this kind of photography survive given the changes in the media landscape? And do photographs by documentary photographers or photojournalists give us a valid picture of what they are talking about? One particularly interesting section on the blog is Thinking Images, which includes in-depth investigations of (typically) a single image, looking at angles often missed in the stories.
New York City probably has the highest density of photography galleries anywhere in the world, so NYC blogger Loring Knoblauch’s DLK Collection is dedicated to reviewing photography exhibitions (and occasionally photobooks) and reporting on the latest photography auctions. The target audience is serious photography collectors but given the high quality and detail of the reviews, it has quickly become a photography blog not to be missed. Anyone interested in finding out whether a set of photographs holds up as well on the wall as in a photobook or on a website might want to bookmark DLK Collection.
Based in The Netherlands and written by Hester Keijser and Norman Beierle, Mrs Deane lives mostly in the so-called fine-art photography realm. The mix of photography includes curated selections of photographers, but also more eclectic themes such photographs on matchbook covers or obscure online archives of photography. Each post contains extended text on the topic, explaining why photographs on matchbook covers, for example, might actually be fascinating.
No Caption Needed
The title of No Caption Needed is actually sums up the complete opposite of what the blog does. It describes itself as “dedicated to discussion of the role that photojournalism and other visual practices play in a vital democratic society”. Each post is centered on a single image, often one in the current news, which is taken and dissected. The blog is written by Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites, both of whom teach rhetoric and public culture at US universities. They look at how images are used, what they are or might be saying, what is assumed, what is ignored, what the background is and so on. No Caption Needed provides an excellent course in visual literacy, without ever being academic or hard to read.
Does a blog dedicated to prison photography make sense? As this blog demonstrates, it does. The brainchild of Pete Brook, it focuses on images in or about prisons and, given the high incarceration rate in the US, there is no shortage of material to cover. Brook is incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about his subject and his mantra might be most obvious from a recent post entitled “Blogging about photography is a political act”, in which he wrote, “Writers in general have provided context to images for a long time, but I reason bloggers are a new front line in the expanded process.” For Brook, this is because in addition to their roles as curators and distributors, bloggers add meaning to what they write about.
Too Much Chocolate
Initiated and maintained by Jake Stangel, Too Much Chocolate is 50 percent a real community blog, in which an emerging photographer chooses and interviews another photographer, who then chooses and interviews another, and so on. To use the lingo, it’s crowdsourced content creation, with photographers acting as curators for a day. The other half of Too Much Chocolate features a photographer selected by Stangel. Too Much Chocolate is image-heavy, showcasing the selected photographer and to bring his or her work closer to the viewership.
Unless You Will blog
Heidi Romano’s Unless You Will blog is the companion to an online photography journal. The blog feels more spontaneous than the journal, but the gist is comparable. Unlike other curated blogs (such as Julie Grahame’s) Unless You Will relies mostly on images, including only very brief introductions to a photographer’s work.
Visual Culture Blog
Marco Bohr’s Visual Culture Blog is similar to No Caption Needed. While that focuses on individual images, Bohr uses an image as a starting point to connect to other images that are relevant, often for surprising reasons. It connects the cultural dots, usually resulting in fascinating connections and insights.
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