Mary Magsamen and Stephan Hillerbrand
The age of the digital Brownie Camera has arrived. We churn out thousands of images and stuff iPhoto software with shots of family vacations, dogs, and children's bare bottoms in the kiddie pool. Like all good collectors, we file away the valuable moments in folders with names like "Christmas 05." With computers and digital cameras, we seem to take pictures less and spend more time filing, sorting, bookmarking, resizing and resending. Despite our best efforts, though, our computers and websites become just as messy as an old shoebox full of photos: they may be digital shoeboxes, but they are still musty and disorganized.
And with an estimated 29.7 billion pages on World Wide Web1, we face a new problem: how to keep up with a relentlessly accumulating photographic record. In her essay "The Dematerialization of Screen Space," Jessica Helfand speaks about how Internet "space" is still confined to the frame of the monitor and the definitions of programming language - and yet constantly changes its identity and technical boundaries to adapt to new economies.2 This adaptation is particularly relevant in relationship to photography because of the proliferation of webzines, blogs and virtual galleries that showcase photography.
To cope with the explosion of imagery, we, like a good mixed cocktail drink, are now one part artist mixed with one part curator. In a world where parents buy children URLs for their birthdays, the debate is not if a shift in how we digest the photographic image has occurred, but simply how to keep up with a relentlessly compounding photographic record. We bookmark our "faves," e-mail images to our friends, and upload pictures of our children to our blogs - we are certain the world is waiting to see. The unwieldy barrage of unfiltered images makes it difficult to manage any digital shoebox. This is compounded by the fact that simply placing an image on the Internet gives it credence. Everyone on the Internet becomes an expert. In an age of Flickr, Wikipedia and Blogger, where value and worth are measured in "hits," Stephan's secret fan blog to Lindsey Lohan is clearly outpacing Mary's fan blog to Edward Weston. Internet entrepreneurs, such as del.icio.us(http://del.icio.us/) the online social bookmarking system, even capitalize on the idea that there is so much information out there that it is necessary to refer to other people's bookmarks to help manage your own.
Here we provide our own list of bookmarks and favorite ways to navigate through the "digital shoebox" of websites that present photography in innovative ways. As with all shoeboxes stuffed with photographs, some are familiar, some are unknown, but all have a place. The online spaces that do actually cross the line from hoarder to curator are the ones that have captured our virtual eye.
Humble Arts Foundation (http://humbleartsfoundation.org) began as a website in 2005 to showcase friends' photography and
has quickly expanded to a non-profit organization offering online exhibitions, on-site exhibitions and grants. Asked to comment on the impact of the Internet on photography, curatorial director Jon Feinstein replied: "...the online venue has significantly accelerated the way I absorb photographic information. By sourcing so many young photographers, I have had the opportunity to examine shifts in general photographic ideas/trends. Correspondingly, this has also allowed me to closely examine how older, more established photographers have influenced this newer generation."3
seesaw (www.seesawmagazine.com), created in 2004, is an online photography magazine with a traditional print format. This website is directed and edited by Aaron Schuman and has a simple design that is easy to navigate and posts lots of photographs and a featured interview. The summer issue has seven photographers with 10-15 additional images on their own page. We like this site because it gives not just one photograph, but several, so that it is possible to get a sense of the body of work from each artist.
Zero Degrees Art (http://www.zerodegreesart.com) a website is based in LA, seeks to become "the online presence of our art community" inviting visitors to "join our discussion, discover new emerging artists, and network with each other."4It provides listings of gallery openings and events but also includes a thoughtful artist-driven webzine/blog component. Regular features include Noah Simblist's Lone Star Report, a Texas art digest, and Mery Lynn Corkle's Travelogue, which provides opinions and observations about art as well as studio visits with artists. We
particularly enjoy the studio visits because it is fun to see inside someone's studio and observe the different environments people work in, although studio-envy may ensue.
Artkrush (http://www.artkrush.com), a twice-monthly e-mail magazine published by Flavorpill Productions, is not limited solely to photography. Covering all genres of art, their features are categorized as News, Features, One to Watch and Media. One thing we do not like about this site is that it feels a bit corporate, due in part to the advertisements that break up the sections on the website. They do, however, feature some unusual artists and have thorough reviews of exhibitions.
The Internet allows for an expanded freedom of information, promoting refreshing new conversations among people: you can voice your opinion and be heard by many or a few. This is the appeal behind blogs, where the daily journaling of thoughts presents ideas and attitudes free from commercial aim. We particularly like the blog of Shane Lavalette, an art student at The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (http://www. shanelavalette.com/journal/); he posts favorite artists' work as well as books, reviews, films, gallery shows and anything else that strikes his fancy.
Another blog that has a simple layout with a beautiful selection of photographs and insightful commentary is muse-ings (http://photo-muse.blogspot.com). Created in December 2006 by Tim Atherton, it presents "[t]houghts on photography and what inspires it - books, poetry, film, art. And various other ramblings."5
Flak Photo (www.flakphoto.com) is a blog that pushes the boundaries of how we use the Internet to look at art. It was launched in December 2003 and uploads new posts Monday through Friday, with curated virtual exhibits on the weekends. You can even sign up for an art daily digest and receive an e-mail with photographs and special section highlights. For Andy Adams, a photographer based in Madison, Wisconsin and the editor of this site, "Flak Photo is part web photography magazine, part photoblog. It aims to promote interesting visual approaches to seeing the world and celebrates the art of exhibiting quality photography on the web."6 We thought he summed it up well when he said, "I continue to be fascinated by the editor/curator end of things and also the ongoing development of the web/print/ gallery hybrid, so it's been a fun way to explore the possibilities of what I consider to be an endlessly entertaining medium. The world of photography is just ripe with publishing possibilities these days, no?"7
Simply Photo (http://simplyphoto.blogspot.com) is a blog that has "inspirations about photography, design, food and fashion." 8 We like that the author, known only as Jen, not only posts beautiful images, but also lets us in on non-photography aspects of her life - it really feels like we have gained access to her personal journal. She links her own images to Flickr and highlights other photographers from Flickr as well.
We include Flickr (http://flickr.com/) and YouTube (http:// youtube.com/) on our list because they function much like blogs, allowing anyone to upload his or her photographs and videos without an overlying administrative agenda. Many artists link to Flickr and YouTube from their personal websites as a way of easily managing their content.
The websites we have featured here represent a tiny fraction of art-related sites, but they are ones that excel at expressing a photographic voice or vision. While our daughter's dance recital page on Flickr may only have four hits, we are sure that you will enjoy visiting our favorite websites - and that perhaps they will end up on your bookmark list.
1. http://www.boutell.com/newfaq/misc/sizeofweb.html (September, 2007).
2. Jessica Helfand, Screen Essays on Graphic Design, New Media, and Visual Culture (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2001), p. 39.
3. Jon Feinstein, personal e-mail, 11 September, 2007.
4. http://www.zerodegreesart.com (September, 2007).
5. http://photo-muse.blogspot.com/ (September, 2007).
6. Andy Adams, personal e-mail, 16 September, 2007.
7. Andy Adams, personal e-mail, 16 September, 2007.
8. http://simplyphoto.blogspot.com/ (September, 2007).