Can email cure my digital blues?
I’m not sure that’s the right question, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Mostly, I love social media, but to be honest, I’m getting bored and even a little exhausted by it. I was talking to a photographer friend the other day, and he nailed it when he said it’s all too much. I sometimes feel that way, but I’m not ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I just need to slow down and focus my attention. It’s all about finding a balance, right?
There was a time when social media was shiny and new. In those days, I was a vocal evangelist for visual artists to embrace the tools. The art revolution was happening online! But things are changing in Photoland. If you‘re a photographer, you know what I’m talking about. Everyone is struggling with Instagram. People want another platform but don’t know where to go. Vero, Tumblr, VSCO, Flickr, and Glass essentially do the same thing. But is migrating to another feed-based photo-sharing platform the answer? Even without the ads? I’m not so sure. I launched the original FlakPhoto blog in 2004, which feels like ancient history now. I didn’t think about how things would look this far into the future. I certainly didn’t expect a mobile shopping app to devour my photography habit.
Don’t get me wrong: I love Instagram and don’t plan to leave it anytime soon. I’m part of a vibrant photo community and have made many terrific friends on IG. I get daily pleasure from looking at pictures and corresponding with friends and colleagues on the app. Still, I’ve been craving a new canvas with more freedom. A place not governed by corporately-designed algorithms. I want to show pictures on a big screen the way they were meant to be seen. Above all, I want a direct connection to my people — photography people. I’m hoping that Substack will be the place for the foreseeable future. Let’s give it a spin and see what happens.
Before we begin, let me introduce myself. I’m Andy — I live in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. I have been fascinated with pictures all my life. It started with comic strips and storybooks. My mother was a prolific amateur photographer, and her family photo albums were legendary. Like every kid in the 1980s, television and movies captivated my attention. Eventually, I found painting and photography, and I never looked back. I’ve been studying visual media for most of my life. I’m fascinated with imagemaking and deeply inspired by the people who practice it.
FlakPhoto has been a community project from the start, and this newsletter should carry on that tradition. I hope some of you will contribute to its pages and suggest things I should share here. Remember, you can reply to these emails and write me directly. I hope you’ll do that after reading this post, and let me know what you think. I plan to show reader submissions in future posts. Please, email me anytime.
So, how will this newsletter work?
Good question. FlakPhoto Digest will be a mix of photography news, online ephemera, and recommended reading. I want to play with short-form posts and publish longer stuff too. I’m eager to experiment with audio, so stay tuned for that. Things may not be the same from week to week. I’m not even sure how frequently I should send this thing. Mainly, I want this to be interesting for you and fun for me — a space to think about images and ideas and, ideally, to talk with each other about them.
I won’t be paywalling anything, to begin with, but eventually, I may have some benefits for paying subscribers. Most of what I do here will be free. Of course, you can provide financial support to power the newsletter if you want. Finally, I’m open to your ideas and suggestions as things take shape. If there’s something you’d like to see here, let me know!
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I’m a big fan of Richard Brody’s film writing, so I was delighted to see him publish this piece about Milton Rogovin in TNY last month. Years ago, I met Rogovin’s son, Mark, at the Center for Creative Photography, and I knew very little about his father’s work. Richard’s profile does a beautiful job of introducing the man and his approach to imagemaking. I shared this in the FlakPhoto Network, and one of our members there, Mark Curran, followed up with me to share this remembrance he published in 2013. If you don’t know Rogovin’s work, now’s the time.
I plan to share creative opportunities and calls for work here occasionally too. These upcoming classes may be a good fit for some of you. Holly Lynton is teaching a 6-part online course, The Provocative Photograph: Crafting Compelling Visual Narratives, at the Los Angeles Center for Photography beginning September 12. If that’s too soon, you might consider Daniella Zalcman and Natalie Keyssar’s Long Term Project (Virtual) Workshop, which kicks off on October 9.
What do photographers owe the subjects of their pictures? That’s a thorny question and one that is front and center in our social media age. Alice Zoo tackles the issue in a wide-ranging essay in her newly launched INTERLOPER newsletter. I’ve been following Alice’s writing for a while and I love how she thinks. Do yourself a favor and subscribe to her newsletter today! You won’t regret it.
Aperture doesn’t need a FlakPhoto bump to get eyes on its work, but I’d be remiss in my duties as a Diane Arbus fan if I didn’t at least mention this new book which looks fantastic. I was gifted the 2003 edition for Christmas one year, and it’s loaded with goodies. This one features additional essays by Sarah Meister and Sandra S. Phillips, which are sure to be required reading.
Okay, that’s all for now. I’ll leave you with this insight from the great Werner Herzog, who turned 80 this week. (Thanks, Ashely Walters, for sharing this with me!) I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it. Please drop me a line by replying to this email or in the Substack comments and let me know what you think. Cheers! ✌️📸
Thanks, Andy, for an alternative to social media. Like you, I haven't given it up, but I find it draining at times. I have always appreciated your thoughtful writing and your instinct for discovery, so you've gotten my attention.
Thanks Andy for the light but informative read, right length, interesting content and most importantly it sounds like you! Looking forward to more and hopefully contributing at some point. :-)