A Christmas Message and a small Milestone

Forget Ahmadinejad and the Queen. My Christmas message came in the early hours of Christmas morning. Santa and his elves were busy working overtime with the fairy dust and a small present came floating into my mind as I woke to roll drowsy out of bed to empty my bladder at 3am, and after completing the necessary I sat down with paper and pencil to record it. Unusually for such night-time notes it remained legible and made some sense when I found it again in the morning.

A few months back I got myself involved in one of those long and essentially pointless discussions on internet forums that I usually stay clear of, which I think had started with the question “what is a photograph“, although as such things do soon strayed off into other areas (at least one per participant.) I’d contributed Walker Evans’s quote from the text for a show at MoMA in the early 1950s about valid photography “Under no circumstances is it anything ever anywhere near a beach” (which I had put on >Re:PHOTO a few months earlier

However it’s perhaps more relevant that on Christmas Eve I had been thinking about Minor White, both in writing my Seasonal Greetings and also leafing through the latest Winter 2008 issue of Aperture, which on its final inside page has a feature by Anne Wilkes Tucker on what she truly describes as a “seminal gathering” at the Aspen Institute in 1951, which is accompanied by a group photograph of just over 20 or those taking part. This high-powered crew included Wayne Miller, Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Berenice Abbott, Frederick Sommer, Nancy and Beaumont Newhall, Herbert Bayer, Eliot Porter, Minor White, Ferenc Berko and Laura Gilpin. The event led to both the founding of Aperture, with Minor White as editor and moving spirit and also the genesis of the Society for Photographic Education.

Aperture has now reached issue 193 (as a subscriber for many years I now have well over a hundred issues on my bookshelves) and published many fine books and editions. I wrote a double feature on its history at the time of its 50th anniversary (another piece no longer on line – but perhaps to be rewritten to come out at the same time as issue 200?)

So here (at last) is my little present, a kind of definition of worthwhile photography:

The simultaneous exposure of two sensitive surfaces – one in the camera and the other in the photographer’s mind.

I’m always wary about milestones. It’s a word too close to millstones, which though perhaps notable for grit also hang round necks. But I do note that a few days ago I wrote my 500th post to this blog.

Also, looking at the statistics from my web host (which I seldom do,) I find that with a few days left, >Re:PHOTO is getting very close to 500,000 page views for 2008, though unless there is a sudden surge it won’t quite reach the half a million this year.

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