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30 emerging photographers
March 3, 2010 1:04 PM   Subscribe

Look at the photographers in this year's PDN's 30 class and you'll find a solid refutation of the idea that "everyone is a photographer now."
posted by infinitefloatingbrains (44 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow. The flash was so heavy on that site it crashed my poor firefox.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:07 PM on March 3, 2010 [8 favorites]


I am an amateur photographer; but by no means am I a Photographer. I do head out into the world with the sole goal of taking photos and have worked with models for cash; but by no means is it a profession.

(Besides, I'm colorblind, LoL)
posted by NiteMayr at 1:08 PM on March 3, 2010


Does "everyone" have irritating Flash interfaces?

Apparently so.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:13 PM on March 3, 2010


I could have done without the whiny editor's note about how the bourgeois plebes with their bourgeois cameras taking bourgeois pictures haven't suffered enough to be real photographers.
posted by stavrogin at 1:19 PM on March 3, 2010 [12 favorites]


Everyone is a photographer now. Very few are good photographers.
Everyone is a web designer now. Very few are good web designers.
posted by Babblesort at 1:29 PM on March 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Everyone is a photographer. Everyone is not necessarily a good photographer.
posted by signalnine at 1:29 PM on March 3, 2010


Jinx.
posted by signalnine at 1:30 PM on March 3, 2010


Very few are good wang-chungers.
posted by cortex at 1:30 PM on March 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


The flash was a little clunky, but the slide show is actually pretty sensible. I don't really have a great eye for photography, but there seemed to be some great stuff here.
posted by Think_Long at 1:31 PM on March 3, 2010


Every photographer's shots started with an Oscar statuette diorama. Is that what is supposed to happen?

/a touch confused.
posted by zerobyproxy at 1:35 PM on March 3, 2010


I think it must be loading slowly because the issue just dropped. Its too bad, there is some really amazing work in there, and the abstracts are an interesting read.

If you want, just skip it and go to the photographers' personal sites:

Peter Van Agtmael
Alex Prager
Wayne Lawrence
Scott Conarroe
Estelle Hanania
Sumit Dayal
Gabriele Stabile
Alejandro Cartagena
Danfung Dennis
Elizabeth Weinberg
Thomas Prior
Deborah Hamon
Marcelo Gomes
Matt Eich
Sohrab Hura
Adrian Mueller
Ben Hoffman
Mattheiu Gafsou
Brent Lewin
Nick Onken
Eman Mohammed
Yang Yi
Anna Skladmann
Levi Brown
Clemence de Limburg
Ben Roberts
Reed Young
Andy Spyra
Gratiane de Moustier
Lauren Dukoff
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 1:37 PM on March 3, 2010 [8 favorites]


As usual, it's not about expensive equipment or whether you make your income primarily from being a photographer (instead of just a camera operator), it's about how effectively you're expressing your ideas. Most people don't have the ideas in the form of low-quality snapshots (unless you're Terry Richardson, but even his real work looks nothing like his wild snaps).

PDN is a great resource which helps people remember what they're striving for.
posted by Doug Stewart at 1:38 PM on March 3, 2010


PDN's site is awful. I don't even bother to visit much anymore.... just wait for the print edition to arrive in the mail.
posted by blaneyphoto at 1:40 PM on March 3, 2010


I could have done without the whiny editor's note about how the bourgeois plebes with their bourgeois cameras taking bourgeois pictures haven't suffered enough to be real photographers.

I shudder at the thought of what kind of sacrifices it takes to be a successful artist in these times, and just how easily you toss aside the complete dedication that most of these photographers have shown by making images that are exceptional. The editors are right, to succeed it takes perseverance and determination in the face of complacency.

Sure, anyone can take photos. But photos that make a difference, that come at a high personal cost to the artist? We need a lot more of those.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 1:48 PM on March 3, 2010


Holy shit, that editors note was the most condescending piece of bullshit I've ever skimmed over. I have to admit to not finishing it as I was too busy muttering how the editor should go fuck himself, so if the last line was something about how he's just joking and everyone is a photographer now, enjoy the pictures I apologize. What a load of pretentious nonsense. And it does a disservice to the artists they are promoting as I had a poor attitude going in, rather than being in the mood to see something new and cool it puts me in a negative frame of mind where I'm likely to say things like "maybe I could be a real photographer if only I could find a chubby midget to take snaps of while she undresses."
posted by Keith Talent at 2:06 PM on March 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


Oh, please. I'm not tossing aside anything. Sure, it takes dedication and perseverance to be good at something. I never said it didn't. That doesn't mean their self righteous little rant that only ascetics who have sacrificed absolutely everything, their health, their marriage, their life can be Real artists. It's as silly as thinking that only barely functional alcoholics can be great writers.

Go look at their standards for dedication and perseverance. Having 2250 followers on flickr, moving to China for a job, living out of a van, DEFYING SOCIAL NORMS! OH NO! I shudder to think of the social norms being violated! By those standards, a punk band touring a foreign country in a 30 year old van and taking snapshots that they post to flickr is a pioneering band of artistes because they have suffered.

And I do like some of the photos. But, there's crap in there, too.
posted by stavrogin at 2:10 PM on March 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


and just how easily you toss aside the complete dedication that most of these photographers have shown by making images that are exceptional.
Where was this tossed aside, again?

The editors are right, to succeed it takes perseverance and determination in the face of complacency.
Sometimes that's true. But sometimes it just takes talent mixed with luck.
posted by coolguymichael at 2:23 PM on March 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


The editor's note is frustrating because, in my mind, the fact that "everyone is a photographer" is fascinating and an important and interesting context within which to view these—and all contemporary—photographers.

Also because it's ridiculously condescending.

Also because I can show you terrible photographers with 2500 followers on Flickr.

And ALSO? Those are great photographers, but I see very little new or innovative in that set. There may be more depth to each photographer's portfolio, but 3 images from each—without context—doesn't capture it.
posted by wemayfreeze at 2:26 PM on March 3, 2010


I think that a punk band touring a foreign country, doing small shows and making no money is very dedicated. The music may be terrible, but they are making the effort.

Now imagine if the punk band was actually amazing - that is the difference. Anyone can be dedicated, but dedicated and talented? It is exceedingly rare.

Sure, some of the work is hit or miss, but that's how PDN always is. Look, the editor's note will have two effects. Come across as condescending because you're cynical and think that they're judging you for not being a 'real photographer,' or come across as inspiring because it actually tries to do justice to the artists, what they have gone through and the pictures they have made.

'Real photographer' as sarcasm, or 'real photographer' as someone to look up to? Your call.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 2:29 PM on March 3, 2010


"Wow. I like your photos. You must have a really nice camera!"
posted by hal9k at 2:30 PM on March 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


infinitefloatingbrains first off thanks for the post. I like snarking about photography but always appreciate being introduced to new stuff.

That said, I see very few photos that make a difference, that come at a high personal cost to the artist in this set. The photojournalists, absolutely, the guy who lives/d in a van to pay for his art photography, and I'm sure others. But a bunch of these are commercial photographers who, yes, may have struggled when they were starting out, but are now shooting for major publications, or art photographers who got picked up by dealers or happen to have been spotted by PDN. There's plenty of perseverance in their stories, but not a whole lot of "high personal cost" and very little "making a difference," at least to my eye.

I don't have anything against any of these photographers or their work, but the editorial context makes it seem like somehow I should be in awe of a dude who started his career in art school, continued with assisting photographers, and is now shooting editorial work for Wired and New York Magazine.
posted by wemayfreeze at 2:51 PM on March 3, 2010


I can't remember who it was, but someone in my photography class once asked me what the difference was between pros and ams.

His answer: pros get paid.
posted by hue at 2:57 PM on March 3, 2010


Very few people are truly good photographers. It is a difficult art form, in part, because you have to constantly battle with your viewer's constantly-changing expectations of the medium. Just about anyone can make a mediocre photo -- one good for documenting an event, recording it in a recognizable way -- but to take a really outstanding photo that captures/conveys/elicits a particular chosen feeling? I don't think it's any more common a skill than the potential to be a great painter or sculptor, the barrier to entry is just lower.

But the idea that, in order to be good, you have to be a starving artist? What crap. Suffering doesn't necessarily lead to good art; if that was true, we'd have a lot more really good art in the world. And there are plenty of good artists, both photographers and others, who haven't starved (by either making money doing their art or doing something else) and still produced good output. The whole thing reeks of sour grapes on the part of artists whose chosen media or subjects aren't marketable; an understandable bitterness, but still ugly and not necessarily connected to artistic merit. Marketability is pretty much orthogonal to quality both within and across various media.

In part I think some Real Photographers feel the need to throw up barriers as a form of protectionism; you can't get taken seriously in some circles without having starved, or in others without having gone to art school and learned to write a suitably pretentious and buzzword-laden 'artists statement.' (The existence of such things always rubbed me the wrong way; the art should be the artist's statement, not a couple of paragraphs of drivel tacked up next to it on the gallery wall. If your art needs a written statement of intent to accompany it, IMO you are doing it wrong.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:15 PM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Kadin, I never said that in order to be good you have to be starving. Sometimes, the 'great personal cost' is sacrificing principles in order to compromise on a commercial shoot. In fact I have much more empathy for commercial photographers because those are the people I work with on a daily basis. It isn't easy.

And hue, "somehow I should be in awe of a dude who started his career in art school, continued with assisting photographers, and is now shooting editorial work for Wired and New York Magazine." The funny thing is, I am in fact in awe of these people because of the hyper-competitive nature of the industry. I get 10 emails a week from assistants looking for work because it is really tough out there. For someone to take it to the next level, and make money, is damn near impossible these days. You can't just saunter up to Wired and NY Mag and get your shots published. And even if you do, the pay is abysmal. No one can survive on shooting for them alone. If you can survive and continue to great take great photos, that is saying A LOT.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 3:41 PM on March 3, 2010


Wayne Lawrence is awesome, in particular the Bronx beach shots.
posted by stbalbach at 4:34 PM on March 3, 2010


Photography isn't always about suffering for your art, though sometimes that comes into play.

I teach photography fundamentals and overwhelmingly I find most people want quick and easy answers to creating images, and very, very few are willing to do what it takes to understand the facets that go into making a photograph, which is more important than living out of a van.

On the other hand, the digital revolution has convinced people that they can all become photographers, without pointing out that it is a discipline like anything else. Masters don't become masters by accident, they do so through years of patient practice and study.

I'm not a subscriber to the "take hundreds of photos; some are bound to be great" school of thought.

I am far from perfect, I make plenty of mistakes when working to bring my emotional connection to my subject across to the viewer. Nor am I well-rounded; there are areas of photography that hold no interest for me, such as studio work.

For me, being a photographer means understanding the processes involved, putting conscious thought (and subconscious or intuitive thought) into your work, learning from your failures, and realising that even your successes will not speak to everyone.
posted by bwg at 4:51 PM on March 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Interesting that this year the winners skewed heavily towards fine art and photojournalism, in contrast to past years where advertising, commercial, and editorial photographers helped balance things out. I guess those areas are contracting so hard that nobody noteworthy is 'emerging' into those market, which isn't willing to pay for anything but high-end talent or low-ball 'good enough'.
posted by joshwa at 8:55 PM on March 3, 2010


I consider this refutation to lack the aforementioned solidity.

Don't get me wrong, there are some wonderful photographs here, and consistently excellent art requires discipline. But photography is one of the most democratic arts, and you don't have to quit your day job to be dedicated. One of the best amateur photographers I know could have easily gone professional, but he avoids it because he wants to do it for the love, and to be free to shoot what he wants. According to him, most professional photography has nothing to do with galleries and a lot more to do with catalogs.
posted by Edgewise at 10:02 PM on March 3, 2010


It comes across as pretentious, but it's kind of understandable that they're that defensive in the face of millions of photographs being produced and posted each day by anyone with a camera, i.e. anyone. This is just their attempt to redraw the line between them and other people. For what it's worth, there are some very fine, exceptional shots in there, but also many works I think aren't as good as my own. Then again, photography is subjective and full of bias. There is only the most nebulous of scales when it comes to ascertaining what's good and what's not.
posted by Poagao at 11:32 PM on March 3, 2010


im doing photography at art school just now and i can confirm the staff are crying their fucking eyes out now that the plebs are getting digital cameras - and then using every trick in the fucking book to promote film - invoking regulations, running the same fibre paper class twice, handing out shit marks, taking hand counts of who uses large format in class - anything short of actually smashing up peoples cameras. Its a huge loss of power for them. Ironically it kind of mirrors paintings initial reaction to photography.

in contrast, I was at art school in america and they were quite fine with it.
posted by sgt.serenity at 7:34 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Always remember:

"Ninety percent of everything is crud."-Theodore Sturgeon
posted by Enron Hubbard at 8:23 AM on March 4, 2010


If you're using digital in art school you're missing out on an opportunity to learn the basics. There is no auto button on a large format camera. The images you make with it are a true litmus test of your knowledge of the fundamental concepts of photography.

I'll just say it right now - if you cannot take a nice picture with a large format camera, you will never be a professional, must less a PDN 30.

Using digital cameras is not a loss of power for photography professors - ultimately it is a loss of power for the students who don't learn about light.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 8:27 AM on March 4, 2010


Um to infinatefloatingbrains. I don't even know how to use a large format camera and yet, I am a professional. Weird.

I am ALL for people learning the basics. I taught myself by shooting chromes on an old Pentax K1000. And up until a couple years ago always suggested people looking to really learn do the same.

But honestly digital can do the same thing. There are a slew of amazing young up and coming photogs out there with a great eye for composition and light that have probably never shot film and certainly never touched a large format camera.

As for the list, pretty amazing. The one that stood out as a new name for me was Wayne Lawrence. Never seen his work before but I really dig it.
posted by WickedPissah at 9:13 AM on March 4, 2010


I thought the point was less that everyone was a photographer, but that everyone gets to try to be one. I'm not using my "Photographer," title recently, I'm more than happy to loan it out on a trial basis.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 9:21 AM on March 4, 2010


wickedpissah, large format, medium format, you know what I mean. Chromes are tough, I imagine you would have no trouble with large format.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 9:51 AM on March 4, 2010


I'll just say it right now - if you cannot take a nice picture with a large format camera, you will never be a professional, must less a PDN 30

When people say things like that you just know you should ignore it, as that person has obviously become too stuck in old ways to see anything from a new perspective.
posted by Soupisgoodfood at 3:23 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the real point infinitefloatingbrains was trying to make was that learning about light is the key to photography.

Each camera however has its own quirks, along with recording medium (film; digital and their iterations) that affect what one can do in-camera, not to mention the possibilities in editing (darkroom; software).

Using the right equipment for your needs, knowing how it behaves, and understanding how to best capture the light as you intend it is what photography is all about.
posted by bwg at 4:00 PM on March 4, 2010


My ma just had a photo show, and since they had extra space and I've collaborated with her before, I got to show some of my images. I've been shooting for years, primarily a Holga (before it got cool, honest!), but printing up a lot of this stuff in mural sizes made me make all sorts of decisions that I've never had to really make before and it gave me a whole new appreciation for what professional photographers do on the print side. It was a lot of fun, but Christ, the dodging and burning and dodging and burning… I can see why folks would want to move to digital.

I am glad that Infinitefloatingbrains linked to the indibvidual sites as the PDN is crashing my firefox. On those sites, I saw a fair amount of great work, and then a bunch of technically skilled work that just doesn't more me or invite me back for a second look at all. I realize that some of that's because of what I'm into as a viewer, but a lot of it felt like they had great pictures but no new images.

Anyway, back to plowing through them. Thanks again, IFB, great post.
posted by klangklangston at 5:03 PM on March 4, 2010


I shot one of their contributor's photos. Yep.
posted by Drab_Parts at 5:30 PM on March 4, 2010


too stuck in old ways to see anything from a new perspective

Just let me know when you build a better paintbrush.

You can capture it any way you like, but the technology of light will be the same for another few billion years.

Using the right equipment for your needs, knowing how it behaves, and understanding how to best capture the light as you intend it is what photography is all about.

This is such an elegant definition, yet it hides just how difficult that can really be.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 6:44 PM on March 4, 2010


Just as examples for my earlier comment: I love the Estelle Hanania photos. I think they're smart, playful, weird, evocative, original and technically proficient. I am not so wild about Wayne Lawrence, even though I can see a lot more technical skill evidenced there. I just don't find his images all that compelling, nor do I think that his hyper-present realism brings all that much new or interesting to his prosaic subjects. They have a lot of sensual power, but very little reason for me to return to them.
posted by klangklangston at 7:09 PM on March 4, 2010


... yet it hides just how difficult that can really be.

It can be difficult, but not always. Then again there is a huge difference between what I said and running around shooting hundreds of images on Auto and hoping that some turn out to be incredible.

So while yes, everyone is a photographer now, in the sense they are documenting what they see by the boatload (rather like when the Polaroid or Kodak Instamatic was invented), as it has always been with photography there are comparatively few who move beyond that to a deeper level of understanding.

But that's the way it is with any discipline, which is why so many golfers never make the pros.
posted by bwg at 4:21 AM on March 5, 2010


Soupisgoodfood: "When people say things like that you just know you should ignore it, as that person has obviously become too stuck in old ways to see anything from a new perspective."

I had no trouble understanding what he was saying, apparently not what you think. The point being, if you can't do it on a camera that is 100% manual (such as a LF), then you don't really understand the fundamentals. Sort of like saying, if you can't program a computer in Assembly language, your not really understanding the basics of programming. Of course for 99% of programmers and programs, you don't need Assembly. But it sure comes in handy when you need it.
posted by stbalbach at 9:59 AM on March 5, 2010


I should point out I was taking the piss a bit. I get what he's saying, but I also don't see anything wrong with the pure novice digital way of doing things. Being able to view the image right after it's shot may mean a person is less likely to think about the settings they need before they take a shot, but with digital media, that doesn't matter as much to begin with as you re-adjust and shoot again. If you're observant, you will learn the camera settings anyway; if you don't, does it really matter until you use an old camera?
posted by Soupisgoodfood at 11:09 PM on March 5, 2010


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