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The Documentary Impulse

Thoughts on Stuart Franklin’s book, The Documentary Impulse

Photography vs Painting

Stuart Franklin believes that there isn’t much difference between photography and painting. The need to capture an event, i.e. to transfer an image on to a flat surface, is common to both disciplines. What he seems to overlook is how that need is triggered in the respective crafts.

A painter draws from imagination and memory — unless the painting is based on a staged act — whereas the photographer captures the reality as is, at once.

Art, Thoughts

On Photography: History, Art and Digital Age.

Towards the identification of the medium.

Why and how

I’m always interested in learning more about the beginning of photography. I establish a stronger connection and deeper respect for the discipline when I study it, which often ends up revealing unexpected findings. By going through this research it just happened I have found one. It’s been right under my nose for a long time, only I didn’t connect the dots.
A recent trip to Italy took me to my old favorite bookstore in Bologna, laFeltrinelli. I noticed a small book, “L’immagine Infedele _ La Falsa Rivoluzione della Fotografia Digitale” by Claudio Marra (roughly “the Unfaithful Image _ The Fake Revolution of Digital Photography”) which I immediately bought. In his book, Marra quotes the French essayist Jean Clair. That quote alone it’s been the Eureka moment for me. The puzzle was finally complete.
Besides that, a few months ago I have read a very good anthology which I recommend to anyone who is interested in this topic: “Classic Essays on Photography”.
In the following analysis, along with my understanding of art, I’ll refer quite often to the Classic Essays with the hope to trace a philological route of how photography evolved throughout the time.
A little warning: it’s a long reading.


Cartier-Bresson vs Winogrand in the digital era
(or the quest for the subject matter)

I’m a big fan of Garry Winogrand.1) I consider his approach to photography one of the purest and most honest. Not only his work is outstanding, but I also consider his attitude towards photography the most inspiring and one of the few, true artistic approaches.
The point with Winogrand is that the very photograph is somehow secondary, what really matters to him is to observe how the (American) society changes throughout the years.


Art, Thoughts

Art & Rules

The quote below is from “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind“.
I find it pertinent to our times, as it seems it’s becoming very common to think Art doesn’t need rules.

[…] perfect freedom is not found without some rules. People, especially young people, think that freedom is to do just what they want, that in Zen there is no need for rules. But it is absolutely necessary for us to have some rules. But this does not mean always to be under control. As long as you have rules, you have a chance for freedom. To try to obtain freedom without being aware of the rules means nothing. It is to acquire this perfect freedom that we practice zazen.


What is photography?

Trying to answer this question is obviously challenging. I’m not approaching the task with the assumption to wind up with an ultimate answer at the end of the journey. In fact, I don’t even think it’s fundamental to come up with a definitive conclusion, most likely all the opposite. As with any journey, we can learn more as we go through it than at the end of it. There are things we learn during the transition that can definitely enrich us, regardless of the outcome.

Each time I asked myself what is photography, my mind started wandering on territories like art, techniques, technology, truth, society, medium: can a photograph represent the truth? Is it OK to use Photoshop to manipulate a photograph? How much manipulation is enough? How has photography changed after social media? Is photography art? What is art in the first place?

Social Media, Thoughts

Photography as a currency exchange

Considering how photography is being experienced, with a consequent loss of value, it also occurred to me that more than a loss, there’s been a mutation of that value into something different, a substantial change since the system has changed itself.

The main use of social media like Instagram is mostly to grow hordes of followers, therefore the real objective is not photography itself but the numbers of followers. There are a few techniques to help the process, nevertheless, the main vehicle is still the images that fill up the feeds.

Social Media, Thoughts

The day Social Media killed Photography

I’ve been wondering for quite a while now whether I should keep my Flickr account or not. One of the reasons why I didn’t close it yet, is because going on Flickr and seeing what others were doing made me feel I had to work harder in order to improve.

Slowly this feeling vanished, nonetheless I thought it was an opportunity for me to compare my work with the work of other photographers. But then I realized that there’s no reason to have a Flickr account for that. I can simply look at those galleries without necessarily having one. Or better, go to a real gallery and see actual printed photos. For what concerns having my work in a social media gallery, there isn’t much reason either, really. What would be the point? Let’s do a quick analysis.

Aesthetic, Thoughts

Streets of Los Angeles and a side note on picture perfection

This is a challenging city for people who want to take photos in an urban environment, or maybe not, depending on what the photographer is looking for. Still, it’s kind of a unique place. One may find similarities between, say, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and so forth, but not with LA.

Distances are really something here. You can see lots of cars, but not a lot of pedestrians. And even the streets, which you would expect full of cars, suddenly might look empty.

Art, Thoughts

Another blog about photography? Not really

It seems that lately, anyone with a website and a photo gallery needs to have a blog and share techniques, tips, and their own point of view about Photography.
I followed several of these bloggers, read many articles, went through the comments and almost every time I did it, I felt disappointed, annoyed, discouraged (and of course it’s totally OK if you have the same reaction while you’re reading this).