2008 wasn't exactly the year, photo-wise, that I hoped it might be (mind you I still have a big stash of 120 colour neg film unscanned and some more unprocessed...). I was basically laid up for some time - hence the blog hiatus - and after spending a while (do they still call it convalescing? I see loungers out in a sun porch and "taking the waters", with nurses in starched uniforms...?) at the cottage without the internet, I took a good break from it all.
That said and done, life is pretty much back to normal and I'm looking forward to 2009. (Among other things I'm hoping to curate part of an exhibit tentatively called Signs & Signifiers in the Spring).
I spent part of New Years morning (alongside trying to adjust one of the drones on my English bagpipes - Northumbrian Smallpipes to give them their correct name) trying to think of any really memorable photographs I saw this year. Something that grabbed me - whether they did so gently or by the scruff of the neck. I only came up with one set, and those were the photographs by South African (American) photographer Roger Ballen. These are the sort of photographs that come back to you in your dreams - indeed, they look like they've come from dreams. I remember Ballen from years ago when most of my own work was much more "strictly" documentary and reportage. Even then his work, which was also "documentary" (at least that was the closest term to label it with) struck me as powerful (see below). It has been fascinating to see how it has developed and morphed - and yet the roots of his current work is clearly obvious in that work from the early 90's.
So what about 2009?
Well, how about less derivative work, less work that just follows the current limited fashions and the small imaginations of the photorati.
And more, much more, experimentation; more going with your instincts, more Gilbert & George and Broomberg & Chanarin (in fact more photographers with "&" in their names); more "real" 21st. Century Black & White (you decide what that means); more critical, cynical and satirical photography (both about the world in general and especially the world of politics and money and about photography itself). Photographers, take a deep close look at the new political world that may be starting (or not) on January 20th.
More work by photographers who really, deeply and instinctually understand colour (if it were painting, too much current work is still stuck somewhere around the Dutch Masters, with Turner, never mind Gaugin or Van Gogh, still beyond even imagining). More works of deep imagination, regardless of what the photo art establishment thinks of it.
Less 10 minute instant internet photography experts, commentators and curators who really know buggger all about photography.
More commentators and thinkers with a passion for photography and seeing (e.g. Errol Morris among others)
Less portfolio reviews and competitions where photographers pay through the nose for the chance to win a 10 minute exhibition or book for the luck few, while the photorati are busy expanding their egos. They stifle so much imagination and creativity while only nurturing whatever is this months great new thing (which is usually last years great new thing) and which is quickly tomorrows fish and chip wrapper.
More of the creative curators and critics who bring their energy and imagination to working with photographers finding ways to develop, encourage, publish and otherwise showcase their work. More finding creative and imaginative ways to use technology and the internet to do so. They make good use of the huge amount of the huge amount of energy, talent and potential out there in partnership with photographers, not suckling of them. (e.g. Humble Arts Foundation and Women in Photography).
Less semi-formal portraits of childhood, adolescence and post-adolescence; or of strangers or old people from the former Eastern Block. In fact less semi-formal photography of old people anywhere. In fact any of the aforementioned should be banned for at least a year. Instead, use your imaginations and find something truly elegiac...
Less exotic documentary-style tourist photography from distant lands and locations. Workaday photographs that depend entirely on their "exotic" content. Like post-colonial postcards from National Geographic to the art world. (That is to say, precisely not Dog Days Bogota)
More photographic partnerships with the majority of our planet who inhabit these places, discovering what's really interesting and important about these places and to these peoples, discovering what is in their hearts and imaginations. Finding out and listening to what they have to say in their photography and images.
More first class open source imaging software that does everything Photoshop does but better - aka Open Darkroom (...?)
Oh and this might finally be the year that, when my old PC dies, I swap from PC to Mac...
Now this post was getting far too long, and no one reads long blog posts. So if enough people ask for further explanation of the above, I may post the bits I cut out. But note that one serious new years resolution is no whiner comments and no wanky comments (They'll either just be deleted or ridiculed in the blog...)
Finally, as Alice said while laying bare the critically flawed logical core of Victorian science and belief; "What is the use of a book without pictures..". This year, lets make a few in the same spirit.